We just published the 2021 Market Guide for Data Center Switching (paywall), and one of the more intriguing topics covered is SONiC. SONiC is an open Source NOS initially written by Microsoft. There’s a lot of hype and buzz – but also real world adoption of SONiC, and we view it as one of the more disruptive longer-term trends in the market.
Prediction: By 2025, 40% of organizations that operate large data center networks (more than 200 switches) will run SONiC in production environments.
SONiC is reportedly deployed within Microsoft Azure, Tencent, and other large networks, including service providers and several enterprises. Gartner client interest in SONiC increased 87% year over year from 2020 to 2021.
Several switching vendors are aggressively investing in and/or supporting SONiC including Dell, NVIDIA, Arista, and Juniper. In addition, nearly all white-box vendors are on the official SONiC hardware compatibility list. Several other vendors, including Cisco, Huawei, H3C and Ruijie, allow SONiC to run on their switches, in certain customer scenarios. Furthermore, Dell, NVIDIA, Edgecore, Aviz Networks and IP Infusion provide commercial support and/or a commercial distribution for SONiC.
Due to this rapidly expanding customer interest and commercial ecosystem, there is a strong possibility that, during the next three to six years, SONiC will become analogous to Linux as a server OS, allowing enterprises to standardize on an NOS that is supported across hardware vendors. This creates opportunity for innovation in the same manner that Linux-based tooling and Linux expertise propelled benefits for customers
Source: Market Guide for Data Center Switching, https://www.gartner.com/document/3998875
Summary: Driven primarily by refresh, the data center switching market is evolving incrementally, with long-term market disruption enabled by SONiC and FACs. When investing, I&O networking leaders should focus on integration with broader data center systems and automation, rather than hardware.