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Accessing platform-specific details on ONIE compliant devices in Linux

By Announcements, Blog

The DENT project has been promoting the use of an Open Network Install Environment (ONIE) within Linux-based networking products. Recently, a number of useful features have been added to the upstream Linux kernel to help with the adoption of this environment. Deep dive into the story behind these contributions.

ONIE hardware requirements

The project has little-to-no hardware limitation, at least regarding the underlying platform. Manufacturers can use almost any common architecture supported by the Linux kernel. One requirement however, is to include a non-volatile storage, whatever its type, to store ONIE specific product data. The range of information the manufacturer can provide is wide, ranging from the serial number of the device to the MAC addresses for the network interfaces, along with various version numbers, manufacturing date and place, as well as manufacturer specific information.

To be really useful, this data must be parsable in a generic way. This is the purpose of ONIE’s TlVInfo format. The format is named after the data layout within the storage: TLV or Type Length and Value fields. Basically, we expect each entry to be made of an encoded value giving the type of field, concatenated with the size of the payload and the data itself.

All TLV entries follow each other in a table which shall not exceed 2048 bytes. The ONIE format specifies a number of mandatory fields which define the overall structure, such as an easy to spot 8-bytes ID (“TlvInfo”), a version number for the entire table, its length, and at the end, a CRC-32 to check data integrity. In between, all possible fields are listed here, aside from vendor-specific extensions of course:

Such information can be used by the system administrators to know the origin of the product, its serial number, etc. But most importantly, one could expect the Linux kernel drivers to extract information from this table in order to configure the hardware. On network switches, a common requirement is to use a consistent and unique range of MAC addresses for the network interfaces, which could typically be specified in the ONIE TlvInfo table. This however requires a good integration in the system, deeper than just offering access to the raw content of the storage medium.

The NVMEM subsystem

Due to too much code duplication between various misc/ EEPROM drivers, and seeing the growing need for a standard consumer API to access their content, an NVMEM framework was contributed to the Linux kernel in 2015. Besides the needed factorization between all drivers, it introduced a standard device-tree API to both expose small amounts of data through “NVMEM cells”, as well as a consumer API which can be used by device drivers to retrieve the content of these cells. Over the years, the NVMEM subsystem was extended to support any kind of storage like NAND or SPI-NOR flashes. As an example of use, the NVMEM abstraction quickly became the right way to expose MAC addresses to network controller drivers. ONIE TlvInfo tables can be stored in almost any kind of non-volatile storage medium and need to expose their content to drivers, making the fit with the NVMEM subsystem quite obvious. Unfortunately, the subsystem had to evolve a little bit in order to allow this synergy.

Until recently, the framework only supported static device-tree bindings, only describing the precise location of each piece of data inside the storage. Said otherwise, one would need to know precisely the location and size of each field in advance, which does not match ONIE’s TlvInfo concept where flexibility is key. The DENT project hence decided to fund additional kernel development in order to be able to support these tables.

The NVMEM layout interface and the ONIE layout driver

The entire design of the NVMEM subsystem predating 2015, no support whatsoever for any advanced parsing mechanism was considered. The only binding existing was using fixed offsets and sizes and would definitely not fit the ONIE TlvInfo purpose. Instead, such a design would need to target a storage area from which useful information could be extracted, and tell the Linux kernel what logic to follow in order to parse its content and expose the cells.

Supporting such a new logic in the NVMEM subsystem became the target and in order to tackle this, the DENT project contracted Bootlin, an engineering company which made Linux kernel developments and upstreaming its expertise. As the company was already deeply involved in the kernel community, Miquèl Raynal, who drove these developments, quickly found the most relevant and hopefully efficient approach to address the DENT’s needs. Indeed, sharing with the community has been key in this quest, as Michael Walle, an active member of the community, had already tried to do something similar. His first approach, while technically relevant, unfortunately did not convince the maintainers. Exchanging with Michael and building a common solution to overcome the known difficulties lead to a satisfying cooperation which ended into a common series which, after several additional tries, would become the adopted solution. Despite having received early validation from many members of the community as there were actual expectations regarding the whole NVMEM layout logic, the upstreaming process took time, meticulous testing and many reviews, further certifying the commitment of the DENT project to act as a leader and a contributor of the Linux kernel community. 

The final proposal added a truly new parser alongside the fixed cells parser, named “NVMEM layouts”. The needed infrastructure would rely on an underlying driver to perform the parsing, the “layout driver”, and would expose NVMEM cells based on what has been dynamically discovered. The exact layout in the storage medium is still unknown when the platform starts, but still, system administrators can describe the cells they need in the NVMEM device-tree node and still point to them from the consumer devices, waiting for them at run-time to be filled. Within this new scope, the DENT project additionally funded the writing of an ONIE layout driver to parse the TlvInfo table, while Walle complemented the work with an SL28 VPD layout driver, exposing MAC addresses with the same constraint as ONIE tables. Both layout drivers would dynamically extract data from the underlying devices following their own rules and expose them through the generic NVMEM abstraction.

