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Mellanox OCN defines next-generation network architecture

Mellanox OCN defines next-generation network architecture.

For many, a predictable network is simply assumed. But it turns out that, at the most advanced network speeds, predictable performance is extremely hard to deliver, and some vendors actually fall short.

Unfortunately, for application level and data centre architects the unpredictability of the underlying network can be hidden from view, and it is fruitless trying to debug unpredictable application behaviour at a system or application level when it is the underlying network that is behaving chaotically and dropping packets.

Mellanox Technologies, a leading supplier of high-performance, end-to-end intelligent interconnect solutions that are distributed across 20 African countries by Networks Unlimited, says that its Open Composable Networks or OCN, defines a next-generation architecture for networking infrastructure that is open and can be constructed flexibly from basic components.

OCN is based on:
· Network disaggregation (into modular components).
· Open and unified abstraction interface between these components.
· Automated composition and orchestration, with efficient middleware that can pool these abstracted resources, and orchestrate them on demand.

"With this architecture, applications can easily and quickly compose and recompose network resources for optimal performance," says Chloe Ma, senior director of marketing, leading cloud market development at Mellanox Technologies.

When asked why we need OCN, Ma states that, ultimately, information technology (IT) needs to move at the speed of people's imagination to be the enabler, not the inhibitor, of innovations. "IT infrastructure has become the critical foundation that not only guarantees service quality but also powers agile innovation and provides competitive differentiation. As a result, people are looking for ways to quickly and easily customise their IT infrastructure to set them apart from their competitors," she says.

Successful businesses embrace automation to enable customising their IT infrastructure on demand and achieve faster time to market, flexibility and optimal application performance. Ma points out that advances are being made in different aspects of IT infrastructure. "It started with compute/servers, and has started to expand into storage and networking," she adds.

Ma lists the following steps to in order to quickly and easily customise a network:
1. Break the network down to basic components, sometimes called "network disaggregation";
2. Support open and unified APIs between these components, so that dependence and lock-in is removed and innovation in each component can happen more quickly and easily; and
3. Provide a set of basic automation tools to easily compose these building blocks on demand.

"By the way, the same revolution is happening in the application space, as applications are moving to be cloud-native to support agile innovations. Being cloud-native means that applications become micro-services oriented, container packaged, and dynamically managed," she comments.

Network disaggregation was first envisioned and utilised by the hyper-scale web and cloud service providers, but has rapidly expanded its influence to enterprises in many industries. "This has allowed enterprises to take control and easily customise their own network infrastructure. It is the first step to enable organisations to build the right network infrastructure to support ephemeral cloud-native workloads, and DevOps practices to achieve Web-Scale IT efficiency," continues Ma.

"Once networks are disaggregated into functionally independent modules with open, clearly defined abstraction interfaces, you are free to leverage the best-of-breed building blocks to compose a network infrastructure that is tailored to best serve your applications' unique requirements. Only with this new generation of Open Composable Networks can you maximise and leverage the combined wisdom of the larger networking ecosystem, and to unleash your own innovation."

As an avid advocate of Open Ethernet, Mellanox says its OCN platform "will truly set you free for agile innovation". The Mellanox OCN delivers:

Best of breed high-performance networking and intelligent interconnect portfolio available from chips all the way up to system level. The portfolio includes Spectrum switches, ConnectX adapters, and LinkX cables. "Take the Spectrum switch as an example, we not only deliver the Ethernet switch System-on-a-Chip (SoC) to our OEM, ODM, but also provide a turn-key Ethernet Top-of-Rack switch system that has the switch hardware, Network Operating System (NOS) and associated applications running on top of the NOS. The key difference between Mellanox Spectrum and other traditional switch vendors is, customers can freely pick and choose each of the components, the switch chip, switch hardware, NOS and applications," explains Ma.

Unified and open API support that provides the foundation for resource abstraction and orchestration so that resources can be composed and recomposed on demand to achieve business agility. Specifically, Mellanox has been a key contributor to the development open networking initiatives including OCP ONIE and SAI, and Linux switchdev, where Spectrum is the first switch supported upstream in Linux.

Simple yet powerful network management, automation, and control middleware. The Mellanox NEO management package enables network automation and software defined intelligence. Through integration with other cloud management platforms and Software Defined Networking (SDN) controllers, NEO helps to enhance network operational efficiency and make network infrastructure easy to deploy, manage, and scale.

"Open Composable Networks can help you construct networks to meet your business needs and unleash new innovations," concludes Ma.

For more information about Mellanox products in Africa, please contact Morne Delport, Mellanox product manager at Networks Unlimited at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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