Tag Archives: white box switch

Data Centers: Say Hello to White Box Switch

Today, nearly all mainstream organizations use traditional (integrated) switches from vendors like Cisco, HP, Arista and Juniper. However, hyperscale folks such as Google, Amazon and Facebook are taking the lead to use white box switch in the portion of their networks, operating the system in a different manner. So what is the magic behind that? Are these OTTs the only customers of white box switch? You may find some hints in this article.

White Box Switch

What Makes White Box Switch Special?
White box switches consists of generic and inexpensive hardware and a preload network operating system (NOS) that can be purchased and installed separately. Often the hardware and software come from different vendors. This is in contrast to a traditional switch that comes as one package including the hardware and the software. For example, when you buy a catalyst switch from Cisco, you are obliged to use Cisco IOS as its operating system. But with white box switch, you are allowed to buy hardware and software separately.

Except offering increased software flexibility/programmability and reduced vendor lock-in, white box switch enables users to have multiple choices on hardware, network operating system (NOS) and applications. The impact of which is profound when it comes to network orchestration, routing, automation, monitoring and network overlay.
White Box Switch NOS

What About the Target Market of White Box Switch?
White box switch is initially designed for data centers. Companies that operating mega data centers are especially prefer white box switch for at least two reasons: these companies generally demand for massive deployment of switches and the port density of each switch needs to be high. White boxes are cheaper while offering high-density ports, hence proven to be an optimal alternative. On the other hand, these large-scale companies also value the flexibility and openness of the switch platform, besides CAPEX savings. As an open platform to offer broader flexibility, white box switch free them from traditional L2/L3 protocols, enabling more possibilities to develop and support any SDN based networking.

So, are these large-scale OTTs the only target market for the white box switch? Definitely No!

Any small or medium-sized cloud based providers, or data center of service providers can consider deploy white box switches in data centers, concerning the cost savings and enhanced flexibilities compared with traditional switches. Also because of the familiar IT tools/ commands their technicians are used to. However, white box switches are not yet ready to offer all features and services that a service provider needs to offer, and not yet for deployment in non data center environments.

The Potential of White Box Switch
Based on an open platform, white box switch offers greater possibilities for innovation when compared with traditional networking gears. As the number of vendors that specialized in developing software began to soar, customers can choose from a range of software solutions with added functionality and reduced price.

White box switch becomes even popular in this age of SDN. In traditional switches, software and hardware are integrated into one package, which limits the network innovation greatly. SDN is here to decouple the software from hardware, helping speed shifts in networking. It resembles the standpoint of white box switching. Moreover, the advert of SDN also drives white box forward: when combined with SDN-centric designs, these deployments have resulted in dramatic improvements in automation, operational simplification, and faster innovation. These benefits are now being realized by enterprises of all sizes via commercially available SDN solutions.

Conclusion
Despite the fact that white box switches cannot be applied in non-data center environment for the time being, they are meeting their target market requirements successfully. The potential of white box switch cannot easily be underestimate, it is an ideal alternative that worth to be seriously considered at least for data center applications.

The Rise of White Box Switch

White-box switching is nothing new to us. ODMs (original design manufacturers) have been building hardware for well-known vendors for many years. These vendors take the ODM hardware, install their operating system, and sell the unit as a bundle, often attaching a support contract. Until now many companies like FS are also getting into the game of producing white-box switches. White-box switches look just like any other switch, which are gaining increasing attention in next generation data center deployments, with many software-defined networking (SDN) startups offering solutions that include them. Enterprises are wondering how white-box switches will impact their data center plans. So what is a white box switch?

What Is a White Box Switch?

white box switch

A white box switch is a network switch which comes with an installed operating system. It can be used as a standard for the base of hardware system elements. In the case of operating systems, white box switches are generally preinstalled on the system, or can be installed later. Loading of the white box switch is not difficult and can be done in a short period of time. They are generally used with SDNs and particularly useful in terms of a networking approach where the control is generated from the physical infrastructure after decoupling it. It can act as an efficient open-source tool for management of materials and information on a device.

And the major difference between traditional black box switch and white box switch is that the first one can’t be programmed but the later one can be programmed. With white box switches, a service can be programmed by using switch controller like ONOS while traditional black box switch provides very limited features and every time when you need to update something you have to log into switches and then change the rules. The white box switches are flexible, fast and inexpensive, which is why many opt for this type of switch.