Since the initial merge, an additional layout driver has been proposed, showing even more interest for this work beyond the single use of the layouts for the ONIE purpose, further validating the relevance of this contribution pushed by the DENT project.

ONIE TlvInfo tables support being upstream since version 6.4 of the Linux kernel, hopes are to see all userspace parsers disappear in favor of this united solution, like the common Marvell mvpp2 network controller driver which is now capable of getting its MAC addresses automatically. We all hope that the lessons learned with this project as well as the positive outcome of this venture laid solid foundations for further upstream contributions, working with all people involved in this powerful community.

DENT Mini-Summit Session Videos Now Available!

By Blog

The DENT community held its first Mini-Summit, “NOS for the Distributed Edge: A Mini-Summit on DENT Ecosystem,” in November 2022 alongside ONE Summit. The mini-summit featured 7 session presentations with almost 70 attendees (both in-person and virtually).

Topics included:

  • DENT’s Features: Past, Present, and Future
  • DENT and Its Vision
  • DENT Deployment
  • DENT Adoption – a Panel
  • DENT’s Testing Infrastructure
  • DENT Technical Overview
  • DENT and Open Source Communities


Session videos are now available for on-demand viewing, here.

Thanks to all who participated to make this a great event, from speakers, to attendees, to staff and those watching the sessions on-demand!

DENT, the Open Source Network Operating System for Distributed Edge, Now Powers AWS Just Walk Out Technology

By Announcements, Blog, News
  • Amazon deploys open source NOS to automate more efficient customer experience with Just Walk Out technology
  • Large-scale deployment by global enterprise commerce leader signals new level of maturity for open source Networking Operating System 
  • Growing ecosystem of members & collaborators across enterprises, silicon vendors, ODMs, OEMs, and System Integrators, demonstrates deployment readiness for disaggregated hardware  

The DENT Project, an open source ecosystem utilizing the Linux Kernel, Switchdev, and other Linux based projects, announced member company Amazon has deployed the DENT operating system (dentOS) as part of its Just Walk Out Technology in third party customer stores worldwide to streamline the customer experience and scale in-store operations. 

The need for retailers to innovate quickly in the pandemic era depends highly on the network to power the in-store components that enable more seamless and touchless experiences, like grab-and-go and electronic shelf labels. The number of devices, such as IP cameras and sensors, needed to enable these features require massive, edge switching and processing. Disaggregated hardware and open-source collaboration is needed to scale and accelerate standardization at the network edge.

DENT provides access to open source based switches at a lower cost and more flexibility compared to proprietary switches with locked ecosystems. DentOS enables the Just Walk Out Technology to connect and manage thousands of devices like cameras, sensors, entry and exit gates, and access points on the network edge.

“Adoption and deployment by the world’s largest e-commerce leader with its Just Walk Out Technology is a shining example of the power of open source,” said Arpit Joshipura, general manager, Networking, Edge and IoT, the Linux Foundation. “In just three years, the DENT community created a working platform for disaggregated networks to power multiple device locations at the edge, now used by top retail giants to streamline operations. This undertaking is only possible by the power of collaborative open source development.”   

“We are pleased to leverage the DENT open-source platforms to power networking infrastructure to enable customers to skip check-out lines with our Just Walk Out Technology,” said Jason Long, Head of Networking for Amazon Physical Retail Technology and Chairman of the DENT Board. “DENT enabled us to reduce our networking costs by giving us access to open-source switches that allowed Amazon to efficiently deploy new hardware and software whenever we need instead of waiting for a bug fix from a third-party vendor”.

“With its cost-effective cloud managed networking products, Quantum Networks has established itself as a reliable partner, especially in emerging markets,” said Mukesh Majithia, Director (Technical), Quantum Networks. “Our collaboration with the DENT community and Sartura is intended to build a roadmap for market-required features. Being able to provide a better service to our customers through the use of Open Source technologies is what sets us apart from traditional vendors at a lower price.”

DENT at ONE Summit

The announcement was shared during the ONE Summit opening keynote address in Seattle, Wash. ONE Summit is the one  industry event that brings together decision makers and implementers for two days of in-depth presentations and interactive conversations around 5G, Access, Edge, Telco, Cloud, Enterprise Networking, and more open source technology developments. 

The DENT community also hosted a collocated workshop to provide details on the NOS’ architecture, use in Distributed Edge scenarios, compatible hardware and how DENT impacts and contributes to the upstream Linux kernel. 

More information about DENT is available at

Ecosystem Support:


“It is imperative that we provide reliable, private, and secure communications to US soldiers and military contractors overseas. Achieving our mission requires agility and resilience.” said Peter Catranis, CTO, Babtel. “With our joint efforts with Sartura, we have been able to leverage leading Open Source software extensively. Today these technologies are being adopted by a variety of industries, which of course benefits everyone.”


“Keysight has been involved with DENT since its inception because we are eager to drive the success and adoption of open-source communities,” said Dean Lee, Senior Director, Cloud Solution Unit, Keysight. “We are hosting the community system integration lab which provides multi-vendor interoperability testing to make DENT robust and drive customer POCs successfully. We are delighted to see the fruits of these labors come to fruition through Amazon’s pioneering deployment of DENT components in its retail stores.”


