The Linux Foundation today launches DENT. This is a project intended to develop a network operating system (NOS) for disaggregated network switches, which are intended for campus environments and remote business locations.

A press release from the Linux Foundation shows that the aim is to unite the community of chip manufacturers, original design manufacturers (ODMs), system integrators (SIs), original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and end users. This should lead to an ecosystem of parties that contribute to a network operating system with greater functionality. The first use case focuses on the retail sector; participants include Amazon, Cumulus Networks, Delta Electronics Inc., Marvell, Mellanox and Wistron NeWeb (WNC).

Today’s network solutions are specifically designed for applications in certain markets. They therefore use non-open chips (ASICs) for package processing, as well as closed operating systems to manage workloads and network switch applications. Disaggregation is a new approach to open networking that, according to the Linux Foundation, is widely accepted by data center and telecom infrastructure operators. In the area of corporate networks, and more specifically geographically dispersed networks, there is as of yet no solution for edge networks that fall outside the public cloud.

Preventing unnecessary complexity

With DENT, remote campus environment networks and branch offices get a simple and affordable NOS stack based on Linux. DENT is an open source project to develop such a solution without ultimately creating incredibly complex abstractions. The initiative uses the Linux kernel, Switchdev and solutions from other Linux projects to ensure that developers can handle ASICs and chips as they handle other hardware.

New technologies such as 5G, the network edge, the Internet of Things (IoT) and AI will, according to the Linux Foundation, lead to various innovative workloads and services close to applications and end users within networks of buildings, shops and other business locations. The use of a Linux/SwitchDev-based disaggregated switch should contribute to a simpler integration and standardisation of the components that are part of that type of ecosystem.