Episode 18 – Whitebox Networking

In Episode 18 of Network Collective, Pete Lumbis of Cumulus Networks and Kevin Myers of IP Architechs join us to talk about the pros and cons of running whitebox or commodity hardware in your network. There’s no denying that the price point on commodity hardware is attractive but we discuss all you should consider when you’re looking to transition away from a major network hardware vendor.

 

Show Notes

What is whitebox networking?

  • Has a variety of definitions depending on the person answering
  • Associated with ONIE and Oss like Cumulus Linux, BigSwitch, IPI
  • Commodity hardware not mainstream vendor with OS that may or may not be from the same vendor
  • To some, hardware has more to do with hardware
  • Commodity hardware has to do with using chipset, board, or even layout that someone else created
  • Component of disaggregation to consider
  • Britebox is the larger vendors offering disaggregation options
  • Whietbox equipment isn’t about homemade devices soldered together in our garages

 

Why whitebox networking?

  • The original impetus for whitebox was often around cost, and sometimes it still is
  • Current reasons are to have more options like customized operating systems
  • Whitebox utilizes the equipment to move to an x86 model that compute moved to decades ago

 

Are there whitebox performance and capabilities considerations?

  • Whitebox uses mostly the same ASICS as most of the large vendors, so the performance is pretty much the same
  • Whitebox must be able to deliver the same performance of the largest networking vendors in order to be competitive
  • Whitebox vendors are typically able to meet the marketplace where it is and where it’s going because of how flexible they are
  • Some chipsets are tailored to certain performance characteristics, so it’s still a consideration when choosing whitebox solutions

 

Why is whitebox such a popular discussion today?

  • Webscale companies have requirements for hardware and software that accommodate their size
  • Whitebox solutions better accommodate webscale deployments because of cost and customization
  • Non-webscale organizations are beginning to take advantage of similar opportunities but the argument is only now starting to become compelling
    • Whitebox vendors haven’t necessarily been able to meet the support needs of a typical enterprise (TAC, channel sales, etc)
      • This is starting to change which makes whitebox much more relevant to typical enterprise IT

 

Is whitebox networking relevant to typical enterprise IT?

  • Whitebox vendors haven’t necessarily been able to meet the support needs of a typical enterprise (TAC, channel sales, etc)
    • This is starting to change which makes whitebox much more relevant to typical enterprise IT
  • There is fear among mid-level network admins working in smaller enterprise organizations that affect the decision-making process to consider whitebox networking
  • Cost is not necessarily the overwhelming motivator to consider or not consider whitebox in the enterprise
    • There is a trend to believe that going to whitebox requires a large team of extremely high-level engineers
      • this is false but is still a stumbling block for decision-makers
  • The large networking vendor partner community is extremely well established making switching to whitebox very difficult even when the whitebox financial component is extremely compelling
  • Large networking vendors are also excellent logistic companies that make operational support much easier for enterprise IT engineers

 

What are challenges to whitebox networking?

  • The support model still needs to mature
  • Whitebox still has to overcome enterprise inertia
  • Fear among network engineers working within their comfort zones

 

 


Pete Lumbis
Guest
Kevin Myers
Guest

Jordan Martin
Co-Host
Eyvonne Sharp
Co-Host
Phil Gervasi
Co-Host


Outro Music:
Danger Storm Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

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