“Our collaboration with Sartura around DENT, switchdev, and mainline Linux simplifies our support model for data centers and central offices,” said Paul Arola, Senior Design Specialist, TELUS. “With no reliance on proprietary SDK’s, we can rapidly deploy new software releases, and security patches with an agility that is not possible with traditional switch NOS”.


“Sartura is one of the key organizations which has consistently delivered on the promise of a modern disaggregated network infrastructure. By providing professional services, our team empowers our partners and customers to utilize state-of-the-art open source networking technologies,” said Luka Perkov, CEO, Sartura. “We have been devoted to making Linux-based networking technologies more accessible to the broad market, and the market is responding favorably. Those that place a high importance on security, flexibility, and openness have found our efforts particularly appealing. As we move forward, our activities will be directed towards further developing the ecosystem.”

Quantum Networks

“With its cost-effective cloud managed networking products, Quantum Networks has established itself as a reliable partner, especially in emerging markets,” said Mukesh Majithia, Director (Technical), Quantum Networks. “Our collaboration with the DENT community and Sartura is intended to build a roadmap for market-required features. Being able to provide a better service to our customers through the use of Open Source technologies is what sets us apart from traditional vendors at a lower price.”

DENT 2.0, Secure and Scalable Open Source Network Operating System Aimed at Small and Mid-Size Enterprises, Available Now

By Announcements, Blog

Newest version of DENT, a Linux Foundation project, adds secure scaling, PoE control, and traffic policing, being deployed in retail environments in North America and Asia markets

Available for immediate download and testing; new Getting Started documentation available, supported hardware platforms list expanded

SAN FRANCISCO, March 8, 2022 – The DENT Project, an open source network operating system utilizing the Linux Kernel, Switchdev, and other Linux based projects, today announced DENT 2.0 is available for immediate download. The “Beeblebrox” release adds key features utilized by distributed enterprises in retail and remote facilities, providing a secure and scalable Linux-based Network Operating System (NOS) for disaggregated switches adaptable to edge deployment. DENT provides a smaller, more lightweight NOS for use at the small, remote edges of enterprise networks.

DENT 2.0 adds secure scaling with Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) and Network Address Translation (NAT) to support a broader community of enterprise customers. It also adds Power over Ethernet (PoE) control to allow remote switching, monitoring, and shutting down. Connectivity of IoT, Point of Sale (POS), and other devices is highly valuable to retail storefronts, early adopters of DENT. DENT 2.0 also adds traffic policing, helping mitigate attack situations that overload the CPU. 

“DENT has made great strides this past year and with its edge and native Linux approach, with a rich feature set for distributed enterprises like retail or remote facilities. 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.

DENT 2.0 Main Features to enable secure and scalable development

  • Secure scaling with IPv6 and NAT to appeal to a broader community of SME customers
  • PoE control to allow remote switching, monitoring, and shutting down
  • Rate limiting to protect against broadcast storms, creating a stronger OS under erroneous BUM (Broadcast, Unicast, Multicast) traffic

DENT goes beyond the data center to enable enterprises to transition to disaggregated network switches and use cases available with the distributed enterprise and edge networking. The open source NOS provides key technology leverage in retail, a sector that is leading innovation in digital transformation. The Amazon public showcase of DENT hardware at re:Invent in November 2021 reached 20,000+ attendees.

“This new release of DENT 2.0 adds critical updates focused on smaller enterprise needs. This was the goal of DENT all along, and I would like to thank our members and the wider community for this broad, concerted effort to move DENT significantly forward,” said Steven Noble, DENT Technical Steering Committee Chair. “It’s not easy building a flexible, accessible network OS, and this is why I’m proud of all the effort and coordination by so many talented individuals. If you are looking for an open source disaggregated network OS, now is great timing for looking at DENT.”

Retail stores, warehousing, remote locations, enterprise, and Small and Mid-Size Enterprises are all ideal environments for DENT deployment. Wiring closets in many facilities are small. Staff expertise may be limited, and branch-office switches from leading suppliers can require costly contracts. DENT is easily deployed on white-box hardware in small spaces. It can be set up to support dozens of wireless access points and IoT sensors, creating a manageable network to track inventory, monitor shelf real estate, scan customer activity, and perform automated checkouts.

DENT premier members include Amazon, Delta Electronics Inc, Edgecore Networks, and Marvell. DENT would also like to acknowledge important contributions from NVIDIA, Keysight Technologies, and Sartura.

To download and start testing DENT 2.0 today:

To join DENT technical working groups: 

Supporting Quotes

“Delta has built complete white box networking platforms based on DENT technology, helping drive a disaggregation model in edge that offers cost and flexibility benefits to customers looking for OEM solutions,” said Charlie Wu, Vice President, Solution Center at Delta Networks. “The deployment of our 1G and 10G Ethernet switch boxes with Marvell’s Prestera devices and the DENT OS in real world applications demonstrates the power of open source to accelerate technology innovation in networking.” 

