Key Criteria for Evaluating Network Operating Systemsv3.0

An Evaluation Guide for Technology Decision-Makers

Table of Contents

  1. Summary
  2. Network Operating Systems Primer
  3. Report Methodology
  4. Decision Criteria Analysis
  5. Evaluation Metrics
  6. Key Criteria: Impact Analysis
  7. Analyst’s Take
  8. About Ivan McPhee

1. Summary

Relying on a highly scalable platform to do business, communicate, and be entertained via social and streaming media, as of January 2023, there were over 5 billion internet users comprising over half the global population. And behind it all lies a complex web of millions of internet protocol (IP) routers—made up of hardware running network operating systems—designed to feed the increasingly sophisticated, bandwidth-hungry applications upon which we’ve come to rely. Combining the agility of software-based feature development with bare-metal performance and economics, network operating systems enable massively scalable, cost-effective networks.

Enterprise network operating systems behave like a cloud platform, scaling seamlessly by forwarding packets from one interface to the other while at the same time applying policies, tagging packets, and filtering traffic. Incorporating built-in redundancy, fault protection mechanisms, and orchestration capabilities, they can enable complete disaggregation, allowing forwarding plane functions to run within the hardware router while the control plane can often be hosted on a secure cloud platform.

While the hyperscalers pioneered disaggregation, the needs of enterprises and service providers have evolved in recent years to the point where their demands are driving the development of network operating systems at an ever-increasing pace. Increased competition, rapid innovation, and exponential growth have transformed what they need from their critical network infrastructure. Moreover, cloud-based applications and new technologies—including artificial intelligence (AI), augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR), and machine learning (ML)—demand higher-capacity devices, simpler operations, and unprecedented levels of customization.

As a maturing technology, organizations are adopting network operating systems to enable new use cases. The GigaOm Key Criteria and Radar reports provide an overview of the category market, identify capabilities (table stakes, key criteria, and emerging technology) and non-functional requirements (evaluation metrics) for selecting a network operating system, and detail vendors and products that excel. Together, these reports help decision-makers evaluate solutions and decide where to invest.

How to Read this Report

This GigaOm report is one of a series of documents that helps IT organizations assess competing solutions in the context of well-defined features and criteria. For a fuller understanding, consider reviewing the following reports:

Key Criteria report: A detailed market sector analysis that assesses the impact that key product features and criteria have on top-line solution characteristics—such as scalability, performance, and TCO—that drive purchase decisions.

GigaOm Radar report: A forward-looking analysis that plots the relative value and progression of vendor solutions along multiple axes based on strategy and execution. The Radar report includes a breakdown of each vendor’s offering in the sector.

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