SONiC opens more opportunities for network innovation

Regular Contributor

Written by Xin Liu, Principal Program Manager, Azure Network


SONiC, as an open-source operating system for network devices, has been growing rapidly in the last five years. According to Gartner Market Guide for Data Center Switching published early this year, they predict, “By 2025, 40 percent of organizations that operate large datacenter networks (more than 200 switches) will run SONiC in production environments.” And, “due to this rapidly expanding customer interest and commercial ecosystem, there is a strong possibility that, during the next three to six years, SONiC will become analogous to Linux as a server operating system, allowing enterprises to standardize on a NOS that is supported across hardware vendors.”


We have been working with many partners on innovations extending SONiC to new scenarios in the past year. Let’s look at what was showcased in the OCP Global Summit this month, and the opportunities SONiC enables.


Enable high-reliability dual ToR support with smart cable

High availability is a never-ending pursuit for network engineers. Delivering packets for customers without any glitch is a simple ask, however challenging to promise due to all sorts of possible failures on the path. Research shows the critical role of network infrastructure—each switch has a 2 percent chance of suffering a failure within three months of deployments, with 32 percent of failures attributed to hardware faults and 27 percent to unplanned power outages. The classical way to improve the reliability of a path is to add redundancy to reduce the impact of hardware failure. This year the SONiC community developed an innovative way to provide dual ToR (Top of Rack) connectivity to customer VMs. This SONiC-based approach does not require adding more NICs to the existing servers and avoids using the traditional MLAG (Multi-Chassis Link Aggregation) mechanism that is prone to split-brain failure. The secret goes inside the cable. Instead of the conventional Y cable, the new smart cable contains a microcontroller and a hitless MUX. The intelligence sits in the SONiC ToR switches. They manage the MUX inside the smart cable, determine the traffic path for the server, and handle failover rapidly. Measurements show this approach gives dual connectivity through a smart cable and SONiC switches with a failover time of less than 1µs. This capability is available in the SONiC 20201230 release. Microsoft, Broadcom, Credo, and many companies have contributed to this.


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