“Edgecore Networks, as the premier member of DENT, is pleased to see the groundbreaking second release of DENT 2.0, enabling DENT community members to use the DENT’s simplified abstracts, APIs, drivers, to lessen development and deployment overhead,” said Taskin Ucpinar, Senior Director of SW Development at Edgecore Networks. “This innovative product development approach enables the community to build robust solutions with minimal effort and immediately help System Integrators deploy a networking solution to remote campuses and retail stores.”

“As the chairing company for DENT Test Working Group, Keysight has partnered with the open-source community to host the system integration test bed in Keysight labs,” said Dean Lee, Senior Director Cloud Solution Team at Keysight Technologies. “Being a neutral test vendor, we have worked with the community to harden the DENT NOS in multi-vendor interoperability, performance and resiliency. We are delighted to contribute to the success and wide adoption of DENT.

“Marvell is accelerating the build-out of Ethernet switching infrastructure in emerging edge and borderless enterprise applications, and DENT is a key component to our offerings,” said Guy Azrad, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Switch Business Unit at Marvell. “With DENT incorporated on our Prestera® switch platforms, we are currently enabling retailers to transform physical stores to smart retail connected environments that benefit consumers through easy and efficient in-store experiences.”

Additional DENT Resources

About the Linux Foundation

Founded in 2000, the Linux Foundation is supported by more than 1,000 members and is the world’s leading home for collaboration on open source software, open standards, open data, and open hardware. Linux Foundation’s projects are critical to the world’s infrastructure including Linux, Kubernetes, Node.js, and more. The Linux Foundation’s methodology focuses on leveraging best practices and addressing the needs of contributors, users and solution providers to create sustainable models for open collaboration. For more information, please visit us at


The Linux Foundation has registered trademarks and uses trademarks. For a list of trademarks of The Linux Foundation, please see our trademark usage page: Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds.

Why Contributing to and Improving Open Source Software Like DENT Matters

By Blog

Croatia-based open-source company Sartura is actively involved in open-sourceprojects and ecosystems as part of its service-oriented business model. Sartura believes that the reason why open source is critical to the IT ecosystem is that it relies on a non-proprietary model and shared effort, the result of which is common good created by a large number of people, each with different goals.  

Sartura has years of experience in providing embedded Linux support on various architectures supported by different semiconductor vendors. Sartura makes use of open-source engineering to bridge the gap between open-source as a technology demonstrator and open-source as the basis for enterprise-level technology. 

We talked with Luka Perkov, CEO of Sartura, to find out why they are committed to contributing to the Dent project and how using upstreaming as a permanent strategy is important to Dent.  

How is Dent different from other embedded Linux projects that you’re experienced with? 

We built our reputation by providing services for Linux-based projects that eliminate vendor lock-in and empower companies and users to seize control of devices from the Wi-Fi and CPE ecosystem. Dent does the same in the Ethernet switch domain by unifying companies from diverse industries toward a shared goal: an open-source, full-featured network operating system. However, the Dent project stands out for its inclusiveness of every project and community member, which is why we feel motivated to contribute to the project in various segments. 

Please explain some of the other open-source networking projects that Sartura is involved with and why your company invests so heavily in giving back to the open-source Linux networking community. Which projects are of particular interest to the Dent community? 

As mentioned, Sartura started by providing considerable contributions to projects such as OpenWrt, which is a Linux-based distribution for embedded devices such as home gateways or wireless routers. Companies looking to leverage these projects also regularly turn to us for development, integration, and consulting services to tailor the distribution to their needs. 

In the past year, we launched, an open-source and customizable Gentoo-powered firmware builder for various networking infrastructure components. The builder can currently generate firmware based on popular third-party distributions (Debian, Ubuntu, and Gentoo), and this is going to be extended to support additional distributions as well. Another key trait of the builder is that it leverages upstream community projects such as Linux kernel, U-Boot, systemd, BusyBox, and others to ensure that the generated firmware benefits from the latest mainline advancements of upstream community projects. We are continuously working together with the Dent community to demonstrate and evaluate this technology and its benefits for the Dent project. 

Why did Sartura join Dent? What’s the benefit for Sartura? 

Dent aligns perfectly with our mission of contributing to and improving open source projects. Regarding the benefits, we provide software and support services to companies looking to leverage the Dent concept. 

In the long term, we are working with the Dent community to officially adopt our platform, which would enable Dent to leverage a unique Linux-based NOS that runs on devices ranging from Wi-Fi access points and CPE to high-end network switches and core routers. 

What’s the benefit to network equipment vendors of having a standardized network OS? 

The Dent project and the platform provide open source and Linux-based NOS solutions that eliminate vendor lock-in and enable easy customization for various network applications and workloads. They allow equipment vendors to compete with industry giants by offering affordable hardware coupled with a free and Open-Source NOS that their customers can tailor to their requirements. 

