- Linux has provisioning tools that they want to use i.e. Puppet, Chef, Ansible etc.
- Linux has a lower overall cost, especially lower capital cost which makes human infrastructure costs (ie. your salary) more acceptable than vendor markups/value.
- Using Linux is better for your long term career as networking moves to software.
- Linux can be changed (if you really, really need to and have the skills)
- As hyper-convergence continues, moving to single user experience based around Linux will simplify operations.
Ready Skills Base & Career Path
Linux is widely used in IT and skills are widely available. Network Engineers are using proprietary interfaces to configure and operate their devices. This restricts the availability of human infrastructure to work on network software.
For network engineers, Linux skills offer a better career path. Networking, like other IT disciplines, has been isolated & siloed for a number of years with high barriers to entry such as arcane user interfaces, poor user experience and lack of visibility means. So-called engineer skills are focussed on interpreting available data instead of performing more useful business-focused actions – faster, cheaper or better.
Having Cisco IOS or Juniper Junos command line knowledge is a skill but it’s not knowledge or expertise. Having bash/awk/sed skills means that you can participate a wider range of career choices and more likely survive changes ahead. Knowledge of installing packages, maintaining a repo and having SSH mojo is critical to working with developers and DevOps.
Linux is the lingua franca of software defined infrastructure, you need to speak it. The days of vendor CLIs are numbered.
Linux has provisioning tools that IT teams want to use i.e. Puppet, Chef, Ansible etc. In a data centre with thousands of servers, there are likely just hundreds of network devices. Its makes no sense to have a completely different approach to configuring the network, it would be better to use the same systems that configure and operate servers.
Today, Cisco ACI or VMware NSX demand that you use their operational models that are vastly different from server operations. Deploying an application will be integrated & automated process, where the data, application, operating system, VM, storage and network will be configured using a single toolchain.
Many people preach abstraction in this space, but me-thinks that the industry has gone overboard with unnecessary and irrelevant abstractions to the point where no one understands why or what is happening.
As IT teams converge, the demand for networking to conform & integrate into application deployments toolchains1 means that networking must conform to application needs, not what makes sense for the network engineer.
While networking vendors have been adapting and working to include these apps into their NOS, after three years delivery remains limited and, for practical purposes, non-existent.
Linux Is a Lower Overall Cost.
A free & open Linux-based network operating system us important for horizontal scaling where access to human resources is lower overall cost than vendor markups/value.
Paying a license fee for every instance deployed is a complex problem. Administering the software license lifecycle through asset management, purchase ordering, budgeting and constant updates is effectively unworkable today. The cost of license management alone is often more than the value gained. Vendors need are yet to solve this problem.
Licensing is a major drag on speed to market. In the enterprise, it can take 12 weeks to get a purchase order approved and shipped. Free software removes this problem. Its not only about purchase price, but also about ease of purchasing (a significant cost for many companies).
Linux Can Be Changed
Compared to vendor operating systems, Linux is flexible and fungible. You can choose to add packages for to switch from Puppet to Chef or replace the BGP routing software. You can use bash CLI for stunt-like operational control. You can change Linux if needed, add Ruby or Perl instead of Python if you have a strong enough use case. Such changes would be rare but it can be done is
The EtherealMind View
Incumbent vendors continue to emphasise their proven history of software development, support, quality and features. In just a two years, Cumulus Networks, Big Switch Networks and PICA8 have shown that it is possible to build Linux for networking while offering capabilities and integration far beyond existing products. As they work to stabilise their platforms and add features, the popularity of Linux seems set to increase as customers moved into hyper-converged technology with Linux as the baseline.
The future of networking is about applications and software. Those applications will run on Linux and you will need Linux skills to operate those platforms for the next decade. Having a completely different CLI on a networking device makes less and less sense.
And that, fundamentally, is the key reason. The long term adoption of Linux, especially in the public cloud, is a key pattern in convergence everywhere. Networking must follow the mainline trend because in the overall size of the market, having something different doesn’t make sense, networking is just too small to do anything different or unique.
- Some people call this software defined infrastructure. ↩