In the networking realm, the term open switch gets thrown around often. Based on a complete separation of switch hardware and software, open networking switch is gaining more traction in the data center hardware world. This is by building a scalable, programmable and agile network with simplified operation and management. It is reshaping the landscape of networking while being a disruptive rival to those established, proprietary switch vendors. So what is special about an open switch? Is it the right time for the enterprise to move to an open switch? Read on and we will explain what we think.
An open switch is fully open-sourced, which takes advantage of generic, off-the-shelf components based on open networking standards, along with a choice of network operating systems (NOS) that can be purchased and installed separately. Generally, the hardware and software come from different vendors. Right now there are three flavors of open switches: bare metal switch, simply commodity hardware with no NOS preloaded. White box switch - a merchant silicon hardware-based switch with built-in open source operating systems, and brite box switch - with hardware comes from established players (Cisco, Juniper, etc) and software provided by companies that focus exclusively on network operating system, such as Cumulus Networks, Big Switch Networks, etc. Open networking switch is cost-effective, programmable and easy to deploy, providing a clear path to software-defined networking (SDN). It enables users to transform the network to quickly adapt to the changing requirements and accelerate innovation with simplified, high-capacity network fabrics.
The early adopters of open networking switch are web-giants including the likes of Google, Amazon, Facebook, etc, proving that open network hardware/software can scale and support the most mission-critical environments. These hyper-scale data center operators have reaped significant benefits from open switch: improved automation and provision of network capacity and services, greater control over network software development, reduced network equipment expenses, and reduced operating expenses. The past few years have seen the wide adoption of open switch in the data center. This is a huge leap forward as most companies would hesitate considering open networking technology.
Consequently, the merits of an open switch are now available for a lot more use case: open ToR/leaf switches are being deployed in private/public cloud data centers, open networks are addressing telecommunications service provider requirements for new central office architectures, managed services delivery, and Internet exchanges. In recent years, open switch has begun to penetrate in large enterprise data centers which demand sort of the same features needed by only the biggest infrastructures. Traditional enterprises that have more diverse environment also found it helpful to adopt open network solutions in distribution facilities, PoE networks and campus networks.
Open switch technology has improved and matured in the past years to offer a solid, customizable, and security platform for enterprise - more specifically, large enterprises to deploy. It allows for continuous software innovation that goes beyond the confines of vendor-specific product release schedules. Other competitive advantages of open switch for fitting in enterprises include: faster to market (open switch can be delivered in two weeks or less) and can address real-time customer needs while giving IT manager the freedom and permissions to innovate. In terms of network management, it is strategic to integrate an open switch for it improves the company’s processes to be more agile, productive, and controlled. Enterprise can expect the benefits of open switch in the following aspects.
To adapt to evolving customer needs, enterprises are making shifts to cloud-based storage, big data analytics and Internet of Things to address efficiency and performance. These complex IT network model greatly limits the performance and time to employ new applications and services. To this end, enterprises need to gain more flexibility and agility while reducing capital and operational costs. Open networking switch, features pricing transparency and operation efficiency, providing low cost, open environment with rapid development and deployment of scalable applications. IT staff thus will need to program open switches like they do with Linux servers, making the switches part of automated data-center orchestration for tasks like bringing up servers, storage and switching together.
In addition to delivering high performance and minimizing cost, next-generation enterprises also need to be simple to manage, and secure to support business. And with the growing convergence of enterprise networks, improving intelligence at the network’s edge is imperative to optimize data traffic flow. By decoupling hardware and software, an open switch can assist to simplify network management by enabling faster deployments and troubleshooting across networks, services, and applications. On the security side, enterprises demand the ability to monitor and respond to network security threats in real-time. With open source software, open switch enables all the IT admins to monitor, inspect and modify the source code, so that developers can work together to better improve the system and protect it from attacks and intrusions.
The major reason that proprietary traditional switch pervading in an enterprise network is that companies rely heavily on the comprehensive service, support and hardware/software development provided. This is due to the fact that general enterprise lacks the human resources and budget to absorb these tasks and associated costs. Things become different now: the tightly integrated network operating system and proprietary hardware is no longer the only approach to maintain uptime and availability. The major players that focus on developing open source software not only offer necessary product support, some of them even capable of assisting to build a complete network architecture, like to deploy SDN in enterprise for faster network automation and programming. So enterprise can count on open switch hardware/software providers for integration, support, supply chain management, as well as any necessary additional software features.
Open switch is maturing to be deployed in an enterprise network in terms of improved features and function sets. It starts to come to the forefront of the next buying cycle for an enterprise by delivering fast, easy, and affordable networking. As one size doesn’t fit all, simply browsing for open switch won’t do you much good if you don’t account for your company’s infrastructure, budget, size and future growth. Make a little more digging into your IT specifics when planning to move to open switch. If you still have confusions towards open networking switch, just reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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