Do you envision that each network vendor will make extensive modifications to Dent for their specific device, potentially using only those components of Dent that they need? Or, is the vision similar to server Linux distributions where a server vendor takes a standard Linux distribution and ships it with little modification to ensure that apps can run on it? 

I believe that we will see a little bit of both. Some vendors will go the extra mile to enable specific use cases on their devices and attract particular sectors and companies. Others will likely take the safer route by simply ensuring a functional base feature set on their hardware. 

This uncertainty is a key reason why end-users opt for open-source software – they retain the ability to modify and customize their NOS in ways that are not possible with traditional closed-source NOS providers. 

Can you summarize Sartura’s recent mainline contributions and how these contributions benefit Dent and their user base? 

We work with Dent to increase the level of support for numerous devices within the ecosystem that both Dent and utilize. Once Dent supplied us with initial hardware samples, we started implementing and contributing the Board Support Package (BSP) to the mainline Linux kernel. This work includes delivering support for components such as power supply and sensors. We upstreamed several kernel drivers, including the Delta DPS-920AB PSU drivers and the Texas Instruments TMP1075 sensor. The support for the latter component significantly reduces maintenance overhead in the Dent project since many switches supported by Dent use this sensor. I would particularly like to thank our lead kernel developer Robert Marko, who continues to drive these upstreaming efforts forward and collaborates with the Linux community. 

We implement a zero-patch policy throughout these efforts, which means that we contribute everything back to respective upstream repositories. Furthermore, we apply the same principle throughout our platform development to enable customers with a long-term alternative to the current Open Network Linux Platform (ONLP) based concept. 

How do you engage with the Dent community? (Example: pull requests on GitHub, providing assistance on mailing lists, provide strategic guidance on architecture) 

Sartura is very active through different subgroups of the Dent project, including Dent Developer Discussions, the Roadmap and Features Working Group (RFWG), and the Upstream Working Group (UWG). We are currently working together with Dent to set up support channels, where we aim to provide a range of development, integration, and educational services to companies starting with Dent. 

What is the Dent Working Group on upstream components and drivers? How does someone join? 

We believe that for any open-source project to be sustainable, it must collaborate with the ecosystem it utilizes. Leveraging upstreaming as a permanent strategy brings several short and long-term benefits to the project, including reduced maintenance costs, easier upgrades, and higher code quality. Because of this, we initiated the Upstream Working Group, which aims to align the project members’ goals on the critical element of upstreaming and thereby ensure technical excellence, longevity, and increased commercial growth of the DENT project. To get an invite, please consider subscribing to the Upstream Working Group. We welcome all interested parties to join the Upstream Working Group meetings held every second Monday at 7:00 am Pacific Standard Time (PST).

Why WNC Sees Dent as Key to Growing the Networking Industry

By Blog

Wistron NeWeb Corporation (WNC) is dedicated to improving the operating performance of new networking technologies. The company offers technical support in hardware and software design, mechanical and antenna design, user interfaces, and system development. Headquartered in Taiwan, WNC has operations in the US, UK, Japan, China, and Vietnam.

We talked with Cheer Ko, Associate Vice President of Networking Business Group at WNC, to find out why WNC joined Dent and what benefits they see for their customers.

Can you tell us a little about your organization?

From 1996 onwards WNC has enjoyed a number of achievements, including ranking #1 with 35% of the world’s market share for laptop antennas and becoming Taiwan’s top satellite communications product-export manufacturer, shipping over 300 million units of satellite communications products and digital home products. WNC serves as the Alpha site of the world’s major chip suppliers. Additionally, WNC is one of the world’s major automotive electronics suppliers.

Why did WNC join Dent?

WNC foresees customer need for open and standardized network equipment. The Dent project is key to the provision of open source services, applications, and hardware. WNC can better contribute its technologies and design/manufacturing services by joining Dent, and thus benefit end-users.

What objectives would you like to see Dent achieve in the next three years?

We hope to see more collaborations between developers, service and solution providers, and end-users resulting in the adoption of Dent open-source OS products in the market.

What are the benefits to WNC of being part of an open-source community?

Being a part of an open-source community like the Linux Foundation, has enabled WNC to contribute patches, codes, documents, etc. to this community. At the same time, WNC is able to benefit from the sharing of member resources.

As the Dent system is adopted in the market, we would expect that more and more partners will contribute resources back to the community. In this way, customers will have more time to focus on marketing their products. In addition, during this contribution process, WNC is also learning about advanced features and applications of other Dent partners.

Do you have a general company strategy for open source?

For the networking industry, open source is the key to growing this piece of pie into a bigger one. It’s unavoidable and it’s coming. For example, OpenWrt is pretty stable and has been adopted in many devices at many levels.

With a reliable open source OS, we can focus on adding new features more efficiently with less manpower. Additionally, it can reduce design costs and shorten the product development cycle. Our strategic aim is to contribute, adopt, verify and help customers get the right products on time.

What changes do you envision for wireless communication solutions in the next three years? (Example: more video, higher definition video, mix with LAN versus wireless)

We believe that more IoT deployments will enforce the need for high quality connectivity and higher bandwidth. This implies greater demand for time-sensitive services and low-latency enabled devices. Given the required features, hybrid networks of wired switching, Wi-Fi, & 5G technologies ideally suit IoT networks.

