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NVIDIA’s aggressive purchases could signal the era of open networking

NVIDIA’s plans to acquire Cumulus Networks, a pioneer of using open source for networking, is a sign that open networking is finally ready for a big leap forward.

Open networking has been tightly coupled with software-defined networking (SDN) because the combination promises to make networks significantly more agile, open and easier to customize to specific needs. Cumulus has been working on it for years, and NVIDIA started pushing into it when it acquired Mellanox last week.

The question the Cumulus acquisition raises is “why now”? The concept of open networking has been hotly debated since SDN came into prominence. The concept is sound, and open systems will disrupt the network industry much as it did the compute space. Yet while Linux and open source are wildly successful in the compute industry, open source has yet to take off in networking outside of webscale networks and a handful of large organizations.

Open networking means tighter control

However, the appeal of open networking is widening for a number of reasons, the biggest of which is the acceleration of digital transformation efforts because of COVID-19. Due to the pandemic, we work, live, learn and play differently, and that’s changed the way we think of IT.

Open-source networking has had a strong appeal for organizations that want tighter control of the networking stack, whereas traditional networking has been attractive to network engineers that want to minimize risk. The typical switch bought from mainstream network vendors offers the safety net of an integrated solution, while an open-source system requires leaning on a community for support, tools and troubleshooting.

The network plays a key role in digital transformation because it connects data to people to applications to things. In fact, for most organizations, its arguable that the network is the business and tighter, better control over it is necessary to leapfrog the competition. Open network provides that extra level of control.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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