Review: Is white-box switching the future of networking?

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What if you could manage your data center switches and routers the same way you manage your servers, and cut capital expense costs in the bargain?

That’s the pitch for white-box networking, the move toward open-source network operating systems running on commodity hardware.

To find out what it’s like to live in a white-box world, we tested Cumulus Linux, from Cumulus Networks, running on the AS5712-54X data center switch from Edge-Core Networks, a wholly owned subsidiary of Accton Technology.

The AS5712 has the same guts as a lot of other 10G/40G Ethernet top-of-rack switches, and Cumulus Linux supports most of the right data center buzzwords: VxLAN tunneling, equal-cost multipath (ECMP) routing, and multichannel link aggregation groups (MLAG). Later this year, Cumulus says it will support multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) and Virtual Routing and Forwarding Lite (VRF Lite).

Although we ran an extensive battery of performance tests, our main interest was to learn how white-box networking differs from the experience with data-center incumbents such as Arista, Brocade, Cisco, Juniper and HP.

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