Broadcom released an open source software development kit (SDK) based on its Tomahawk Ethernet switch silicon.

The first version of the kit, called SDKLT, will allow developers to customize their use of Tomahawk, the company’s data center top-of-rack and fabric device. However, “this technology could be applied on any current and future Broadcom ASICs,” said Eli Karpilovski, director of marketing, core switch group at Broadcom. “You should expect to see more devices coming up. I expect to see this ecosystem expand.”

The open source code is available on GitHub, and the associated logical table APIs are available through an Apache 2.0 license.

Last June Broadcom added programmability to its switches. The new open source kit is another “key milestone” in open networking and enabling developers to add features to the switch silicon, Karpilovski said.

Open Source SDK

“We are in this industry shift from very closed environments to disaggregated, open environments,” he said. But while open networking hardware has become the new normal, Karpilovski added, vendor SDK has remained closed.

Broadcom’s open source switch software approach presents all device physical resources such as media access control address tables and Layer 3 route tables, as logical tables instead of specific function calls. This gives data center operators more control over their infrastructure and allows them to use industry standard automation tools to monitor and provision switch resources, Karpilovski said.

“With this approach, we are saying we’re making sure that you have complete exposure to the entire resources of the switch,” he explained. “You can share information between the hardware and software, the cycles of innovation, customization, building new platforms or form factors, and distributing them however you want, either as open source or binary. It’s all up to you. You have total freedom to innovate.”

Industry Support for Open Networking

Several open networking proponents and vendors including Dell EMC, Big Switch Networks, Cumulus Networks, LinkedIn, and the Open Networking Foundation praised Broadcom’s move as a way to accelerate software-defined networking (SDN) and improve data center efficiency and flexibility.

“Cumulus is thrilled that Broadcom is opening up its SDK,” said JR Rivers, co-founder and chief technology officer at Cumulus Networks, in a statement. “We look forward to integrating this SDK in our Cumulus Linux offerings and work closely with Broadcom to push the entire disaggregated networking ecosystem forward.”

Broadcom’s open source SDK also puts the company in a better position to compete against Barefoot Networks, which in late 2016 began sampling its programmable Tofino switch that runs the open source P4 language. AT&T last year became the first telecom provider to deploy the Barefoot switches.

Karpilovski said with Broadcom’s offering the entire source code is open source, not just the APIs.”

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