Linux Foundation’s DENT Project Focuses on Disaggregated Network Switches

The Linux Foundation launched DENT to support the creation of network OS for disaggregated network switches in campus, distributed enterprise and remote locations.

Networking solutions, generally, are customized for vertical markets and use cases, and use closed operating systems to enable workloads on a network switch. This, however, locks users into hardware and software from specific vendors. The industry is migrating toward disaggregation, opting for open, standardized network architecture.

But for enterprise edge, there currently aren’t any options beyond traditional public cloud. To support the creation of network OS for disaggregated network switches in campus, distributed enterprise and remote or brand office locations, the Linux Foundation announced the launch of DENT. This open source project will enable the development community to build the solution, which will be in greater demand as technologies including 5G, edge, IoT, and artificial intelligence (AI) power innovative new workloads. A disaggregated Linux/switchdev-based switch will enable integration across the entire ecosystem. DENT’s first use case will focus on the retail industry, which requires a simple, Linux-based OS that’s low-cost.

The DENT project uses the Linux Kernel, Switchdev and other Linux-based projects to simplify abstractions, APIs, drivers and overheads that currently exist in ASICs, silicon and open software.

Foundations of the DENT Community

A mission of the DENT project is to “unify and grow the community of silicon vendors, original design manufacturers (ODMs), system integrators (Sis), original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and end users to create an ecosystem of contributors around a full-featured network operating system.”

Mellanox Technologies is one of the founding members of DENT. “DENT OS is a native Linux Network Operating System which leverages switchdev, a Linux driver for Ethernet switch ASICs that Mellanox pioneered. Switchdev exposes the unique hardware innovations in the Mellanox Spectrum family of Ethernet Switches,” says Amit Katz, vice president of Ethernet switches at Mellanox Technologies “DENT promotes network disaggregation, which benefits customers by eliminating vendor lock-in and allows hardware vendors to compete on a level playing field, where the very best switch ASICs and systems can win by delivering the highest ROI possible.”

Marvell Semiconductor, Inc. is also a founding DENT project member. Gavin Cato, vice president of product management and marketing at Marvell, says, “Marvell’s innovative switch portfolio lays the foundation for the transformation of access networks and the edge into an intelligent future while creating significant total cost of ownership advantages for customers.”

The first software platform to contribute to DENT is Cumulus Networks. “We have a deep history with the Linux Foundation, from driving the FRRouting project, the most contributed open source routing project in the world, to our contributions to ONIE, EVPN, among others,” said Partho Mishra, President and Chief Product Officer. “We are looking forward to partnering on the DENT project to extend open source in kernel networking capabilities from the data center to the campus edge.”

Also contributing to the DENT project as founding members are Amazon, Delta Electronics Inc, and Wistron NeWeb (WNC).

The DENT project also has the goal of establishing a neutral source for business and technical governance, community infrastructure, and operations.

Additional members of the networking community are encouraged to join DENT. For more information, visit the DENT project