Yes, Amazon is eating the world. And now, the company’s AWS branch may take a bite out of companies such as Cisco, Arista, and Juniper by competing against them in network switches.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) may sell white box switches to enterprise customers, according to unnamed sources who spoke with The Information. These would be similar to the switches that AWS uses in its own networks. And AWS could use its tried-and-true tactic of undercutting its competition on price, charging as much as 80 percent less than switches from traditional vendors.
Public clouds such as AWS may already pose a business threat to vendors that provide on-premises data center equipment. As more workloads move to public cloud, there’s less need for on-premises gear. If AWS began selling discounted white box switches directly to enterprises, this could be a double whammy for traditional switch vendors.
However, IDC analyst Brad Casemore points out that AWS did not confirm that it plans to offer white box switches. And he questions why AWS would want to get into the on-premises switch business. “The only reason they would is if they were trying to build a better on-ramp to the AWS cloud,” said Casemore. “From my perspective that’s the only reason they would do it. I don’t think AWS has a desire to get into the vanilla, leaf-switching business. They would have to support all sorts of workloads that would have nothing to do with AWS’ current business. It would be a strange foray.”
According to The Information, the switches would be based on open source software and unbranded hardware from white box manufacturers such as Celestica, Edgecore Networks, and Delta Networks. And AWS might begin offering these switches within 18 months.
But Casemore said on-premises switches have network operating systems that include a lot of functions related to support for legacy three-tier applications.
“The hyperscalers have built network operating systems that are very simple and modular and only have the features they need and nothing more,” said Casemore. “It helps from a cost standpoint and a debugging standpoint.” He also questions whether AWS would want to customize its switch software to account for dependencies in on-premises environments.
Perhaps AWS just wants to make it easier for customers to move workloads back and forth from their data centers to AWS’ cloud. Of course, anything’s possible with AWS.
White Box Switches
In terms of the current ecosystem for white box switches, AT&T made waves this year with its plans to install more than 60,000 open-source white boxes across its network. The carrier said the white boxes are part of a “radical realignment” of its network architecture and key to supporting 5G services.
The Linux Foundation also hosts the OpenSwitch project, which recently announced the availability of its OPX 2.3 software release, delivering an enterprise-grade network operating system for white box switches. Dell EMC is a leader within that project. If a customer uses Dell EMC hardware and they want to run OpenSwitch, Dell EMC provides the support.
Just last week, a new potential competitor in the switch market emerged on the scene — Stordis. This German company has made a name for itself distributing telecom equipment in Europe. But Stordis is in the process of repositioning itself as the champion of open source networking hardware and software for European service providers. And it’s working closely with Barefoot Networks as part of its strategy.
Stordis plans to provide hardware from bare metal suppliers such as Edgecore and Delta. It will offer consultancy and support services to help European service providers adopt open source networking software. The company is in the process of ramping the manufacturing of a 100-Gig switch that is based on Barefoot’s Tofino programmable chip.