If you’re in an elevator and someone random, possibly not super technical, asks you, “What is Switchdev?”, what would you say in a sentence or two?

With Switchdev, you don’t have to know which ASIC is in your box. Since all networking applications and network interface configurations work with the standard Linux method, you can use Linux commands to manage the network without knowledge of the chip vendor’s API.

Open Networking for Network Switches – How the Open-Source Dent Project Levels the Playing Field

By Blog, Community News

Originally published to

The promise of an open-source networking operating system (NOS) is enticing. Compared to legacy networking (Cisco, Arista, Juniper) which is proprietary, expensive, and complex to operate, the open networking model is disaggregated, easy to automate, and provides major cost reductions. 

An open-source NOS could give segments like data centers, retail, remote offices, and campuses an alternative solution that has significantly reduced the cost of goods and services (COGS), reduced integration time, wide access to hardware, and provides support with existing Linux toolchains, using, for example, the Ethernet switch device driver model Switchdev as infrastructure with value add apps on top.

Under the Linux Foundation, the DENT Project utilizes the Linux kernel, Switchdev, and other Linux-based projects as the basis for a solution without abstractions and overhead. DENT unifies and grows the community of silicon vendors, Original Design Manufacturers (ODM), System Integrators (SI), Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM), and end-users to create an ecosystem of contributors around a full-featured NOS.

I talked with Roopa Prabhu, an engineering leader and architect at NVIDIA, to find out more. NVIDIA is a founding member of DENT.

Prabhu and her team work on all things Linux kernel networking and Linux system infrastructure. Her primary focus areas in the Linux kernel are Linux bridge, Netlink, Routing, VxLAN, Lightweight tunnels, and  E-VPN data plane. 

She is involved in several Open networking communities – Linux kernel networking, Open Compute Foundation, netdevconf, and the DENT project. Her past experience includes Linux clusters, High-Performance Computing, ethernet NIC drivers, and Linux KVM virtualization platforms. She has a BS and MS in Computer Science.

What is NVIDIA’s role at DENT?

NVIDIA Networking has a decade of experience in developing Open disaggregated network systems. We were at the forefront of the Open networking revolution when it started. Having had the maturity in this space, our role in DENT is to provide strategic guidance on architecture, reviews, engaging, and developing for the Linux kernel and ecosystem. 

We are contributors and maintainers for various Linux ecosystem components that make the DENT stack – including FRR (free-range routing suite), Linux kernel switchdev, Linux networking subsystems like vrf, bridge, vxlan.

What benefits does NVIDIA get from joining DENT?

NVIDIA believes in choice for its customers. DENT gives NVIDIA an opportunity to proliferate and design and build NVIDIA hardware for the distributed disaggregated space. It also gives us an opportunity to design and develop systems with our partners and customers. We believe this strengthens our value proposition as a player in the open disaggregated networking space.

How do NVIDIA customers benefit from DENT technologies being used in the NVIDIA Linux Switch product?

NVIDIA networking customers get the choice of an Open indepenDENT operating system on NVIDIA networking hardware. DENT provides an Open ecosystem and collaborative development environment for our customers. It gives our customers visibility and participation in design, architecture, testing, and the full development lifecycle of their open network operating system stack on NVIDIA networking hardware.

What can we expect to see from DENT in the next year?

DENT ecosystem, features, and partners will evolve over time. I think we will see more features, more contributions, and more hardware vendors. 

What is the biggest problem that DENT needs to solve in the next 5 years?

Getting more operators, HW vendors, and users on board will be key to DENTs success in the next few years. 

Is DENT ready for mainstream deployment? Where do you recommend people deploy DENT?

Yes, DENT is ready for mainstream deployment. Though DENT’s initial feature set has been for the distributed edge, DENT architecture is capable of enabling more platforms and use-cases. 

What are the benefits of open API and standardized open-source components for the network manager evaluating their options versus proprietary solutions?

Open solutions provide transparency, flexibility, and control. Open communities and Open ecosystems provide faster innovation and a shared resource pool which is an economic incentive. Open ecosystems and projects like DENT also provide adopters with a path to influence the design/architecture and development of software they intend to deploy and maintain. 

This sense of control and participation is very powerful when compared to proprietary solutions.

Multi-vendor hardware with the same software stack is also a huge incentive. It enables uniformity in operations without single vendor lock-in.

Can you summarize some of NVIDIA’s contributions to the DENT community?

NVIDIA networking was the first company to enable switch ASIC support (switchdev) in the Linux kernel along with their hardware driver which enables DENT on NVIDIA switches. Since then, NVIDIA has worked with the kernel community to evolve and revise the switchdev API and infrastructure. 

Along the way assisting other hardware vendors to get on board with switchdev with reviews and feedback. NVIDIA Networking has and continues to contribute many networking features in the areas of routing/bridging/vxLAN/VRFs/Mpls to enable native HW accelerated Linux kernel networking on datacenter and edge switches and routers.

