Cisco is teaming with Aviz Networks to offer an enterprise-grade SONiC offering for large customers interested in deploying the open-source network operating system.
Under the partnership, Cisco’s 8000 series routers will be available with Aviz Networks’ SONiC management software and 24/7 support. The support aspect of the agreement may be the most significant portion of the partnership, as both companies attempt to assuage customers’ anxiety about supporting an open-source NOS.
While SONiC (Software for Open Networking in the Cloud) is starting to attract the attention of some large enterprises, deployments today are still mainly seen in the largest hyperscalers. With this announcement, Cisco and Aviz are making SONiC more viable for smaller cloud providers, service providers, and those very large enterprises that own and operate their own data centers, said Kevin Wollenweber, senior vice president and general manager with Cisco networking, data center and provider connectivity.
“One of the biggest challenges when deploying an open operating system is knowing who to go to when things aren’t working exactly as they should. Meaning, for anyone without an army of engineers to troubleshoot, this approach may be too risky,” said Wollenweber.
“This agreement is innovative in that it cuts out the finger-pointing that is typically associated with the integration of different solutions and focuses on issue resolution. As enterprises and service providers more broadly consider SONiC for their networks, end-to-end support is a critical aspect for adoption,” Wollenweber said.
Aviz Networks' SONiC suite
On the software side, Aviz offers Open Networking Enterprise Suite (ONES), a suite of software to manage SONiC networks. From its SONiC-based controller, ONES supports zero-touch provisioning and configuration validation. It includes SONiC configuration templates for data-center leaf/spine configurations and supports standard networking technologies such as EVPN, VxLAN, and Border Gateway Protocol (BGP).
ONES compiles a network’s hardware and software inventory by gathering telemetry from switches in the network. It supports multi-vendor NOSes such as Nvidia Cumulus Linux, Arista EOS, and Cisco NX-OS, as well as switches that utilize standard OpenConfig telemetry, according to Aviz.
“Under the agreement, Aviz will provide the front-end support with Cisco customers. Support is delivered via Aviz ONES – which is a support product and helps cut down the cost of support and turnaround time,” said CEO Vishal Shukla of Aviz.
“ONES collects the support data, and Aviz experts will help triage and fix bugs in the SONiC layer as necessary, and also manage the SONiC release with Cisco as required,” Shukla said. “The issues stemming from the BSP [Broad Support Layer] and ASIC layer will be fixed by Cisco, and Aviz will work directly with the Cisco Engineering team for those fixes. The agreement specifies processes regarding how Aviz and Cisco’s engineering team will interact for release management, bug fixes review, etc.,” Shukla said.
“Making SONiC a mainline and widely adopted NOS occurs when a mainline switch company, as large and global as Cisco, publicly supports the ecosystem,” Shukla said. “The agreement also signals how companies are aligned with the way the open-source consumption model works. In short, the SONiC market has taken shape to go mainstream.”
The Aviz-Cisco partnership is not just about SONiC, Shukla said; it's an acknowledgement that "open source" and "multi-vendor" are today's reality.
“The agreement demonstrates that disaggregated support and multi-vendor automation tools provide a way into the future for customers. SONiC is no longer relegated to a ‘white box game’ – we are providing customers with higher confidence and flexibility to support their networks on their terms,” Shukla said.
With this coordinated support offering from Cisco and Aviz, Aviz will initially triage issues and determine whether the issues relate to SONiC, Cisco infrastructure software, and/or Cisco hardware. Aviz will address issues related to SONiC. Issues that are related to Cisco software and/or hardware will be addressed with a Cisco support case, Wollenweber said.
Although the partnership is the first between the two vendors, Cisco 8000 series routers are already part of Aviz’s Open Networking Experience (ONE) Center for SONiC. The ONE Centre is a lab Aviz built to provide online and in-person testing facilities at no cost so that customers can try out the capabilities of SONiC across a wide range of hardware. The ONE Center lab is supported by collaboration with the Linux Foundation, The Open Compute Project, Celestica, Cisco, Edgecore, Nvidia, Ragile, Supermicro, Wistron, and Keysight.
SONiC gaining interest
SONiC is a Linux-based NOS that decouples network software from the underlying hardware and lets it run on hundreds of switches and ASICs from multiple vendors while supporting a full suite of network features such as BGP, remote direct memory access (RDMA), QoS, and ethernet/IP. Some of the driving ideas behind SONiC-based systems are to simplify, scale and bring flexibility to cloud and edge networking environments.
Microsoft developed and then open-sourced SONiC. And in 2022, Microsoft turned the project over to the Linux Foundation and its large community of developers. The vendor community supporting SONiC has been growing and includes Dell, Arista, Nokia, Alibaba, Comcast, Cisco, Broadcom, Juniper Apstra, Edgecore, Innovium, Nvidia, Celetica, and VMware. It has also been integrated with other open-source projects, including Kubernetes and Ansible, and is being used by Verizon, AWS, Netflix and others to develop cloud-based services.
"Adding support for SONiC environments is a big part of this agreement for enterprise customers, but I think multi-cloud and the ability to move and shift workloads between clouds and on-prem is more mainstream, and SONiC helps solve that,” said Alan Weckel, a technology analyst with the 650 Group, which predicts that worldwide SONiC revenue will exceed $8 billion in the data center switching arena by 2027. “SONiC continues to expand in both the T2 Cloud and the enterprise market. There is a lot of interest out there in SONiC from a NOS perspective, but also in developing an ecosystem on top of that for additional services.”
Aviz has made a lot of progress on gaining additional customers and adding new features, Weckel said. “What is really interesting is the additional interest enterprises have in SONiC and the potential to add more on top of SONiC. I think this will play out in a bigger way as the observability and networking market continues to come together,” Weckel said.
“The agreement also shows that Cisco’s customers are getting more vocal about asking for SONiC, and that Cisco sees the Aviz partnership as an advantage for the 8000 Series,” Weckel said. It also shows Cisco is clearly seeing SONiC demand beyond one or two hyperscalers.”