Infoblox Inc., the network control company, has unveiled LINCX, a next generation production-ready open-source software-defined networking switch that is fully programmable, available now as a free download from the FlowForwarding.org project (www.flowforwarding.org).
Stuart Bailey, founder and chief technology officer of Infoblox, and his research team have developed LINCX as a contribution to the SDN community—not as an Infoblox product—to demonstrate how SDN makes it possible to quickly and inexpensively create powerful new technology that can disrupt traditional hardware-based networking. The goal for LINCX, therefore, is to help drive further awareness and development of open-source SDN applications.
LINCX was built in one year by a team of only 6 engineers at a cost of about $1 million, and contains about 34,000 lines of code. Commercial-grade hardware switches typically require teams of dozens of engineers working for several years and contain hundreds of thousands or even millions of lines of code.
No dedicated hardware is required for LINCX. Instead, the software can run on any standard off-the-shelf physical or virtual Linux or Xen server, as well as on network “white-box” devices that cost as little as $300. Hardware switches, in contrast, typically cost tens of thousands of dollars, require expensive custom processors, and run proprietary software that can’t be accessed or modified by the user.
LINCX is written in the Erlang programming language, which is designed for creating systems that are flexible, highly available, and massively scalable. Deep packet inspection (DPI) and protocol support are fully programmable in LINCX, so switching can be adjusted on the fly to meet changing network requirements.
LINCX achieves about 80 percent of the performance of Open vSwitch, the best-known open-source SDN switch, with a much smaller footprint. Open vSwitch, for example, has about 170,000 lines of code—more than four times the size of LINCX.
“SDN is positioned to profoundly transform networking,” said Bailey. “When SDN is fully established, which we believe is at least several years away, there will be no more physical networking hardware. No switches, no routers, no load balancers, no WAN optimizers. Instead, data-center servers will run SDN software—allowing them to constantly re-balance their functions and workloads, as needed—and require only a mesh of Ethernet cables to connect among themselves.
“We created LINCX to showcase how the world changes when network control moves to software and is completely separated from the underlying hardware,” Bailey continued. “I’m excited to have this opportunity to help keep Infoblox at the cutting edge of network innovation. If we can build LINCX in a year with just six people, we know others will soon be able to create SDN applications that are even more interesting. SDN is an open playing field, and I expect there will be many winners among networking incumbents, as well as among future start-ups that today are only a gleam in the eyes of young engineers.”