Announcing a new switching arrival

Parents Branded and White Box welcome child Brite into the world

sdn white box

Branded and white box switches would like to welcome their new entrant into the world: brite box. The hybrid love child of the tempestuous couple is proof that sometimes, opposites attract.

Gartner analysts Andrew Lerner and Joe Skorupa actually christened “Branded White Box” and provided some keen analysis into its role in life, growth potential and challenges. Like mother white box, brite box was put on this Earth to reduce the capital cost of physical underlay networks supporting software defined networking overlays. But brite box inherits the familiarity of father branded, and thus brings a sense of comfort and security when employed as a lower cost physical underlay for SDN.

By the end of 2015, as many as four of the top 12 branded data switching vendors will father brite box children in one or more of four breeds. Only the DNA of one – Dell – can currently be linked to a brite box offspring, borne of the union of Dell’s switches with Cumulus Networks’ Linux network operating system and Big Switch Networks’ Switch Light.

Dell’s progeny exhibit just one of the traits brite box children can bear. Others, according to Gartner, include switch vendors allowing their network software to run on white box hardware (stay tuned for more on this); software vendors such as VMware and Microsoft seeding certified and specified hardware with a network OS; and systems integrators incubating integrated and fully supported systems from sourced hardware and software.

Brite box will befriend those looking for traditional ways to acquire low cost switching options. Gartner believes brite box’s appeal will be a 25% to 65% reduction in capex compared to traditional switching, with pricing in the range of $150 to $300 per 10G ToR port, including software.

Brite’s parents are also expected to provide support for their child in the form of full integration, and pre- and post-sale attention. And brite will be no stranger: adopters will recognize the child’s standardized operational interfaces for management, control and training, and find comfort in its inherent familiarity for Linux-based DevOps tools (toys?) like Puppet and Chef.

But brite will require some supervision from the adopter. Its different hardware and software lineages might complicate parental support. For this reason, brite may initially increase opex though this can be quelled through lower capex and improved management.

Performance and behavior might be unpredictable given brite’s young age as well. And with youth may come early instability, limited features and lack of certain capabilities, such as NetFlow or other flow analytics.

So organizations that are risk averse should wait awhile before adopting brite box into the networking family. Also, organizations that rely on the traditional family structure of vendor-proprietary features and administrative interfaces may have a harder time assimilating brite box into this environment, Gartner notes.

Gartner recommends thorough evaluation by switch, server and DevOps teams to determine brite’s behavior and performance levels, and ability to play nicely with management tools employed by each. Once these synergies are approved, Gartner expects the child to grow and multiply: the firm forecasts brite and white box switching to account for more than 10% of global data center port shipments by 2018, from just under 4% in 2013.

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