Mellanox Embraces Open Source for Ethernet Switching

Michael Vizard

Looking to fundamentally change the dynamics of the Ethernet switch market, Mellanox Technologies this week announced a Generation of Open Ethernet initiative through which the company is making much of the software that drives its Ethernet switches available as open source code.

According to Gilad Shainer, vice president of market development for Mellanox, the goal of the effort is to make it possible for customers to more easily customize and extend Mellanox networking software to meet their own specific requirements. Rather than simply giving customers a view in what’s happening on the network using emerging lower-level standards such as OpenFlow, Shainer says Mellanox decided the time has come to give customers complete access to Ethernet switching software technology.

In the age of the cloud, IT organizations are more dependent on the network than ever. In that context, more IT organizations are going to want to programmatically manipulate Ethernet switches to better optimize the performance of specific applications.

At the same time, open source software reduces the cost of Ethernet switches, which Mellanox is expecting will result in gains in market share versus rivals such as Cisco, Juniper Networks, Enterasys, Hewlett-Packard and Extreme Networks. As part of that effort, Mellanox in recent weeks has also moved to significantly expand the ecosystem of business partners that support its core products and services.

There are already several open source Ethernet switching projects under way so Shainer says a more open Ethernet switching market is now inevitable. The only real question now is which open source path to pursue in order to make that inevitability an actual reality.

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