GigaOm Radar for Network Operating Systems: Network Service Providersv2.0

An Evaluation Guide for Technology Decision Makers

Table of Contents

  1. Summary
  2. Market Categories and Deployment Types
  3. Key Criteria Comparison
  4. GigaOm Radar
  5. Vendor Insights
  6. Analyst’s Take
  7. About Ivan McPhee


The network operating systems landscape is evolving rapidly. Legacy vendors are adopting disaggregation to protect their installed base and mitigate supply chain issues; open-source initiatives promise flexible, low-cost deployments with rapid community innovation; and new players are emerging with disruptive, cloud-native approaches, significant financial backing, and high-profile early adopters.

Moreover, with COVID-19 having accelerated the transition to remote working, 2021 was a turning point for many network operating system suppliers, as reflected by new acquisitions, new capabilities, new investors, new partnerships, and new customer engagements. While some vendors hunkered down to revise roadmaps based on recent acquisitions and create alternative go-to-market initiatives, others leveraged lessons learned. These vendors set out to create new value, develop new partnerships, expand feature sets, implement automation, support new platforms, scale their installed base, and position themselves for future growth—all with varying results.

Representing features and capabilities widely adopted and well implemented in the sector, the following table stakes are the minimum required for a network operating system to be included in a GigaOm Radar for Network Operating Systems.

  • Disaggregated: Disaggregated routing and switching allow network architects to optimally mix and match best-in-class interchangeable hardware and software to best meet the needs of any given use case. As a caveat, it should be noted that while some traditional networking vendors include a disaggregated network operating system within their vertically-integrated portfolio, these are not always available as a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) product. Instead, customers wishing to deploy the specific network operating system on third-party hardware may be required to work with the vendor to qualify their use case and set expectations.
  • Runs on bare metal: Powering fast, affordable networks, bare-metal switches or commercial off-the-shelf servers allow hardware and software to be decoupled to implement hybrid network architectures incorporating cost-effective, best-in-class technologies. Each bare-metal switch uses merchant silicon and comes with an Open Network Install Environment (ONIE) boot loader from the Open Compute Project, enabling zero-touch provisioning (ZTP) of any network operating system. In addition, some cloud-native vendors offer virtualized or containerized versions of their network operating system for added agility, flexibility, and scalability.
  • Standalone: The network operating system must be installed on a bare-metal switch or COTS server and operated with built-in control and management plane functionality out of the box. While additional vendor options for analytics, management, and telemetry may be mentioned as complementary offerings, these are not required for the network operating system to run. Most network operating systems include open APIs based on the NETCONF protocol and utilize YANG, a data modeling language for NETCONF, allowing consumers to centralize some or all management and control plane functionality, increase programmability, and reduce operational expenditure (OpEx).

Once the table stakes are met, each network operating system is scored on key criteria, evaluation metrics, and emerging technologies and trends. Key criteria are the basis on which organizations decide which solutions to adopt for their particular needs, while evaluation metrics determine the impact that the solution may have on the organization. In addition, based on the previous year’s report, the scoring for emerging technologies and trends determines how well the project or vendor has executed against that criteria during the year.

The 2022 GigaOm Radars for Network Operating Systems
Published for the first time last year, GigaOm Radar for Network Operating Systems (2021) evaluated 19 different commercial and open-source network operating systems. Six suppliers were included in the Leader’s ring, eight in the Challenger’s ring, and five in the New Entrant’s ring. This year, however, we evaluated 21 vendors offering 25 network operating systems and have divided the scope into three reports based on the target market.

  • Network service providers (NSPs)
  • Cloud and managed service providers (CSPs and MSPs)
  • Large enterprises and small-to-medium businesses (SMBs)

Figure 1 indicates which vendors and network operating systems are covered in each report. While three new vendors (Cisco, Juniper Networks, and Niral Networks) are included this year, Volta Networks has been removed due to its acquisition and absorption by IBM’s networking division.

Figure 1. Suppliers and Network Operating Systems Included in Each 2022 Report

This GigaOm Radar report for “Network Operating Systems: Network Service Providers” provides an overview of network operating systems suppliers and their available offerings based on the target market. The corresponding GigaOm report “Key Criteria for Evaluating Network Operating Systems (2022)” outlines critical criteria and evaluation metrics for selecting a network operating system. Together, these reports are designed to help educate decision-makers, providing essential insights for network modernization initiatives.

How to Read this Report

This GigaOm report is one of a series of documents that helps IT organizations assess competing solutions in the context of well-defined features and criteria. For a fuller understanding, consider reviewing the following reports:

Key Criteria report: A detailed market sector analysis that assesses the impact that key product features and criteria have on top-line solution characteristics—such as scalability, performance, and TCO—that drive purchase decisions.

GigaOm Radar report: A forward-looking analysis that plots the relative value and progression of vendor solutions along multiple axes based on strategy and execution. The Radar report includes a breakdown of each vendor’s offering in the sector.

Solution Profile: An in-depth vendor analysis that builds on the framework developed in the Key Criteria and Radar reports to assess a company’s engagement within a technology sector. This analysis includes forward-looking guidance around both strategy and product.

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