For people wondering how to work with the Linux kernel community, do you have advice on communication with people, submitting features, and generally effective techniques to make contributions?

Patience and working through feedback are critical areas to work on when working on kernel submissions. The additional scrutiny is justifiable as the kernel is the most important component of your operating system stack. Effective submissions are always clear cover letters, clear commit-msg. Looking at old email archives to see what works for a particular subsystem always helps. Git logs on a particular subsystem you are submitting to help get a feel of what has worked in the past. CC the right folks you want to call attention to.

A positive attitude on learning from feedback always works and you will get better with time.

Do you feel that there are any differences between how a large company like NVIDIA can work with open source versus a small startup?  

The best thing about open source is it levels the playing field for everyone. All participating members benefit. Of course, big companies might have more resources to maintain and engage in open-source communities, but small companies bring focused interest and agility. Diversity fuels open-source communities and all members big or small involved benefit from it. 

A shared resource pool works economically in favor of all participants. 

Do you have any advice for female developers that want to make solid contributions to the Linux kernel? Are people generally friendly and polite about newcomers making contributions?

Linux kernel community has helped me in many ways in my personal growth. Even today, I think many things I learn are from the kernel mailing lists. I don’t expect nor look for friendliness on mailing lists. Mailing lists are the place for reviews and technical discussions. As long as you have an appetite for constructive feedback, kernel mailing lists are a great place for learning and growing. 

For any new female developers wanting to learn Linux kernel development, the best thing to start with is lurking on mailing lists. It’s a good learning experience to get started. It has helped me. Organizations like Outreachy are doing a great deal to help female developers get on board in open source communities. 

Start slow and be patient. It is very rewarding.

How can a hardware vendor get started with assessing DENT?

There are many ways to get started. Get familiar with the DENT software architecture so that you know what the hardware-software integration points are. Reach out to the DENT community, join weekly calls, join the mailing list, collaborate with other vendors. Since DENT is based on Linux kernel switchdev, learning about Linux kernel support for switch ASICs helps. 

There are a lot of open-source technical conference presentations on the subject. The best part of integrating hardware in an existing open-source operating system and ecosystem are the things you can leverage and borrow from existing open work. 

If you could add one enhancement to the Linux networking stack, what would it be?

Linux networking API is constantly evolving with newer features and API, but it takes a really long time for network infrastructure applications to catch up. Plus, there are separate APIs or channels for each networking subsystem in some cases (eg., ethtool, devlink, rtnetlink). The kernel community has been doing great work in unifying all networking API under Netlink and also a lot of effort goes into extending user-space utilities like iproute2 with code to enable new API and example code. 

Having been through some experience with network operations and network infrastructure code, what is missing is a library that can unify all networking APIs and is developed at the pace of networking features being added to the kernel. I have spent time on extending libraries like this for my own company and have seen everyone doing the same. Having such libraries come out of the kernel development community or as part of kernel releases will be a great thing for faster adoption I think. This is already happening in some areas like the eBPF libraries for faster eBPF adoption, and it’s a good trend. 

The other thing I would like to see is unification in the kernel and hardware network programmability APIs. Linux networking has had great success with hardware acceleration support, and I hope it continues to have this along with kernel networks programmability technologies like eBPF and XDP.

Dent Member profile: Janet Chen – Arcadyan Technology Corporation

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Arcadyan Technology Corporation is a Taiwan-based manufacturer that focuses on 5G, Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) switches, broadband access technology development, and optimizing audio and video streaming quality. Arcadyan delivers a full line of broadband access and digital home solutions. We asked Janet Chen, CTO, to find out more about why Arcadyan strongly supports an open source community approach and what advantages a company gets from joining Dent.

Can you tell us a little about your organization?

Founded in 2003, Arcadyan Technology specializes in broadband, multimedia, wireless and mobile network communications. Arcadyan focuses on the research and development of wireless communications, Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) switches, 4G/5G high-speed network Fixed Wireless Access (FWA), small cell devices. We combine voice and multimedia technologies in order to provide diversified solutions for a digital home using mobile broadband systems, multimedia over wireless networks, and equipment for 5G vertical scenarios.

Arcadyan Technology has been actively investing in R&D for many years and continues to maintain a leading position in the global networking industry. With our R&D talents and industry experts, our R&D team is leading the industry in hardware design, software and management development. We sell customized and differentiated products and services that meet our customers’ needs. We have developed full featured and comprehensive smart home networking solutions, customized Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) switches and more. For more information, visit

Why is your organization adopting an open-source approach?

Arcadyan believes that an open-source network operating system (NOS) will be an important option to pool together wisdom and strength to support networking operating system development. Open source provides an open area to allow experts in different areas to have a place to contribute their knowledge and skills to the public.

Customers always have the freedom to choose proprietary or open source NOS technologies. We encourage open source because it is the place for innovation. It’s a creative paradise.

Why did you join Dent and what sort of impact do you think Dent has on the edge, networking, and IoT industries?