Reasons for Buying White Boxes

Although white box switches have been around for years, the adoption has been limited to niche companies that have large engineering departments. The rise of software-defined networking (SDN) has brought them into the public eye, though, as a lower-cost alternative to traditional network hardware. In fact, some of the early messaging around SDN revolved around using white boxes as a complete replacement for all network hardware. Besides, many improvements have been made in white boxes during the past few years. So if you ask me why it is the time of white box switches and why you should buy white box switches. Here I’ve got a number of reasons for you:

  • 3-year ROI. A low-cost product can get ROI (return on investment) in less time and be replaced sooner. Faster hardware rotation equals more innovation/feature adoption.
  • Software bugs. Vendors take months to locate, accept, and fix bugs, which has enormous impact on your business. With OCP-compliant white boxes, you can switch software and keep your business alive, or work around slow vendor support.
  • Self-sparing. For some/most use cases, self-sparing is better than relying on vendor inventory. When products are cheap, you can hold inventory in your data center and bring MTTR down to hours instead of days.
  • Cost and reliability. What the customer is often paying for is the software that rides on top of the hardware and the logo. From a reliability standpoint, white boxes are on par with brand-name systems because they are actually the same hardware.
  • SDN. Move your operational focus from a vendor-specific CLI to an SDN solution. If you’re concerned about having multiple vendors to operate, then buy a SDN solution that is device independent.
  • Network operations. Many engineers may ask questions like “Do I have to write my own operating system?” “How do I install a network operating system” “What do I buy?” when considering a white box switch. Now, they can be reassured because white boxes can now be purchased from mainstream network vendors such as FS and HP. Also, when one purchases a white box, those suppliers will offer the kind of technical support most engineers need.
Conclusion

White boxes are certainly ready for mainstream adoption. Although they aren’t for every use case, but in the right situation, like an SDN deployment, they can be as good or better than traditional switches with a much lower price point and equivalent operational costs. If you want to purchase one, you may visit FS.COM where you can find the best-value and cost-efficient white box switch.

White Box Switch VS Traditional Switch

The switch can be considered as the heart of the telecommunication network, especially when the fiber optic network is being widely deployed. A good switch usually has high requirements on both hardware and software. Switch vendors usually bounds the hardware and software together, which means, if you choose a vendor’s switch, you will have to use their software. Thus, the switch market of telecommunication network has been monopolized for many years by several large vendors like Cisco, HP, Juniper network, etc. And the cost of their switches is usually expensive. In the recent year, these traditional switch vendors are being challenged by a new type of switch which is called white box switch. Confusion and controversy about traditional switches and white box switches have never stopped.

Cisco switch

What’s the Magic of White Box Switch?

The biggest difference between white box switch and traditional switch is the software of the white box switch is not dependent on its hardware. If you bought a white box switch from one provider, you can also use the software from another provider. This allows the customers to flexibly design and set their network and switches. This features makes the white box switches become very popular in SDN (Software Defined Network). Customers can program white box switches to create routing tables and route connections by the using of OpenFlow protocol or another south bound API in SDN environments.

white box switch

In another aspect, the white box switch is usually much cheaper than the traditional switch, which makes it become popular for both large data center and smaller network. Most white box switch has high port density. Some large companies like Facebook, which need massive switches to be deployed in their data centers. The using of the high density white box switch would save a lot. They don’t need to depend on the traditional switch vendors. Meanwhile, they are able to customize their white box switches to meet the specific requirements for networking and business. The price and flexibility of the white box switches are also very attractive to some small network.

Some might get confused about the quality of the white box switch, because they are so cheap. Actually, the hardware of most switches is coming from the same company, what the customers pay for is usually the software and the logo of the traditional switch. The white box switch can also provide high performance.

Will White Box Switch Change the Future?

The white box switch can have as good or even better performance in SDN applications compared with traditional switch. However, it has great advantages on the cost, flexibility and applications. We don’t know how things will go in the future. But it is sure that white box switch will make some difference. According to the survey, more than 90% of the operators thought they will deploy the SDN in some point in the future, which means the white box switches are also being looking good in the future. Even some larger vendors are thinking about providing white box switches. It is sure that the white box switch is at its very early stage, but it is providing tremendous potential for our telecommunication network and many data centers or server rooms.

Conclusion

It is apparent that the traditional switch will still be an important role of the telecommunication network and data centers for a long time. However, benefits of the white box switch and SDN won’t be ignored. The fierce competition in white box switch market is also a great promoter. No matter how the future will go, it is worth trying for the deployment of the white box switch and SDN.

Resource: http://www.fs.com/blog/white-box-switch-or-traditional-switch.html