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What is Open Ethernet?

The Open Ethernet initiative is based on a complete separation between the switch hardware and the switch software. In simple terms, Open Ethernet allows any software to be run on any hardware and allows either the hardware or the software to be changed without changing the other components.

It allows IT managers and data center planners the option to make independent selections with regard to their switching equipment and to "mix and match" offerings from different equipment vendors to achieve optimal configuration and have better control of both capital and operating expenses.

Open Ethernet Architecture

Although it is "open", Open Ethernet does not restrict the compatible platform to running only open source software. The architecture is open, so the use of commercial vendor software functions is certainly supported.

The hardware manufacturer provides the hardware, the hardware drivers, and the hardware control. The hardware platform must also comply with available operating systems, of which the most commonly used is Linux.

The hardware drivers expose Open API, which is a standard, open interface that allows integration into any Open Ethernet protocol and application. Examples of such applications are the Quagga routing suite, OpenFlow agent, or a vendor-developed application.

The Power of the Community

Over time, as more open source projects are developed by the different communities, an abundance of networking equipment functionality is produced. Following the steps of the Linux kernel, such projects become mature, stable, and complete as they are developed and can very quickly become good candidates for deployment in commercial equipment. Some examples of this, such as Quagga (routing) and OpenFlow (flow management), have already been mentioned, and many others are also available. Other open projects address configuration and automation, monitoring, or network and cloud orchestration.

Since these projects are developed by communities, they already provide full feature-sets in their target usage scenarios, and they are updated frequently with new features.