Arcadyan develops edge and access market segment products for vertical domains. Our Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) switches are suitable for enterprise and edge networking and as IoT application backhaul.

We believe these are growth areas.

Arcadyan sees edge, networking and IoT industries converging as 5G quickly becomes more prevalent.

What do you see as the top benefits of being part of the Dent community?

It is helpful for the future product development. As part of the Dent community, we can learn market trends in enterprise and edge business segments. Another benefit is communication and information sharing around feature development in the open source community to meet future market demand.

By cooperating with chipset vendors, for example, it may create more features on silicon allowing for more creative applications to be developed in the future.

What sort of contributions has your team made to the community, ecosystem through Dent participation?

Arcadyan had router networking experience in hardware and software development for tier-one telecoms. On the software side, we have our own firmware and network management team. On the hardware side, our technology covers xDSL IAD, GPON Router, WIFI, MEC SDN switches and 5G small cells.

By providing platforms for Dent NOS, we are actively contributing our expertise in hardware development, software integration and testing. 

What do you think sets Dent apart from other industry alliances?

The Dent project welcomes new contributions. As a representative on the General Board of the Dent project, we see the Dent open source community as a community that can collect and aggregate public wisdom and guide trends in technology development.  

How will Dent help your business?

Dent product development and cooperation is based on open-source networking around the Enterprise segment. It may show, for example, that it is good for some customers to get a high cost performance ratio with Amazon extra services. This type of information can expand our company viewpoint on this product segment.

What advice would you give to someone considering joining Dent?

Silicon vendors, ODMs, SIs, OEMs, and end users across all verticals should consider joining the Dent community. There are many novel applications that may occur in the near future. The availability of NOS options may make your product or business more profitable.

Dent Member profile: Todd Gregory – Delta

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Todd Gregory

Delta is a global provider of power and thermal management solutions. The company provides innovative, clean and energy-efficient solutions that focus on addressing key environmental issues such as global climate change. Delta’s business categories include Power Electronics, Automation, and Infrastructure. Delta was recently named 2021 ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year for the sixth consecutive year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

We spoke with Todd Gregory, Director for White Box Networking at Delta Electronics (America), to find out more about why Delta views disaggregation in data centers, and the Dent project, as a key emerging technology for Delta customers

Please explain what your organization does and why you joined the Linux Foundation Dent group?

Disaggregation is the new way for Open Networking and has been widely accepted in data centers and telecom infrastructures. Dent is a disaggregation model in Edge compared to what’s happening in data centers and telecom markets. We view this as the market trend, and we are pleased to join Dent.

In broad categories, how do you personally calculate the total cost of ownership for deployment of networking equipment?

In broad categories, I would calculate TCO = Opex and Capex costs. This formula includes four broad areas that include capital costs, administration, operations and user operation. 

Factors include acquisition price, cost of maintenance and upgrades in the costs of service or support contracts, cost of deployment and network integration costs. These are the typical factors used in calculating costs for data center managers.

For a service provider, they typically look at the TCO as the cost per port. This method is used to benchmark the main building blocks of an architecture, overall cost and the number of ports in each configuration.

What’s the number one reason people are looking at Dent?  (Example: Is it equipment cost savings?  Flexibility to pick best-of-breed equipment? Avoiding vendor lock-in?  Simplified API abstraction? Open source advantages?)

Disaggregation would definitely result in equipment cost savings in the long-term. It also provides the flexibility to select suppliers and avoid a vendor lock-in situation. Moreover, since it is open sourced, customers control their own destiny.

Where would you like to see Dent in 3 years

I would like to see Dent broaden its scope into WiFi AP/Router and IP security cameras.

In the next three years, what challenges do you feel Dent needs to overcome to become even more widespread?

Dent needs to line up more chipset vendors to support SwitchDev, add more features in Linux protocol stack and attract more end-users to adopt/deploy Dent products.

Do you feel that changes to remote work policies around the world will affect Dent development and adoption?

People will need more edge security devices at home, and Dent can provide these solutions. This will encourage more chipset vendors, OEM/ODM suppliers, SW service companies to participate in Dent – resulting in more Dent products to end-user customers.

It’s common to think of retail and educational campuses as big users of edge networking equipment. Are these groups interested in Dent? Where do you see interest in Dent?

I agree that the retail sector and educational institutions would be “big” users of edge networking equipment, especially given the current COVID-19 environment where remote services have become commonplace.

I have had inquiries from the retail sector in regards to Dent. They are highly interested.   Education is another industry where Dent could have a significant impact.

I see Dent expanding beyond retail and into both the education and government sectors. Organizations have been directed to look for Commercial Off The Shelf equipment and software (COTS). Dent would be an economical solution for these sectors and gain wide adoption.

What advice would you give to a network manager interested in deploying Dent for evaluation?

I would tell any network manager to engage with the Linux Foundation and project Dent community. There are hundreds of networking experts, software companies and manufacturers that are eager to advise and assist anyone interested in deploying Dent.

This knowledgeable community can aid in deployment, share lessons learned and show the factors needed for a successful Dent launch.