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What is Bare Metal Switch, White Box Switch and Brite box switch

written by Asterfuison

September 29, 2021

Bare metal switches are pure hardware come from original design manufacturers (ODMs) which do not have a NOS pre-loaded, vendors such as Accton, Agema, Inventec, Asterfusion, etc.

The white box switch is commodity-based bare-metal switches loaded a third party’s network operating system or just a pure bare metal switch but without a well-known brand name. Brite box switch is a kind of whitebox switch but own its brand name.

An open network means that the network switch hardware and software are separated and disaggregated from each other. With the development of open networks, many enterprise users have realized its benefits of flexibility and cost-effectiveness. However, when engineers decide to build their own open network, they may be faced with the choice of white box switch, britebox switch, bare metal switch. Both types of open-source switches can be used in the software-defined network environment of data center scenarios.

Here we will present the difference between them, so that you can make good choice .

What is bare metal switch?

Bare metal switches are pure hardware device come from original design manufacturers (ODMs) which do not have a software preloaded. Users can independently develop their own applications runs on bare metal switch, like Asterfusion P4 bare mental switch, which nowadays is very popular in IT research institutions, academy laboratories and university IT majors. Or uses can purchase a third-party network operating system (NOS) — like SONiC, Pica8, Cumulus Linux OS,IP infusion ,etc. But nowadays, some manufacturers are self- developing their own NOS runs on their bare metal switch as one-stop solution : for example, Asterfusion SONiC NOS based low latency cloud network switch.

What is White box switch

The white box switch ( also named white label switch )is commodity-based bare-metal switches loaded a third party ‘s network operating system but without a well-known brand name .It allows users to purchase hardware from hardware vendors, and then select their preferred network operating system (NOS) from open source software vendors or maybe a traditional vendor,like Culmulus or PicOS, SONiC, Juniper,etc. In all ,white box switches are much cheaper than traditional switch which makes them an attractive alternative to brand switches.

Comparison of Bare metal switch VS White box switch

The similarity between the two is that the hardware is provided by ODM; the difference is that the white box switch usually has pre-installed the third-party ‘s software, while the bare metal switch needs to be developed by the user or purchased separately. For example, there is no software installed on Asterfusion P4 Programmable switch, and users usually buy it to develop their own appications and we usually call this kind of switch a bare metal switch. And Asterfusion CX-N is pre-loaded with its self-developed SONiC NOS, In this case, we call it white box switch.

What is Brite box switch

Brite box switch( also named branded whitebox switch) is a kind of whitebox switch but own its brand name.(For example,DEll and HP) In fact, we can take brite box switch as the middle ground between a traditional switch and white box switch. Usually, brite box switches are pre-loaded with a operating system which means brite box switch enabling simple, plug-and-play deployments ,can directly use. At the meantime, professional technical service from the suppliers is more convenient since it’s a one-stop solution. As for the costs, it’s more expensive than white box switch but much cheaper than the traditional switch.

A table comparison between Bare metal switch & White box switch & Britebox switch

The following table lists the options available to you. Users need to understand the differences so that they can make a right decision about which type of switch is best for their network infrastructure.

Who is Asterfusion and What we can do?

Asterfusion data technologies is the leading provider of open networking infrastructure solutions. We provide a disaggregated and highly programmable open network fabric for next generation data centers, enterprise and service providers with full stack open architecture hardware and open-source software.

Asterfusion delivers one-stop open networking solution for 1G/10G/25G/100G/400G white box switches /bare metal switch based on Innovium Teralynx, Intel tofino and Marvell with SONIC based operating system for next generation data centers, campus and service providers. 

1G-400G white box switches/ bare metal switches
1G-400G white box switches/ bare metal switches with SONiC

Offering SONiC based enterprise NOS distribution –AsterNOS with feature rich enhancement.

Asterfusion's ONOS-AsterNOS which is Commercial SONiC  distribution

Of course, the Software Defined Network (SDN) market nowadays is a fast growing, there are increasingly distributors,and systems integrator are seizing this opportunity to join in our open networking family.


Choosing which type switch, enterprise users should according to their own conditions to make the right decision. For more white box switch information contact:

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