Cyan is introducing the N-Series Open Hyperscale Transport Platform (OHTP) today, a 1-rack-unit system, built from off-the-shelf components, that runs the Cyan Linux network operating system and accompanying applications.
It’s a brand-name white box, or a “brite box,” as Gartner calls such a concept. Cyan expects to sell the N-Series for years but also expects that eventually, customers will only want the software piece.
The hope is that when that white box moment occurs, customers will hopefully be accustomed to running Cyan’s software and will stick with it, even as they move to cheaper hardware, says Joe Cumello, Cyan’s chief marketing officer.
“We do see white box taking over, maybe a couple years down the road,” he says. “We’re preparing for when the ODMs come in and say, ‘We want a piece of that, and we’ll do it at 4 percent margins.’ We can’t have a blind eye to that, if you see what happened with servers and top-of-racks.”
The N-Series targets 100-Gb/s transport in or between hyperscale data centers, where there’s a focus on software programmability of equipment and on low costs. Its first instantiation, the N11, can support 168 100Gb/s client ports per rack (assuming you have enough N11s to fill a rack, of course). Cyan expects to increase that capacity within 12 months as off-the-shelf optical components improve, Cumello says.
The inspiration for OHTP comes from the Open Compute Project (OCP), naturally. OCP has developed open source hardware specifications for servers and is working on doing the same for networking gear. It’s a way of exploiting the strength of merchant semiconductors.
Most talk of white boxes has been confined to Ethernet switches — the top-of-rack (ToR) switch in particular, fed by off-the-shelf chips from the likes of Broadcom.
Cyan deals in packet-optical equipment, however, and the optical part of that gear hasn’t had experienced the same commoditization as Ethernet equipment. The norm here is a proprietary system. In fact, Infinera announced one in September called Cloud Xpress, a competitor to Cyan’s OHCP.
White boxes are far from completely replacing optical vendors’ gear, including Cyan’s own. The OHCP targets just one type of optical connection: the fast, dumb, point-to-point connection — no fancy multiplexing of connections into or out of that 100-Gb/s feed, Cumello says. “The whole point of doing a box like this is to get to the lowest cost per gig.”
To further entice hyperscale data-center owners, Cyan has made OHCP a Linux box. That means its configuration can be managed with tools such as Puppet and Ansible, just like the other data-center equipment operators are familiar with, says Abel Tong, Cyan’s director of solutions marketing.
Cyan’s OHCP is slated to be available for customer trials sometime in the second quarter, with full commercial availability due to arrive in the third quarter.