Microsoft Wants to Bring SDN to Cloud Data Centers with SONiC

By Rory Lidstone March 11, 2016

Microsoft has thrown its full support behind SDN with the release of a new set of open source software components for switches and other networking devices. Called Software for Open Networking in the Cloud, or SONiC for short, this technology was built with help from Arista, Broadcom, Dell and Mellanox. Microsoft unveiled SONiC at the Open Compute Project (OCP) U.S. Summit this week, where it also submitted the technology to the OCP.

Facebook’s Open Compute Project was launched as a way to promote open source data center system designs and specifications, with a focus on scalability and efficiency. The effort is backed by a number of the world’s biggest technology and communications companies, including AT&T, Google and Intel.

Although Microsoft hasn’t exactly kept its distance from SDN—it collaborated with Netronome last year to improve compute and app scalability using SDN and NFV, for example—but it had yet to release its own SDN/NFV offering until now. Unsurprisingly, Microsoft’s first stab at an SDN solution is an attempt to popularize SDN among cloud data center companies.

"Together with SAI [Switch Abstraction Interface], SONiC will enable cloud operators to take advantage of hardware innovation while giving them a framework to build upon an open source code for apps on the network switch and gain the ability to integrate with multiple platforms," wrote Mark Russinovich, chief technology officer at Microsoft Azure, in a blog post. "In short, we believe it's the final piece of the puzzle in delivering a fully open sourced switch platform that can share the same software stack across hardware from multiple switch vendors."

SAI is an OCP specification introduced by Dell—with help from Big Switch Networks, Mellanox and Microsoft—that enables interoperability across network operating systems via a common API interface. Paired with SONiC, it seems likely Microsoft will achieve its goal of spreading SDN among cloud data center providers.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

Contributing Writer

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