Dell S5296F-ON Review 96x 25GbE and 8x 100GbE Switch


Open Networking Software

By default, many of these switches came with Dell OS10. We are going to let our readers look at OS10 and the switch documentation for specific features. It is difficult to try getting a complete list since there are hundreds of features our readers care about. One advantage here is that this is still supported under OS10 unlike the S5100F-ON series and support extends well beyond just Dell’s NOS. Instead, we wanted to focus on some of the options out there if one does not want to run Dell OS10. After all, this is a “-ON” open networking switch.

First, we need to start with SONiC. SONiC is perhaps the biggest player in the space. If you wanted an open networking solution, this would probably be what we would recommend. Indeed, we have had guides on SONiC since around the time that this switch was released such as Get started with 40GbE SDN with Microsoft Azure SONiC. When we look at the SONiC hardware support page and look for Dell switches, the S5296F-ON is presently supported by the SONiC-ONIE-Broadcom line. This one has a strange entry as just “s5296F” not “S5296F-ON” in the model number field (row 48 below):

SONiC Support Page Dell
SONiC Support Page Dell

We will quickly note here that the Dell options on this page are all based on Broadcom Trident or Tomahawk chips, not the XPliant chips the previous generation was based on. Marvell just announced it is acquiring Innovium for its high-end switch ASIC, and Innovium focused on selling to hyper-scalers had an offering catering specifically to SONiC. You can see Inside an Innovium Teralynx 7-based 32x 400GbE Switch on STH, but Innovium was very focused on hyper-scale markets and thus built a core competency around SONiC.

Another big one is Cumulus. NVIDIA acquired Cumulus Networks and looking for Dell switches on their page is very similar. We again have Broadcom options with the S5296F-ON listed.

NVIDIA Cumulus Support Page Dell
NVIDIA Cumulus Support Page Dell

Something we will note here is that NVIDIA Cumulus Linux does not support the two front SFP+ ports at this time according to the notes. NVIDIA seems to be focusing Cumulus on its Mellanox-acquisition Spectrum switches with the latest version, so the big selling point really seems to be SONiC.

We tend not to use Open Switch just given the scale and momentum of SONiC. Still, we will quickly note we saw the S5296F-ON on that HCL:

Dell Open Switch Hardware Support Page
Dell Open Switch Hardware Support Page

To us, this is a better value switch than the S5100F-ON series because it is supported by more common 3rd party distributions. If one really wants Open Networking, then having support for open networking distributions seems to be an important characteristic.

Next, we are going to look at power consumption and noise before getting to our final words.


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