Adoption of software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) has grown rapidly in a short time, and 2014 saw advances in several subsets of SDN and NFV technology. For one, white box networking. We spoke to some of our insiders (you know, the people that actually answered our incessant emails and calls) to find out what 2014 meant for white box and what 2015 might bring. Have some thoughts of your own? Let us know in the comment section below.
From Reza Malekzadeh, vice president of business, Cumulus Networks:
2014 was a tipping point for white box networking. The model was created by web-scale giants like Facebook and Amazon to resolve the bottleneck of traditional networking, and now we are now seeing enterprises adopt open networking to better meet their needs for affordable capacity, faster service delivery, and use of consistent tools across servers and switches.
From Steve Garrison, vice president of marketing, Pica8:
We are at the very beginning of what I believe will be a groundswell of interest in white box switching. White box switches became legitimate options in 2014 as companies like Dell began offering switching hardware separate from networking software. As the industry coalesces around OpenFlow, Open vSwitch, and other protocols in 2015, enterprises, carriers, and webscale data centers will adopt white box switching not only for the cost savings, but for the flexibility it gives them in creating network applications.
At Pica8, we see five key use cases that will take hold over the coming year: data-center-to-data-center switching, routing, enterprise campus networking, network taps, and networking within the data center.
Nick Ilyadis, vice president and chief technical officer, Broadcom:
What happened in the last year is another aspect to the white box model — the OpenFlow-based solution. Broadcom announced OF-DPA last year, a set of APIs that are open source that an OpenFlow agent can use to configure a switch. We kept getting asked, “When are you going to design a switch that is more aligned with OpenFlow?” and we asked ourselves in the ONF Forwarding Abstractions Working Group (FAWG), “Why don’t we modify OpenFlow to be used on real-world switches, the ones many people are already using?”
So we worked within FAWG to modify OpenFlow so it can accommodate a real-world switch. Broadcom created Open Flow Data Plane Abstraction APIs to match our real-world switch to the OpenFlow 1.3.1 model, and immediately, we have an OpenFlow-managed network. Instead of waiting for new switches, we modified OpenFlow and released OF-DPA so it could be compatible with all the switches that are out there today.
Alan Weckel, vice president of Ethernet switch and enterprise telephony market research, Dell’Oro Group
White box continued to gain in market share and in vendor offerings in 2014. We began to see additional offerings and new white box spine switches in 2014 as white box expanded beyond the top-of-rack switch. It will likely make up nearly 6 percent of port shipments into the data center, with that number being over 10 percent in North America. We saw not only more ODMs enter the white box space, but also saw Juniper join Dell in offering a bare metal/white box offering. We also saw the ODMs try to expand their channel to enterprises to expand white box beyond the large cloud providers.
2015 will be a very important year for white box. With the introduction of next-generation silicon from Broadcom (Tomahawk) and new entrants into the space (such as Cavium’s Xpliant), most cloud vendors will look towards that silicon as a decision point of whether they adopt white box or stay with vendor-based solutions.
Colin Kincaid, vice president of web portfolio, Cisco:
We’ve seen white box interest from companies looking to take advantage of software on the box to lower operational costs through automation and machine-to-machine interfaces. Cisco continues to maintain a footprint in all five of the top U.S.-based web/OTT [over-the-top] providers based on the strength of our hardware platforms and feature-richness of software like our BGP stack.
Cisco is working collaboratively with these companies on the next generation of hardware, software and manageability/automation solutions. Some of this work is done strictly on a one-to-one basis, while other efforts are undertaken in open communities like OpenConfig, OpenDaylight, and the Open Compute Project. What will happen in 2015? We think the results of all these efforts will benefit not only web/OTT customers, but also our broader constituency of service provider and enterprise customers.
Brad Casemore, director of data center networking, IDC:
At the end of 2013, we saw network disaggregation, including but not limited to white box switching, as a potential wild card in the marketplace. We believe the major vendors would have to respond to it, and, one by one, they are crafting strategies that embrace network disaggregation while countering the white box/ODM threat. Dell was the first major OEM swtich vendor to respond, with its partnership with Cumulus and Big Switch. Now we see Juniper taking an integrated approach to network disaggregation, taking an ODM-sourced, OCP-based switch and running Junos on it along with the ONIE boot loader. We believe you’ll see further variations on the theme from other major networking and systems vendors in 2015. Arista has indicated previously that it could decouple EOS from its switch hardware, and Cisco recently joined the Open Compute Project (OCP) networking initiative.
I also expect to see lots of activity in 2015 from the ODMs. They will partner with or set up systems integrators to get into the game in a more aggressive way. Network disaggregation, like SDN, will move down from the hyperscale environments and will find favor elsewhere.