Startup Challenges Network Tech Giants With Linux Offering


Startup Cumulus Networks exited stealth mode Wednesday, unveiling its Linux-based network operating system the company said brings the flexibility and low-cost benefits of open standards to data center networks dominated by Cisco and other vendors.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company, founded in 2010 by former Cisco and VMware networking engineers, has raised more than $15 million in venture funding from Andreessen Horowitz, Battery Ventures and other investors including former VMware CEO Diane Greene.

The Linux operating system runs more than 20 percent of all servers sold today, according to IDC statistics released in February, replacing servers based on proprietary software and reducing server prices.

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Cumulus Networks' goal is to have the same impact on data center networks where proprietary technologies reign. Such networks have tightly integrated hardware and software, are complex and expensive, and lack common tools for network management, automation and monitoring, according to the startup.

"Linux revolutionized the compute-side of the datacenter over the past 15 years," said JR Rivers, Cumulus Networks' CEO and co-founder, in a statement. "Having a common OS broke vendor lock-in, drove down server hardware cost, allowed scale-out architectures, and provided a common platform for innovations like virtualization. Meanwhile networking remained stagnant. Innovation is finally coming to the network, and we are bringing that same transformational impact that Linux has had on datacenter economics and innovation to the networking side of the house."

Cumulus Networks said its Cumulus Linux allows businesses to adopt lower cost industry-standard hardware and software-defined tool sets to assemble their corporate networks.

Rivers and CTO and co-founder Nolan Leake both worked at Nuovo Systems, which Cisco acquired in 2008.

Cumulus Networks is targeting Cumulus Linux for use in corporate data centers and by cloud service providers. The company said two such service companies, DreamHost and Fastly, are already using the software, as is "one of the world's biggest cloud providers" that it did not identify in a company statement.

The company already has lined up a number of channel partners including Synnex, Penguin Computing and UnixSurplus, the latter a reseller of new and refurbished servers.

"The trend towards open systems and architectures is now taking hold in the network world, providing more choice and flexibility for customers at reduced cost," said Charles Wuischpard, CEO Penguin Computing, in a statement.

"We have been successfully delivering open Linux-based solutions for fifteen years. Partnering with Cumulus, who is introducing a Linux based software stack to the world of switches, is a natural fit for us," Wuischpard said. He said Penguin Computing plans to offer Cumulus Linux across the company's new portfolio of 1-, 10- and 40-GbE switches.

PUBLISHED JUNE 19, 2013