The starter kit, announced Monday, isn’t meant to be a moneymaker. Pica8 doesn’t even want to sell hardware, really — its real product is the operating system for a white box — but it has to, because some customers want the switch and its software to arrive as one completed package. Cumulus Networks is in a similar position.
The starter kit aims to take that idea further by providing an out-of-the-box software-defined networking (SDN) experience, to borrow an old PC term. That is, you plug it in, and you’re suddenly running “SDN,” on an admittedly small scale.
The kit consists of a white box switch and a packet of software that includes, in addition to the PicOS operating system for running the switch, the Ryu OpenFlow controller (one of eight controllers Pica8 supports) and the Snort open-source intrusion prevention system.
The exact pieces aren’t special; Cumulus could do the same thing and possibly does, for some customers. What Pica8 is trying to do is attract customers who think bare-metal switching is too esoteric or complicated to implement.
“We won’t sell thousands of these things next year — eh, maybe we will — but it will certainly grease the skids a little,” says Steve Garrison, Pica8’s vice president of marketing.
The Snort piece is included as a sample SDN application to play with. Customers don’t have to use it. The hope is that it helps them get acclimated to SDN and encourages them to start piling other applications onto the switches.
That’s really the point here. The opex tied to IT is a “premium commodity,” making it difficult to try anything new that might eat up a lot of a staff’s time. If SDN is as difficult to assemble as an Ikea dresser, a certain segment of the customer base — a large segment, Pica8 contends — won’t make the leap. “If there isn’t expertise in the trenches, the whole thing fumbles,” Garrison says.
(Stray thought: As customers get accustomed to deploying bare-metal switches, you’d think some would continue demanding that Pica8 provide the hardware, just because it’s easier. If that turns out to be the case, then these guys — Pica8 and Cumulus both — might not get out of the hardware business so easily.)
Check out our recent “White Box Week” series:
- How Cumulus and Pica8 Plan to Start the Revolution
- Centec Wants Switches to Be Even More Open-Source
- Chip Startups Take Aim at Broadcom
- How Cheap is ‘Commodity?’
- Why the Enterprise Might Not Care
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