How to Select a SONiC Enterprise Support Provider

by | Feb 21, 2023 | Blog

As hardcore IT engineers, we all love Open Source software.  But as network engineers and architects, we’ve previously had few opportunities to use open source in the network infrastructure itself, historically the network devices used proprietary Network Operating Systems (NOSs).  But the past 15 years have seen a major shift away from these locked black-box systems.  Now that open source NOSs have hit the big time, how do we ensure that we get the same levels of reliability for our business when using an open source NOS like SONiC?

First off, let’s admit that most businesses are not already SONiC experts.  That means we’re going to need someone reliable to help us when we run into problems.  In the business world, we’re typically looking for an enterprise support contract.  But because SONiC versions can vary between devices and features, it makes sense to have a process for evaluating SONiC enterprise support options.


There are seven factors that businesses should look for in SONiC Enterprise Support providers:


1. Expertise

When it comes to open-source solutions such as SONiC, it is important to work with a vendor or service provider that has a deep understanding of the technology. Look for a support provider that has experience deploying and managing SONiC at scale, and that has a team of engineers who are well-versed in the software.


2. Flexibility

As with any enterprise software, it is important to choose a support provider that can offer a high degree of flexibility. Your business will have unique requirements and constraints, and your support provider should be able to accommodate those needs. Look for a provider that offers different levels of support and service options, and that can tailor their offerings to meet your specific needs.


3. Availability

In a business-critical environment, network downtime can be costly and disruptive. As such, it is important to choose a support provider that offers high availability and fast response times. Look for a provider that offers 24/7 support and that can respond quickly to any issues that arise.


4. Documentation and Training

Open-source software can be complex, and it is important to have good documentation and training resources available to help you get up to speed. Look for a support provider that offers comprehensive documentation and training materials, including user guides, installation instructions, and best practices.


5. Interoperability

One of the key benefits of SONiC is its ability to work with a wide variety of different hardware platforms. However, not all hardware is created equal, and there may be compatibility issues that arise. Look for a support provider that has experience working with a wide range of hardware vendors, and that can help you troubleshoot any interoperability issues that arise.


6. Roadmap and Development

SONiC is a rapidly-evolving technology, with new features and capabilities being added all the time. Look for a support provider that has a deep understanding of the SONiC roadmap and development process, and that can help you stay up-to-date with the latest features and best practices.


7. Cost

Finally, it is important to consider the cost of enterprise SONiC support. Look for a provider that offers competitive pricing and that can help you keep your support costs under control. However, be wary of providers that offer overly cheap pricing, as this can be a sign that they may not have the expertise or resources to provide high-quality support.


Do the Research

There are a variety of different support options available for SONiC.  You can work directly with a support provider who crafts individual support plans, or you can look to leverage a big name that has higher support levels for standardized device images (i.e. non-bespoke), and indeed there are a range of options in between.

Invest time carefully, hours spent researching what makes the most sense for your particular business will likely save you tons of time in the future. Remember, the primary goal is to ensure that your SONiC deployment is stable, reliable, and capable of meeting your evolving networking needs.

I hope this post helps as you evaluate SONiC Enterprise Support options!


Josh Saul
Josh Saul

Josh Saul has pioneered open source network solutions for more than 25 years. As an architect, he built core networks for GE, Pfizer and NBC Universal. As an engineer at Cisco, Josh advised customers in the Fortune 100 financial sector and evangelized new technologies to customers. More recently, Josh led marketing and product teams at VMware (acquired by Broadcom), Cumulus Networks (acquired by Nvidia), and Apstra (acquired by Juniper). Josh lives in New York City with his two children and is an avid SCUBA diver.