100G Switch: Bare Metal One or Preloaded Cumulus Linux or ICOS?

Updated on Sep 27, 2021 by

Note: FS has discontinued Cumulus Linux system for N-series switches. As per our policy, customers will continue to get support from FS technical assistance team, and the valid warranty provided is maintained on the product. For customers who are interested in FS N-series switches, you can choose either bare metal ones or those loaded with FSOS.

There are many choices for 100G network switches on the market now, such as brite box switch that are preloaded with open source software like Cumulus Linux or ICOS and etc, and the bare metal switch without software. So which should you choose? Here is a 32 port 100G switch provided by FS as an example, to offer a detailed explanation.

FS 32 Port 100G Data Center Switch Overview

FS is hitting the increased bandwidth requirement with the Layer 3 switch, N8550-32C. It’s a 32 port 100GbE QSFP28 switch with high performance and ultra-low latency, which is designed to be deployed as Top-of-Rack (ToR) or Spine switch.

  • Complete Layer 2/3 functionality

Based on a Broadcom chip, it offers full line-rate Layer 2 and Layer 3 switching. Layer 2 features include L2 switching, L2 multicast, and robust security features. Meanwhile, this 100G switch offers advanced L3 routing for enterprise integration, including BGP, OSFP, RIP and IP multicast.

  • 6.4Tbps ultra-high bandwidth

This can greatly simplify the tasks of LAN upgrade to meet the increasing bandwidth demands. With 6.4Tbps, it can handle large amounts of data in a secure topology connecting to backbone or high capacity servers that use audio, video streaming, and multicast applications.

Following are the introduction of the three versions of 100G network switches:

Option 1: Cumulus Linux Version

Cumulus Linux is the first full-featured Linux operating system. In addition to providing a native Linux interface that makes a network switch behave like a Linux server, this open operating system is integrated into every major cloud orchestration solution, including OpenStack, Nutanix. It offers support for automation tools like Ansible, Chef, Puppet for easy configurations. FS N8550-32C 100G switch is preloaded with the latest Cumulus Linux version, with EVPN enhancements like extended mobility support, neighbor discovery (ND) extended community support. And the NCLU commands are also improved, such as changing bond mode to IEEE 802.3ad link aggregation mode.

Option 2: ICOS Version

ICOS is a networking operating system specially designed to run on Broadcom switching silicon for data center applications. It supports traditional management options including industry-standard command line interfaces, SNMP and Linux server ecosystem tools. Switches with ICOS can handle the same Layer 2 and Layer 3 needs offered by the traditional switch vendors but allows the users to add features that complement their data center environment.

Please note that FS N-series switches do not support ICOS version now.

Option 3: Bare Metal Version

FS N8550-32C bare metal switch has installed ONIE (open network install environment). ONIE is a boot loader that is only run/invoked when installing or uninstalling a new operating system. With ONIE, this Layer3 switch allows users to have various choices of network operating systems, such as OcNOS, PicOS, SONIC, Open Network Linux, Snaproute and so on. This means they can choose the one that they are most familiar with or the cheapest one, to reduce the total cost.

Please note that FS N8550-32C switches do not support the bare metal version now.

Which to Choose?

Option 1 and 2 have installed software, which is suitable for users who want the device with direct uses. But note that, Cumulus Linux is a true Linux system that offers the entirety of the Linux experience on the switch for a rich ecosystem of application. While ICOS is developed based on Linux, which can run as a Linux application with seamless integration of Linux tools while offering a server like experience. Besides, they have different CLIs. Cumulus Linux can use Cisco like CLI, but ICOS can not. As for option 3, customers that have target operating systems can choose this one. In addition, price is also an important factor. Cumulus Linux version is the most expensive one, and bare metal version is the cheapest, but users have to pay for the third-party software. So users should make a wise decision according to the specific demands.


100G switch is the common solution for data centers’ increasing network demands now. To satisfy different customers’ requirements, FS has released 100G switches with different software, Cumulus Linux and FS OS, providing an open networking environment for users. The newly released N8560-64C switch with 64x 100Gb QSFP28 ports and software installed supports PFC, DCBX and ECN. If you are still confused when choosing, check FS 100G data center switches for more detailed information.

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