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 like Cisco, HP, Dell and Juniper usually bound the hardware and software together. That’s to say, users have to buy the hardware and software together, which often mean more expensive. In recent years, a new type of Ethernet switch called “white box switch” has changed this situation. And the white box switch market is booming now. What’s the unique of white box switches? Let’s have a further look.
Different from brand switches, whitebox switch hardware and software are separated. Which means, if users buy a white box switch from one manufacturer, they can also use the software form another white box switch vendor. This separation allows users to choose hardware and software from different white box switch manufacturers, lowering white box switch price directly. Because some larger companies like Facebook need massive switches to be deployed in their data centers. Compared with traditional brand switches, purchasing white box switches will save a lot, which is also an important parameter to boost the development of white box switch market.
Furthermore, most whitebox switch hardware and software are coming from the same white box switch vendor. What customers pay for is usually the software and the logo of the traditional switch. That ensures the quality of the white box switches.
In another aspect, the separation of white box switch software and hardware makes white box switch very popular in SDN (Software Defined Network). Each switch should have an operating system (OS) to send packets. In SDN environment, the SDN controller which is a kind of application, serves as the OS of white box switch. The SDN controller usually use protocol like OpenFlow or another southbound API to program white box switches to create routing tables and route connections. This allows the customers to flexibly design and set their network and switches.
In recent years, white box switch manufacturers gain more independence due to the separation of whitebox switch hardware and software. And white box switches have become the new trend in network switch market. In addition, as the growth of advanced technologies like cloud computing and big data analytics, there is a growing demand for data centers worldwide, which enhance the booming of white box switches market. And many white box switch vendors have speed up their pace to embrace this change in 2017.
Pica8, a leading white box switch vendor, has announced in November that it will launch its PicOS operating system into retail market, aiming to increase the adoption of the white box switch to avoid vendor lock-in;
AT&T, a famous manufacturer of white box switches, is going to give more details about white box switch strategy in later days, which will provide users increased agility and cost efficiency;
To meet customers’ demand for network switches, FS.COM, a professional optical solution supplier, introduces a series whitebox switch hardware with Broadcom OS, aiming to provide more cost-effective switches for the white box switch market.
Except for the vendors mentioned above, other manufacturers such as Broadcom, Edgecore networks, Intel, Barefoot networks, etc. also contribute to the white box switch market. From what they have done, we can speculate that the white box switch price will be more affordable, and the market will be wider in the near 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. 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. And with the continuously flourishing of white box switch market, white box switches are being looking brilliant in the future, aren’t they?
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