It’s not just giants like Google and Facebook that take on open source projects, however. It’s not unusual for other, smaller companies to take on a more focused project in hopes of turning open source code into a product intended for enterprise use.
PICOS: A Linux-based network operating system
In 2011, for example, Pica8 acquired the copyright to the XORP code base, an open source routing platform. Since then, we’ve been maintaining and extending it, turning it into an integral component of an open, standards-based network operating system (NOS) that runs on a wide range of “bright box” or “white box” switches, The result is PICOS, an enterprise-grade NOS which is based on a Linux kernel, with a Debian Linux distribution, and XORPPlus switching and routing stack, that has been deployed in diverse environments, from enterprise access to data center infrastructure. So, it’s essentially an open source Linux NOS but under the auspices of a single company, Pica8, that can ensure its performance and stability, and drive its future development roadmap.
Pica8 also made white box networking possible when we introduced the world’s first Linux-based NOS (PICOS) on a white box switch way back at the start of 2012. With white box networking, customers are now free to choose whatever hardware platform they want, typically ONIE compatible switches, and run whatever NOS they choose on top. This is a dramatic departure from the traditional switch/router vendors who build switches using the same ASIC as the white box switches but put their own proprietary NOS on top and proceed to charge a hefty premium.
With white box networking, you are never locked in to a single vendor’s platform, whether hardware or software. In fact, you may take the same basic hardware and run one NOS on top for your data center network and another NOS for your enterprise campus network. In addition, since it is Linux-based, you can customize your NOS by installing third party packages, for example tools for embedded automation or network-wide automation.
That’s the kind of benefit that open source can bring to the enterprise: the same (or better) performance as traditional network equipment with more flexibility, none of the vendor lock-in, and a much lower price tag. To learn more about open white box networking, and the role open source has to play, download our free white paper, “An Enterprise Approach to White Box Networking.”