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

February 8, 2019

100G switches, sounds futuristic? Not really, 100G is here and being deployed. Actually, since 2015, companies like Google, Microsoft or Amazon have started their migration toward 100G. And many of their 100G deployments adopted 100G open source switches for web-scale or hyper-converged data center architectures. However, there are many choices on the market, such as the brite box switch that 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, N8520-32C. 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.

100G switch overview

Figure 1: Example of FS N8520-32C 100G 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 introduction of the three versions of 100G network switches, two of which are supported by FS N8520-32C 100G switch.

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 N8520-32C 100G switch is preloaded with the latest Cumulus Linux 3.7 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 N8520-32C 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.

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.

FAQ about N8520-32C 100G Switch

1. Does N8520-32C support MPLS?

FS hardware supports MPLS, but the software Cumulus Linux and ICOS don’t. If you have urgent demand to run this application, you can choose the bare metal version, and install IP Infusion’s OcNOS that supports MPLS.

2. I have bought the switch with ICOS, can I change it to Cumulus Linux?

Yes. You need to uninstall ICOS first, then install Cumulus Linux. Note that, this operation is unrecoverable, and you need to pay for the new software. At FS, we offer 1,3 & 5 year software support. You can choose one item based on your needs.


100G switch is the solution for data centers’ increasing network demands in the future. To satisfy different customers’ requirements, FS has released 32 port 100G switch with different software, Cumulus Linux, ICOS and bare metal design, providing open networking environment for users. These switches deliver support for the flexibility of software and application choices, avoiding vendor lock-in. Customers can choose one based on their actual needs. If you are still confused when choosing, please contact us via for more detailed information.


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