Mellanox has jumped into the open-source hardware movement with both feet, offering to support open-source projects such as OpenFlow and Quagga on its gear while also opening up the code for its switching software. The networking chip maker is taking this stance as more networking companies find themselves under pressure from changing customer needs, the threat of OpenFlow and the rise of software-defined networking.
Mellanox, primarily an Infiniband vendor, recently started gaining wins on the Ethernet side as well. Its history of providing networking gear and silicon for the highly-distributed and IO-intensive high-performance computing market has given it something of an edge in certain scale-out deployments. So the news that it’s trying to drive the creation of an Open Ethernet initiative makes sense. It’s listening to its customers and attempting to position itself as the replacement to traditional networking gear for the scale out and software-defined networking era.
According to an EETimes article, Mellanox won’t open source its firmware drivers for its chips and so will retain its proprietary edge on the silicon. Once again, it’s clear that server and now networking gear is getting stripped down to its most basic construction, where the primary hardware value is in the silicon and whatever software runs on top of it. On the server side, the value of that software has slowly been driven down by open-source alternatives, but on the networking side that process is just beginning.
Mellanox, like others in the space who have offered OpenFlow switches or APIs to their networking gear, has now announced its strategy for dealing with the threat open-source software poses to networking. Will it find partners and customers willing to buy into that vision?