Big Players to Support Ubuntu Core as Platform for Network Switches

by Ostatic Staff - Oct. 30, 2015

It looks like the Ubuntu team made a very good decision in creating the stripped down and fast performing "snappy" version of Ubuntu Core. This minimalist take on Ubuntu is targeted at those doing cloud deployments, and is already integrated with Microsoft's Azure cloud platform and Google Cloud. Snappy is optimized for Docker deployments and platform-as-a-service environments, as I covered here.

The team at Canonical has even called Snappy the "biggest revolution in Ubuntu since we launched our mobile initiative." Now, Canonical has announced four networking vendors that will make use of ‘snappy’ Ubuntu Core. Quanta (QCT QNOS), Agema (Agema OS), Penguin Computing (Arctica OS), and Canonical’s reference BCOS will soon be available as network control systems for Ubuntu Core on open switches. Jay Huang, President, Agema Systems, said, “Ubuntu Core enables us to focus on the specific capabilities on which we differentiate and which our customers appreciate most. It also reassures customers that security updates for the base operating system will come from the widely trusted Ubuntu.”

In recent years, enterprises have sought to disaggregate hardware and software in the switch market, buying bare metal switch hardware and installing their preferred Network Operating System (NOS). Ubuntu Core takes the common, neutral operating system shared by multiple vendors, each of which focuses just on their particular network control system, delivered essentially as an application on the neutral OS.

According to Canonical:

Ubuntu Core does not itself control the switch data plane; such network control is handled by vendor software packaged as a ‘snap’. Customers select the network control snap they prefer, keeping a common underlying platform for management and security purposes.

 Ubuntu Core is a device-centric rendition of Ubuntu with transactional updates, automatic rollbacks, a minimal server image, enhanced application security, and a simple ‘snappy’ method for packaging applications. Applications for Ubuntu Core, known as snaps, can be upgraded atomically and rolled back if needed, a bulletproof approach suitable for switching environments where predictability and reliability are paramount.

 Canonical is working with open switch brands to define a new class of switch that not only meets Open Compute Project (OCP) standards but creates entirely new possibilities for sophisticated network services. This class of switches are best thought of as servers with built-in data plane ASICs - they enable Virtualized Network Functions to run right where they’re most needed - at the heart of the data flow.

Network applications running on every switch can distribute security functions, deep packet inspection, SDN capabilities, virtual switches, and load balancers right at the edge of the network where they can scale in a fundamentally new way. A top of rack switch with Ubuntu Core is the new way to deliver rich network functionality to the data centre.

“Cloud provider demand for VNF applications on their top of rack switches can be met with OCP specifications for x86 processors on whitebox switches. It was a logical progression to start utilizing them as optimized platforms for VNF apps,” said Scott Boynton, Alliances Program Manager for open switching at Canonical. “With Ubuntu Core’s ability to isolate applications and update them transactionally there was no concern about mixing network control and VNFs on the same platform. As the pipes between the CPU and data plane switch ASIC increase in the latest hardware, applications will enjoy amazing performance and access to packets flowing through the switch.”

Canonical is also introducing the ability for Metal-As-A-Service (MAAS) to bring up whitebox switches using the Open Compute Project ONIE boot loader option and provision them in one easy step, installing Ubuntu Core, then installing the desired network control (NOS) and VNF snaps. ONIE is freely available as part of the Open Compute Project.

As part of this program of work, Canonical is also announcing BCOS, a simple reference network control snap with full layer 2 and layer 3 functionality. BCOS simplifies network management at scale, for cloud, paas and other scale-out infrastructure. Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Canonical and Ubuntu, said: “Telcos and cloud providers continue to push the envelope of network scale. We are delighted to enable these new capabilities in software-defined infrastructure, and pleased to work with all major switch software and silicon brands to accelerate the adoption of their latest offerings.”

To learn more about snappy Ubuntu Core visit