Cumulus Networks deepens customer automation journey with new Linux and NetQ releases

Cumulus continues to address enterprise customer desires to be able to emulate the lines of AWS and Google Cloud.

Partho Mishra, Cumulus’ President and Chief Product Office

Networking software provider Cumulus Networks has announced the immediate availability of their Cumulus Linux 4.0 and NetQ 2.4 software. The enhancements to Cumulus’ stack continue the company’s focus on providing customers with the ability to create their own versions of the big public clouds, and giving them the automation to get there. Partho Mishra, Cumulus’ President and Chief Product Officer, who is responsible for the company’s tech roadmap and product direction, talked with ChannelBuzz about the new releases and what they bring to the table.

“When we originally started, Cumulus Linux was centred around disaggregation, a means to an end in terms of accelerating feature deployment,” Mishra said. “That has come around nicely. That first generation of customers was interested in disaggregation to reduce costs. So the theme from the beginning was how to do things faster and how to do things in an automated fashion. Everyone loves Google and AWS dashboards. A lot of large enterprise customers want to be more like that, like these object cloud guys, and want our help to get there.”

That remains the theme of this release, Mishra said.

“Our goal is to give customers the piece parts they need to develop the automation they need to do what AWS and Google do,” he stated.

Ensuring the presence of automated flows is a key part of this.

“It’s all part of this journey toward automation and DevOps type flows,” Mishra said. “A crucial thing is this transition we are seeing away configuring with CLI, and a transition to the network being viewed as a programmable object. That means things move away from humans using CLIs to a much more automated flow, where software programs the firewall and load balancers, and sets up the network infrastructure. The way apps get deployed now, the orchestration is almost completely automated. If you have applications moving around, you need to tie this in, to be able to provision VLANs on the fly as things move around.”

To that end, he said that the new releases, Cumulus Linux 4.0 and NetQ 2.4, have three major elements to them.

“The three legs of the tool are the continuing evolution of Cumulus Linux to add more choice and performance, the enhancement of our NetQ telemetry, and the evolution of our Cumulus VX virtualization capabilities,” Mishra said.

While Cumulus has always been designed to facilitate hardware choice and automation using Ansible and Chef, Mishra said that customers are asking for even more hardware support so that they can customize and craft.

“Cumulus Linux 4,0 offers much more hardware choice around chipsets. We have added support for Broadconm’s Tomahawk 3, Mellanox’s Spectrum-2 and Broadcom’s Qumran. More hardware choice is a critical thing, and we are now up to 134 platforms across 14 ASICS.”

Mishra noted that these software releases follow up the critical expansion of Cumulus Linux and NetQ to campus networks last month.

“We have also completed our EVPN implementation with PIM, and support for EVPN multi-homing is coming in the next few months,” he said, emphasizing that this makes Cumulus EVPN/VXLAN even simpler to scale and configure.

Cumulus has also migrated to the latest Linux kernel and added support for the SwitchDev open source in-kernel abstraction model, to provide a standardized way to program switch ASICs and speed development time.

NetQ

“The second major improvements are the advances in NetQ 2.4, our telemetry product,” Mishra said. “Real-time telemetry is what gives you information on what’s happening to the network, so when you make changes, you get visibility into what’s happening. That’s a crucial point of automation. With NetQ 2.4, we now improve the speed at which we can identify network issues, to give customers the ability to deal with these issues in real time.”

NetQ 2.4 also has a new integration with Mellanox’s What Just Happened (WJH) feature for deeper visibility at the packet layer. Its increased validation capabilities include closed loop verification of automated configurations. It is also now deployable as an as-a-service cloud-delivery option.

The third leg of the automation stool, Mishra said, is their existing virtual version, Cumulus VX.

“Before you make large-scale changes to a network, you want to verify it,” he stated. “For this we provide VX, our virtual version, which is the same code except we strip out the pieces that talk to the hardware. It provides a very rich capability to verify it all works end to end. You should be able to stitch everything together in the virtual environment and make sure it all works. That’s a crucial building block.”

These enhancements and the market trends that they address increase Cumulus’ value for channel partners, Mishran said.

“If you look at networking as a whole and campus networking in particular, it is being completely reinvented with SD WAN and the disaggregation that has taken hold,” he stated. “Modern campus deployments are completely different from what they were historically. They increase their ability to add value, because of their expertise in understanding how to stitch these things together.”

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