In today’s network market, white box switch is not a new subject. In simple terms, white box switch is a type of switch that hardware and network operating system are separated. And the widespread implementation of SDN (software-defined networking) has boosted the use of white box switches. What’s the relation between SDN and white box switches? How does SDN boost the development of white box switches? Why vendors and customers care much about both of them? This article will uncover these questions for you.
As has mentioned above, white box switches use high-performance hardware that accepts a variety of networking operating systems. The biggest difference between it and traditional Ethernet switches is that software of withe box switch does not dependent on its hardware. In traditional Ethernet switches, hardware and software are in one package. That means if you buy a Cisco catalyst switch, the Cisco operating system is also needed. While for the withe box switches, users can choose the hardware and operating systems from different vendors like Cumulus, Pica8, Juniper, Dell and Big Switch, which provides more flexibility for users.
Then what’s the relationship between white box switch and SDN? Let’s take a close look at SDN. SDN is a new emerging architecture that is dynamic, manageable, cost-effective, and adaptable. It decouples the network control and forwarding functions, enabling the network control to become directly programmable and the underlying infrastructure to be abstracted for applications and network services. Therefore, the switches in SDN environment do not rely on hardware for separate network, but on software-based network function virtualization (NFV), which offers great convenience for the users of white box switches. Because white box switch allows its customers to choose the best suitable operating system for themselves. Here is a simple graph showing SDN architecture.
In fact, white box switches and SDN have no direct relation, but the promotion that SDN brings for white box switches market is obvious. Then with the SDN technology applied widespread, why white box switch also has its second act? Except for its own advantages compared with traditional Ethernet switches, there are several reasons based on the analysis of switching market and users.
Although white box switch has no direct relation with SDN, they have a same characteristic—openness. White box switches provide the flexibility to choose hardware and software. As for SDN, it simplifies network design and operation by providing instructions through the SDN controllers instead of multiple, vendor-specific devices and protocols. This similarity makes SDN users accept the white box switches more easily in the aspect of concept.
Another one is the decreasing complexity using SDN technology. SDN allows all networking components to be controlled through a singular device. Both physical and virtual devices are controlled by a single API, making the work of network administrators much easier. And this control way convinces users that the quality of white box switches is reliable, for problems are often caused by software but not hardware.
The last one is that many branded vendors do not attach much importance to the hardware manufacture, which drives some vendors begin to expand the market of SDN switches. And the quality of those switches has been verified by many customers. Besides, in order to attract more customers, some small vendors also cut their price, which leads to the SDN switches boom.
Nowadays, white box switches are getting more popular in Cloud services and enterprise networks, and the trend of adopting white box switches is inevitable. With the use of SDN, its market is also booming and becoming mature. Users can buy a quality white box switch at a lower price rather than purchase an expensive Ethernet switch from branded vendors. Therefore, choosing a reliable switch supplier is the first important thing that many customers should do.