Today, at the OCP(Open Compute Project) Summit 2016, Microsoft has released an in-house developed collection of software networking components based on Debian GNU/Linux, that runs on network switches. It’s known as SONiC, aka Software for Open Networking in the Cloud.


The software includes code toolkit and kernel patches to bend switch hardware to your will. This puts aside the reliance on propriety firmware from a networking vendor, allowing you the full control over switch hardware working.

This project also pits Microsoft against white-box network operating systems from the likes of HP, Dell, and Cumulus Networks.

Linux based Azure Cloud Switch (ACS) operating system from Microsoft has been utilized for building the SONiC. ACS is the integral and most important part of Microsoft’s Azure Cloud. It allows running all sorts of hardware from different equipment makers, and uses a common C API – the Switch Abstraction Interface (SAI) – to program the specialist chips in the networking gear. This essentially gives ACS the ability to control and manage network devices for implementing features required regardless of who made the underlying electronics.

Hence, the SAI is required to be implemented by the underlying hardware. Microsoft contributed the SAI API to the OCP Summit in 2015. The Open Compute Project was launched by Facebook in 2011 with an aim of encouraging hardware manufacturers to produce generic gear to the project’s open standards and specifications which shall large organizations to buy bulk machines at a cheap rate along with the ability to tailor them accordingly.

Broadcom, Dell, and Mellanox along with Microsoft backed by Arista are hoping to contribute ACS’s sibling SONiC to the OCP so that anyone can pick and choose their switch hardware and shape their networks as needed using Redmond’s software.

“SONiC is a collection of software networking components required to build network devices like switches, Together with SAI, SONiC will enable cloud operators to take advantage of hardware innovation, while giving them a framework to build upon open source code for applications on the network switch. We believe it’s the final piece of the puzzle in delivering a fully open sourced switch platform that can share the same software stack across hardware from multiple switch vendors,” said Azure CTO Mark Russinovich.

One can download SONiC at Microsoft’s Azure GitHub repo, listed under the GNU GPL and the Apache license.

Microsoft has been on a roll in 2016 and this news is followed by another big announcement of last week i.e. a port of SQL Server for Linux, due out in 2017. It all seems a surprise change of events since Microsoft initial strategy was to destroy Linux until recently.

Russinovich reports that more than 25 percent of virtual machines running on Azure are Linux-powered, up from 20 percent six months ago.

Fans of Microsoft are embracing this new love for Linux by Microsoft and sees this as a new chapter in Redmond biography.

You can learn more about the SONiC here.

Meanwhile, Microsoft has said it “has no plans to sell SONiC to customers or provide any network engineering or development support.” It also stressed that “SONiC is a collection of networking software components required to have a fully functional L3 device that can be agnostic of any particular Linux distribution. Today SONiC runs on Debian.”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.