What ONIE Means to Bare metal switching?

March 4, 2022

written by Asterfuison

  • Open networks install environment (ONIE) is an open source “install environment” and network operating system installer.
  • Software vendors support ONIE contains Cumulus, Pica8, and Big Switch, Asterfusion ,etc.
  • Hardware manufactures support ONIE contains: Quanta, Celestica, Dell, Agema, Broadcom, Edge-Core, Mellanox, Asterfusion and much more.

What is ONIE

Open networks install environment (ONIE) is an open source “install environment” and network operating system installer. It is widely used by white-box switch vendors to load a network OS onto its switches. Essentially, ONIE is a Linux-based small operating system, which can boot on the switch and discovers installer images available on the local network, while being able to transfer the appropriate image to the switch and then offer an installation environment. Thus, the installer can load the network operating system on to the switch. Nowadays, ONIE is used by a number of different vendors and has got wide acceptance in the white box networking fields.

ONIE

The History of ONIE

ONIE was incubated and open sourced by Cumulus in 2013.  In May 2013, Cumulus engineers presented and demonstrated ONIE at the Open Compute Project (OCP) symposium at MIT, which aroused great repercussions. After the workshop, in June 2014, the OCP Incubation Committee officially introduced ONIE into the Open Computing Network project. Since then, open network switches capable of installing different operating systems have sprung up.

Which vendor support ONIE?

  • Software vendors support ONIE contains Cumulus, Pica8, and Big Switch, Asterfusion ,etc.
  • Hardware manufactures support ONIE contains: Quanta, Celestica, Dell, Agema, Broadcom, Edge-Core, Mellanox, Asterfusion and much more.

Why ONIE is Important to Bare Metal Switching?

Like we mentioned before, ONIE provides an open “installation environment” for modern network hardware devices. ONIE has created an open network hardware ecosystem, enables end users can freely choose different network operating systems.

Before ONIE came along, Ethernet switching devices on the market had pre-installed and controlled operating systems with closed network applications, all of which tied end users to a vertical supply chain.  

However, with the fast development of cloud computing, many network switches today are white-box switches (bare metal switches) used in software-defined networking (SDN). In an SDN environment, white box switches can be programmed to create routing tables and route connections using OpenFlow protocols or other southbound APIs. That is to say, users can install other network operating systems on their network switches to meet different needs. White box switches can also be used to support a wide range of open-source management tools, including OpenStack, Puppet, and Chef, etc.

ONIE first time boot up

The advent of ONIE allows switch and network OS vendors to focus on switches and operating systems rather than devoting excessive R&D resources to the effort of loading the network operating system onto a specific switch platform.

At the same time, it meets the needs of parts customers: without changing the switch hardware, it can use compatible network operating systems from other manufacturers.  

Benefits of ONIE:

  • Combination of bootloader, modern Linux kernel and BusyBox
  • Offerings an environment to install any network operating system
  • Free users from controlled and pre-installed NOS
  • Enables automate large data centers for device configuration
  • Making network operators manage switches like managing Linux servers

Does ONIE play a crucial role outside of Bare Metal Switching?

For now, ONIE is indeed addressing issues specific to white box networking. Traditional Vendors like Cisco, Juniper, Huawei, etc. have their own OS loading methods, and there really is no immediate reason to join the ONIE army. But open and disaggregated are undoubtedly irreversible trends of the networking industry. I believe that in near the future, we will see support for ONIE from traditional vendors who port their network operating system to white-box platforms.

Does Asterfusion bare metal switch and network OS support ONIE?

Of course! Asterfusion’s Teralynx based low latency switch, Tofino -based p4 programmable switch, both support ONIE

Asterfusion's Teralynx based low latency switch,Tofino -based p4 programmable switch, Marvell octeon based arm64 network appliance both support ONIE

Asterfusion’s self-develp commerical SONiC NOS- AsterNOS also support ONIE

Asterfusion enterprise SONiC NOS
AsterNOS network operating system

Conclusion

Whitebox networking take us more flexible solution. In addition, ONIE provides an open standards hardware for network OS, will promote the widespread usage of white box switches through making it easier for network operators to purchase and deploy standards-based network hardware.

last but not least, Asterfusion offers one-stop open networking solution for 10G/25G/100G/400G whitebox hardware based on Marvell Teralynx, Intel Tofino and Marvell Octeon with SONiC based operating system for next generation data centers, campus. We promise to provide the most cost-effective service with transparent prices which make significant savings in CapEx and OpEx for network operators.

Reference:

1.https://opencomputeproject.github.io/onie/

2.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Network_Install_Environment


Asterfusion Networks is the leading provider of open networking infrastructure solutions. We provide an open, disaggregated, and highly programmable network fabric for next generation data centers and campus with white-box switching. 

For more information on Asterfusion’s products and solutions, please visit https://cloudswit.ch/. For sales inquiries, please send an email to [email protected]

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