Key Criteria for Evaluating Network Operating Systems


  1. Summary
  2. Introduction to Network Operating Systems
  3. Report methodology
  4. Analysis of decision criteria
  5. Assessment factors
  6. Key criteria: impact analysis
  7. Analyst’s point of view
  8. About Ivan McPhee


A network operating system, or network operating system, is an essential component of a disaggregated technology stack running on bare-metal servers and switches using merchant silicon. Combining the agility of software feature development with the performance and economics of bare metal, network operating systems enable extremely scalable and cost-effective networks.

The first GigaOm Radar Report for the evaluation of network operating systems, open source projects and vendors was released in early 2021. After evaluating 19 different commercial and open source network operating systems, six vendors were included in the ring of the leader, eight in that of the challenger. ring, and five in the newcomer’s ring. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic driving the shift to remote working, 2021 has been a pivotal year for many network operating system vendors, as evidenced by new acquisitions, new capabilities, new investors, new partnerships and new customer commitments.

While some vendors have focused on alternative go-to-market initiatives and revising roadmaps influenced by new acquisitions, others have learned lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic. 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.

As a maturing technology, network operating systems are being adopted by organizations to enable new use cases. This GigaOm Key Criteria report describes the critical criteria and evaluation factors for selecting a network operating system. The corresponding GigaOm Radar reports provide an overview of the major network operating system vendors and their offerings available today. Together, these reports can help educate decision makers, providing essential information for network automation initiatives.

How to read this report

This GigaOm report is part of a series of documents that help IT organizations evaluate competing solutions in the context of well-defined features and criteria. For a better understanding, consider reviewing the following reports:
Report on key criteria: A detailed analysis of the market sector that assesses the impact that key product features and criteria have on high-end solution characteristics, such as scalability, performance, and total cost of ownership, which drive purchasing decisions.
GigaOm radar report: A forward-looking analysis that plots the relative value and progression of vendor solutions across multiple axes based on strategy and execution. The Radar report includes a breakdown of each vendor’s offering in the industry.
Solution profile: An in-depth vendor analysis that leverages the framework developed in the Key Criteria and Radar reports to assess a company’s commitment to a technology sector. This analysis includes forward-looking advice regarding both strategy and product.

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