Tag Archives: Cumulus Linux

Everything You Should Know About Cumulus Linux


Nowadays, many new small-and-medium-sized internet companies choose to use a bare metal switch with a third party network operating system (NOS) for network construction. The NOS they choose is consistent with the Open Network Install Environment (ONIE), a network OS installer which supports loading a network OS of choice, and then changing to a different network OS later. Among all the network operating systems, Cumulus Linux is a very popular choice. Then, what is Cumulus Linux? What are the advantages of this NOS? Is it reliable to use? Let’s find out the answers together in the following text.

What Is Cumulus Linux?

Cumulus Linux is a powerful open network operating system designed for data center network infrastructures. It accelerates networking functions on a network switch, acting as a platform for modern data center networking tools to get networks managed like servers. This Debian-based network operating system (NOS) can be run on hardware produced by a broad partner ecosystem. That is to say, you can accelerate networking constructs on a broad range of industry-standard switches from different vendors with various port densities, form factors and capabilities.

Cumulus Linux

Advantages of Cumulus Linux

In addition to the functions such as BGP and OSFP that a normal NOS enables, the Cumulus Linux has three main features that many other operating systems don’t support, namely Automation, EVPN and MLAG.

  • Automation: The biggest advantage of this feature is that it saves manpower by using automation tools. What’s more, it helps deployment and benefits from troubleshooting as well.
  • EVPN: The full name of “EVPN” is Ethernet virtual private networks. This modern interoperable technology can not only help you get rid of the complexity of the layer 2 but also allows legacy layer 2 applications to operate over next-generation layer 3 networks.
  • MLAG: It is an abbreviation for multi-chassis link aggregation group. As a new multi-device link aggregation technology for data center switch, MLAG configuration centralizes constituent ports on separate chassis, mainly serves as reliable load functionality to increase bandwidth and provide redundancy in emergent breakdown of one of the device.

Last but not least, in addition to the three main features, NCLU is another feature developed by Cumulus Networks to help those who have no idea how to use the Cumulus Linux OS. This is a function similar to the traditional CLI (Command Line Interface). It acts as a prompt command during configuration. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about the unfamiliarity to such a NOS you haven’t used before!

Is Cumulus Linux Stable?

Will the fault processing time be longer using the combination of a bare metal switch and an open network operating system Cumulus Linux? Actually, compared with the traditional network switch, the processing speed form this combination is basically the same as that of an Arista switch. It has very low latency as well.

In addition, the third-party systems such as Cumulus Linux based on Linux development have been very mature in today’s networking market just like the current operating systems (Windows, Linux, Redhat, Ubuntu, etc.) does. For example, FS N-serious switches are highly compatible with Cumulus Linux, and they both support EVPN and MLAG deployment.

FS N-serious switches with Cumulus Linux

Is Cumulus Linux Secure for My Data?

Of course it is secure. This NOS only process at the Control Plane. Your data is processed on hardware with chip and CPU. This is commonly known as isolation of the data layer and control layer.


From all the above, you may have a general understanding of the open network operating system Cumulus Linux. It is ideal to match with a bare metal switch in data center deployment. With this open NOS, you can accelerate networking constructs on switches from different vendors with various configurations easily and get easy deployment for future network construction.

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Network OS Systems for Bare Metal Switch

As you may know that a network switch with no network operating system (NOS) is referred to as a bare metal switch. Unlike a white box switch with vendor’s own or 3rd party already loaded NOS, a bare metal switch allows you to load a network OS according to your own will. After installing the NOS, these two types of switches are normally regarded as the same. Then, how to choose network OS systems for bare metal switches? Listed below are three popular choices, namely Cumulus Linux, IP Infusion OcNOS™ and Pica8 PICOS.

Option 1: Network OS Cumulus Networks Cumulus Linux

Cumulus Linux is a powerful open network OS designed by Cumulus Networks to help build and operate large data center networks. Therefore, the Cumulus Linux is a perfect match for a data center switch which operates in bigger networks such as enterprise, data center and metro Ethernet scenarios. It is a true Linux distribution with a hardware abstraction layer that runs on a variety of commodity hardware. Cumulus Linux uses automated tools to manage the network infrastructure and hopes to automate the configuration of network switches with these existing tools.

Cumulus Linux network OS

Additionally, Cumulus Linux offers economical scalability and choice flexibility to run multiple network paths without the need for multiple switches. The main features of Cumulus Linux lie in the following aspects:

  • Economical Scalability: Customers can get increased operational efficiency with commodity hardware and a standardized Linux stack.
  • Built for the Automation Age: This Debian-based Linux distribution offers a completely open architecture and is designed for easy automation.
  • Standardized Toolsets: It allows open source and commercial Linux applications to run natively. You can use your own automation or other tools to improve efficiency and multiply the number of switches per operator.
  • 70+ Hardware Platforms for Choice: You can choose compatible hardware based on your needs and your budget flexibly.

Cumulus Linux enables modern data center architectures while providing a transition path for traditional data center architectures. It supports layer 2, layer 3 and overlay architectures. This open architectural approach enables a wide range of solutions such as Clos, L3 network, L2 network, campus expansion, out of band management, etc.

Cumulus Linux architecture

Option 2: Network OS IP Infusion OcNOS™

OcNOS™ is designed to address the needs of public, private or hybrid cloud networks. It offers Carrier-grade network OS for bare metal switches. It includes many advanced capabilities such as extensive switching and routing protocol support, MPLS, SDN, etc.

In addition to providing industry standard CLI, OcNOS™ supports all standard MIBs , other standard operation and management tools as well. The main features are:

  • Support Multiple Deployments: The several abstraction layers allow seamless portability across diverse network hardware.
  • Modular Software Design: This design can make it customized, built and packaged with minimal software features to reduce CapEx and device footprint.
  • Wide Interoperation: With CLI and SNMP management, the the OcNOS-based network node is easy to operate and interoperate with another vendor node.
  • Support for disruptive networking technologies: It enables SDN support through OpenFlow and can provide custom programmable network operations.

Option 3: Network OS Pica8 PICOS

The PICOS is also an open Linux-based network OS built on the robust Debian Linux environment for bare metal switches. It supports all major L2 and L3 switching. What’s more, it can leverage a vast array of standard Linux tools and supports IPv4 and IPv6 static routing as well.

In addition to the basic features mentioned above, the PICOS supports other functions depending on its two different editions. For PICOS enterprise edition, it supports CrossFlow dual control plane technology for improved OpenFlow integration, scale, and management. For PICOS SDN edition, it uses OpenFlow to control MPLS, GRE, NVGRE or VXLAN tunnels, delivering on the promise of open programmability.


From all the above, you may have a general understanding of the three main network OS systems. You can choose a proper one according to your actual needs. For example, if you need a Debian-based Linux distribution NOS with Clos solution for a 40GB switch, Cumulus Linux is a wise choice.

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