Linux Foundation Unveils Dent 2.0


By: Mary Jander

The Linux Foundation has released the second version of its Dent open-source network operating system (NOS), adding improvements specifically aimed at small and mid-size enterprises (SMEs) as well as future applications.

Dent 2.0, code-named Beeblebrox, adds IPv6 scalability along with Network Address Translation (NAT). Also added is Power over Ethernet (PoE), which reduces cabling requirements and allows for remote switches to be monitored and shut down from one interface. Rounding out the improvements is rate limiting, which protects the network against storms of broadcast traffic such as those caused by distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. It all adds up to scalability with a focus on simplicity at the edge.

“This new release of Dent 2.0 adds critical updates focused on smaller enterprise needs. This was the goal of Dent all along,” said Steven Noble, Dent Technical Steering Committee Chair, in a prepared statement. “If you are looking for an open source disaggregated network OS, now is great timing for looking at Dent.”

The Origins of Dent

Dent had its start over two years ago, when The Linux Foundation determined that a solution was needed to serve networking needs in remote, decentralized networks. Warehouses, retail stores, healthcare facilities, hotels and motels, and remote field offices typically have limited space and staffing to deal with traditional, heavyweight switches and routers based on proprietary hardware and software. A solution was needed that fit smaller wiring closets and could be easily managed without datacenter information technology (IT) expertise.

Dent’s development team includes representatives from Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN), Delta Electronics, Edgecore, and Marvell Technology (Nasdaq: MRVL). Contributors to the NOS also include NVIDIA (Nasdaq: NVDA), Keysight Technologies (NYSE: KEYS), and Sartura.

The first iteration of Dent, code-named Arthur, was released in December 2020. Its lightweight design and vendor-agnostic structure are owing to use of the Linux Kernel as a network transmission channel for any Linux server, switch, or silicon platform.

This approach has made Dent adaptable by OEMs and systems integrators, which have implemented Dent in white-box solutions for their customers.

Delta Electronics, for instance, has adopted Dent-equipped Prestera processors from Marvell in white-box 1- and 10-Gbit/s Ethernet switches. This ensures plenty of networking power to go with Dent 2.0 scalability.

Dent’s Future Outlined

While the new scalability and security features of Dent 2.0 lend themselves particularly to implementation in retail sites, proponents stress that the future holds plenty of possibilities for the NOS, including in networks powered by 5G. “Dent continues to expand into new use cases and welcomes community input with an open technical community, under the Linux Foundation,” said Arpit Joshipura, GM of Networking & Edge at The Linux Foundation, in a prepared statement.

The Dent Technical Steering Committee meets weekly to discuss issues and improvements. The next release, due sometime this year, will incorporate multichassis link aggregation grouping for load balancing and redundancy across switch nodes, along with features for better control and security per port. As adoption progresses and use cases expand, we can expect more improvements to be added.