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Cumulus Offers Free Open Networking Tool

Cumulus Networks, which makes a Linux network operating system for white-box switches, released a free tool for network engineers and other IT pros to try out its software.

Cumulus VX (Virtual Experience) is a virtual appliance available for download from the startup's website. IT pros can run it from a laptop; the tool doesn't require a bare-metal switch or specialized hardware.

"Our vision is to remove any economic or organizational barriers for anyone to access open networking," Mohit Mehta, product manager at Mountain View, Calif.-based Cumulus, said in an interview.

Naturally, Cumulus views open networking -- separating network software from hardware -- as the future. "You have choice and flexibility in prices and form factors and that creates innovation," Mehta said. "To us, bringing that aspect into networking -- which has been operating like a black box -- that's what we think is driving the market right now."

Cumulus is the latest SDN vendor to offer networking pros a free or low-cost way to test the water. Pica8 offers a free trial of its PicOS network operating system. Brocade offers a free one-year license to manage up to five network nodes with SDN controller. Networking pros can try out the open source version of Juniper's Contrail network virtualization platform for free or Midokura's open source MidoNet network virtualization software.

Cumulus VX allows IT pros to test out Cumulus Linux and Cumulus Rack Management Platform (RMP) features on a range of virtual environments, including Virtualbox, KVM, VMware Workstation, Fusion and ESXi. It also works with GNS3 and Vagrant.

Along with Cumulus VX, the company is launching its Open Networking Community to support users of the tool. "We want to build a self-supporting community around open networking," Mehta said.

Since Cumulus VX designed for use within a virtual environment, it doesn't allow testing for hardware installation, acceleration or optimization. Cumulus said in the future it might add functionality to the tool "to drive the virtual experience to match the real experience more closely," a company spokesperson said.

Cumulus also offers Cumulus Workbench to try Cumulus Linux out at a scheduled time on physical networking switches in the company's remote lab.

In the spring, Cumulus added Supermicro to its list of hardware suppliers offering bare-metal switches supporting its operating system. Last year, the startup scored a major win when Dell agreed to offer Cumulus Linux as an option for two of its top-of-rack switches. Earlier this year, HP announced that it would partner with Cumulus and Accton to offer open data center switches.