BOSTON — Networking equipment such as switches and routers has traditionally been built from proprietary systems where the manufacturer controlled the hardware and the operating system. That was, until Facebook opened the gate to open-network hardware. Today, the Open Compute Project (OCP) is driving the movement toward making public the hardware designs for networking products. Of course, if networking equipment doesn't properly communicate, you won't have much of a network.
That's where the University of New Hampshire Interoperability Lab (UNH-IOL) comes in. This well-known compliance lab and arbiter of all things data communication has launched its Open Networking Test Services where products designed for the Open Network Install Environment (ONIE) can get tested. EE Times spoke with David Woolf, Senior Engineer for Datacenter Technology at UNH-IOL, about its testing and certification program and what ONIE means to networking technology.
Network equipment such as Ethernet switches can now be certified ONIE-compliant. Source: UNH-IOL
"The OCP takes the open-software concept and applies it to networking hardware," said Woolf. "That makes hardware designs public, giving engineers and network operators more flexibility to implement specific features while lowering costs. It creates 'white box' hardware." But using and modifying hardware and software comes at a cost.
"If you buy equipment from a system integrator," Woolf continued, "You know that all the equipment has been tested and you know who to call if something doesn’t work. Doing your own integration requires that you have the knowledge and you can verify interoperability." While UNH-IOL can't perform interoperability tests of anyone's network, the lab can verify that equipment complies with ONIE specifications. Compliance testing increases confidence that network hardware will communicate with each other.
During a compliance test, network equipment must show that it can find any ONIE network operating system (NOS) by starting its boot routine and finding the NOS installer. The NOS can be loaded from an IPv4 or IPv6 network, through a USB connection, or from a trivial file transfer protocol (TFTP) server. Once the NOS is loaded, tests continue by verifying interoperability with other network equipment, of which the lab has just about everything. UNH-IOL has numerous test cases that it can run to check for compliance to ONIE standards.
"Even when using ONIE-compliant equipment, many companies still use system integrators depending on the client's needs and expertise," said Woolf.
—Martin Rowe covers test and measurement for EE Times and EDN. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org