Does the channel need an open source operating system designed to power the next-generation networking hardware that powers the cloud? The company behind Cumulus Linux thinks so, and so too, apparently, do Dell, VMware (VMW) and other partners who have endorsed Cumulus Linux through major reseller and distribution agreements recently.

Cumulus Networks, which develops Cumulus Linux, describes its product as "the industry's first, full-featured Linux operating system for networking hardware." That's a debatable claim, mostly because "full-featured" is a term that may be interpreted in myriad ways, and because Linux-based operating systems tailored for networking hardware have been around in various forms for decades. But with a focus on hardware-agnosticism and a commitment to supporting a broad range of applications, all while maintaining a Debian Linux-based platform that is not watered-down to the bare essentials, Cumulus is doing some new things in an old niche.

Its growing partner network is a sign that other organizations agree. Most recently, Cumulus announced a partnership with hardware vendor Edge-Core Networks, which will now integrate Cumulus Linux into its network switches for the data center.

That announcement follows news out of VMworld last month that Dell and VMware are collaborating with Cumulus to distribute new virtualized and software-defined networking solutions that they hope will appeal to enterprises seeking open source infrastructure.

And earlier this year, Dell entered into a distribution agreement with Cumulus designed to promote networking solutions that mitigate vendor lock-in concerns.

These moves all suggest that the legacy operating systems for networking infrastructure, whether Linux-based or otherwise, are on the way out. The channel wants something new.