IP Infusion: The Enterprise Whitebox Solution


IP Infusion is a developer of a networking OS to be run on whitebox networking hardware. They also have a virtual operating system to be used in datacenters as well. From learning about where their operating system is used, it’s safe to say that you personally have had traffic pass through their OS at some point, even without you knowing about it. That is because of their strong use in the service provider world.

So why my sudden interest in IP Infusion? I recently had the chance to join Network Field Day for a roundtable with the IP Infusion team to cover what they offer, how it works, and how you and I can bring their technology to my datacenters. If you would like to watch the videos from the presentation to get up to speed, you can watch them at the bottom of this post.

How does it work?

IP Infusion has an operating system that runs on whitebox networking hardware. This hardware is presently limited to the devices shown here:

Taking a look at that chart though, there is a wide range of hardware that is covered, including many different types and speeds of interfaces. From a basic closet, access switch up to the backbone of a datacenter, the hardware options that you would need are available. The thing that each of these switches has in common that allows the IP Infusion OS to work is that they are all linux based devices. The OS then in installed on this platform an an application. The breakdown of this layered approach is shown in the slide from the presentation we saw:

From there, the operating system functions similar to other switching operating systems as you can see in the image above. One thing that was brought up that was very interesting was the ability to program your own application into the OS as well if you needed that extra level of customization. While being a standard platform, you as the user still have the ability to make it your own to accomplish exactly what you need. The other point that was made while this slide was discussed was the stability. The verticals, that are shown in gray, covering each technology such as STP, Vlans, routing protocols, etc are all independent. Should one of these technologies fail, that specific application can be restarted without affecting the rest of the applications. That just shows the stability of the operating system in that a failure of a single application does not result in a total system crash.

Virtual Platform

IP Infusion also brings their technology into the datacenter as well. Their OcNOS was adapted to work on a virtual platform as well on popular hypervisors including VMWare. That adaptation is what they call their VirNOS. Similarities are shown between OcNOS and VirNOS as you would expect. The capabilities are not different, so if you are running either of these operating systems, you will feel very at home.

The thing that I liked about the VirNOS is that it truly does function like a VM. You can vMotion it on an ESXi platform if you think there is a hardware issue like any other VM. If there is still an issue at that point, snapshots are even supported. You could roll back just as easily as you would any other VM on your network.

Ease of Adaptation

If you’ve ever followed anything else on my site here, you know I am a Cisco networking guy. There is no hiding that. If I was to give this operating system a shot, the first thought I would have is about my skillset and if I would be able to configure things myself. Through our demo of the product, there was instant relief to me that I would be at home with this operating system. The configuration and syntax are very similar to what I already know:

There was a statement in the presentation that you can watch in the video is that the syntax and command line features can be adapted to a customers needs. If you are used to another operating system, commands can be adapted to be similar to something you are more used to. They are very big on being an operating system that is customizable to the needs of each unique user. That is pretty much a directly inverted scenario that we normally see, where there are standard product platforms that a customer needs to work around to get their needs met.

Final Thoughts

In the interest of complete transparency, I knew nothing of IP Infusion before I attended NFD15. Their presentation was very eyeopening in the sense that I truly got an idea of what their operating system is capable of and how much it is already in use in the service provider world. I feel that at this point, they offer a very stable platform which offers a way for experienced network engineers to work into the whitebox networking world. From the documentation, feature list, and configuration details I was shown, I would not be hesitant to include equipment that was powered by their operating system in my network. That is because I don’t feel I would have to compromise by doing so. The feature list and hardware specs offer the ability to meet my needs in many of the common scenarios that I work with currently.

I highly recommend watching the presentation videos and then visiting their website at https://www.ipinfusion.com/ . The final statement I’ll wrap up with came from another NFD15 delegate, Brandon (@brandoncarroll):



Presentation Videos

Disclaimer: Gestalt IT, organizers of Network Field Day was responsible for my travel expenses to attend Network Field Day. I do not receive any cash compensation as a delegate from either Gestalt It or any of the mentioned vendors. All opinions are my own.



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