Everything You Should Know About White box Switch

November 18, 2021

written by Asterfuison

A white box switch (also named white label switch )is a network switch that is assembled from standardized commodity parts, which run on off-the-shelf chips. White box switch is just ‘blank’ standard hardware ,users choose to develop or purchase a third-party network operating system (NOS).


With the development of cloud technology, our requirements for network equipment are simple, flexible, reliable. Meantime, open networking is changing the landscape of the data centers and campus networks by empowering users more flexibility and control with simpler deployment. This is why the increasingly largest data centers nowadays embrace the white box switches. But what is a white box switch? How it different from traditional switch,here we can solve your questions.

What is White Box Switch?

The white box switch adopts an open architecture to realize the separation and disaggregation of switch software and hardware, improving network openness, flexibility and programmability. An open white box switching economy enables a more transparent price while reducing OPEX/CAPEX and break free from vendor lock-in.

White box switches mostly have 3 characters:

1.Building on commodity hardware

2.Using ASICs from established vendors

3.Running an open networking operating system(ONOS)

White box switches may pre-installed with open-source software, but it’s more often sold as bare metal hardware. It allows users to purchase hardware from hardware vendors, and then select their preferred network operating system (NOS) from software vendors,leaving users flexibly to choose the switch that best satisfied each particular requirements. It provides a viable alternative, and its open platform simplifies network operations and improves performance, while significantly reducing costs.

Asterfusion bare metal switch family
Asterfusion white box switch family

White box switches hold in sharp contrast to traditional switches which usually come from a single vendor, such as Cisco, Juniper or Huawei who runs a proprietary networking operating system which often charge a premium for their switches, almost twice or third as much as similar performance britebox switch.

Open Network Operating System(ONOS)

Like mentioned before, NOS is a main difference of white box switches and traditional vendors’ switches.

Most white box switches adopt “open” Linux-based NOS, designed to be separated or disaggregated from the underlying hardware, which means that users can change hardware box or NOS at will.

Further to say, when a newer white box hardware launches (or new software),users can replace existing platforms with new platforms even from different vendors.Thus, users can upgrade their hardware and software whenever it’s necessary .Compared to traditional network equipment supplier, the whitebox networking produces the possibilities for open-standards-based portable NOS that can run on various switches from different vendors.

It is predicted that the future market of white box networking is huge, especially with the emergence of ultra-large-scale cloud service providers, whose self-built cloud data centers require a large number of white box switches. Over 20% network equipment will be white box switches, and this scale will exceed US$5 billion.

Difference of Bare Metal switch ,White Box Switch, Brite box Switch

ClassificationDescription
Bare metal switch Hardware and software are completely disaggregated. When a hardware switch leaves the factory, there is no software except BootLoader, and it can also be called a bare metal switch. Similar to buying a compatible machine and then installing Windows or Linux by ourselves.
White box SwitchBuy packaged hardware and software all-in-one machines from a vendor (the vendor only makes hardware or only software, and obtains authorization from the hardware and software partners) and seek unified support from the vendor. 
Brite box switch The hardware and software are manufactured and supplied by the same vendor, similar to buying branded switches but much more cheaper.

White Box Switch Price

White box switches remove some functions that the target customer group will not use in actual deployment, and also do not exsit the factor of brand premium, so the price is usually one-half to one-third of the brand switch.(Click for Asterfusion’s white box switch quotation [email protected])

White Box Switching Vendors on the Market :

White box switching Vendor Ecosystem
  • ASIC Vendor:Broadcom、Marvell、 Barefoot、 Mellanox、Centec .
  • Hardware Vendor:DELL 、 Arista 、Accton 、Delta 、 Foxconn、 Quanta 、Edgecore, Mellonox、Celestica 、Dell 、Lanner、Asterfusion、etc.
  • Software Vendor:Cumulus、BigSwitch、Pica8、Snaproute(commercial version )、IP Infusion 、Arrcus ArcOS、 AsterNOS ( Asterfusion Commercial SONiC ),etc.
  • Open source Software Vendor:HPE(OpenSwitch)、Microsoft(SONiC)、SnapRoute,etc.

White Box Switching Benefits in Practice

Open white-box networking can bring many significant advantages to enterprise networks, including campus networks, remote office sites at the access edge, and large-scale data center networks.

  • Leading Price/$ and Performance/W:To cope with the explosive growth of traffic brought about by cloud computing, mobile networks and the Internet of Things (IoT), etc. enterprises have to cope with this traffic load by upgrading their edge switches or switch chassis. However, buying devices from a traditional supplier is a huge expense ,instead of the white box switch is a more cost-effective way .For hyper-scale organizations, especially those who self-built cloud data centers, also require a large number of cost -effective white box switches to reduce OPEX/CAPEX.
  • Flexible and Efficient :An open white-box networking can also facilitate the deployment of leaner leaf-spine architecture network topologies instead of the traditional three-tier model. Leaf-spine architecture no longer needs STP protocol for loop detection, enhancing the utilization of network bandwidth. Meanwhile, it enables network expansion easier , network operators only need to expand the spine switch and the corresponding Leaf switch to expand the scale of the underlying support network. For more: https://cloudswit.ch/blogs/what-is-leaf-spine-architecture-and-how-to-build-it/
  • Automation and Easy Deployment : With the continuous expansion of network scale, intelligent operation& maintenance and network automation have become the core features of enterprises.
In-band Network TelemetryAsterfusion CX-N whitebox switches supports In-band Network Telemetry,provides accurate comprehensive real-time network information including port interfaces, packet latency, packet queue lengths, etc. Users can leverage INT information to optimize their business applications to build efficient, intelligent networks.
Zero Touch ProvisioningAsterfusion CX-N whitebox switches supports ZTP (Zero Touch Provisioning), which be able to retrieve configuration files from local or remote file servers and then load the configurations into the switches automatically.
SDN Controller Asterfusion seld-design and develop a SDN controller for seamless integration into OpenStack based cloud OS or standalone deployment turning clusters of switches into a single virtual fabric.
  • Customizability:Compared with brand companies, white box switch vendors who have their own factories and software capabilities, such as Asterfusion, be able to customize development for customers’ hardware specification or specific software application scenarios, which is very valuable to some customers.

To summarize the advantages of white box switches:

  • Simplicity
  • Flexibility
  • Reliability
  • Scalability
  • Customizability
  • Automation
  • High performance
  • Cost-effective

Are White-box Switches Quality Stable?

Customers will have concerns about the quality of white-box switches. They are worried about its instability since it’s not a mature and famous band. They even subconsciously think that white-box switches are equal to low-priced and inferior products ,which is actually a misunderstanding. For any business model to work smoothly, Quality is the foundation.

In one hand, most of whitebox hardware companies are professional OEM(foundries) and the hardware quality control ability is not inferior to that of the brand owners, and even the brand company ‘s hardware is come from their foundry.

In the other hand, most customers use at most 20% of the software functions of switches made by traditional vendors, which is actually a waste . The white box switch will not involve many features that are not being frequent used instead of focusing on the functions set required by the target customer group. It’s usually focused on the data center field which is even more centralized and controllable.

Who is Asterfusion and What Can We do?

As a startup company, Asterfusion delivers one-stop open networking solution for 1G-400G white box switches based on Marvell Teralynx, Intel Tofino and Marvell OCTEON with their self -develop SONiC enterprise distribution for next generation data centers, campus and service providers.

The core members of Asterfusion are high position people from Cisco and Huawei with decades of rich experience on route and switch development . Now we own a 180 staff team in China and over 80% are R&D personnel.

Asterfusion personnel

Asterfusion has a thorough understanding of the needs of the industry,the capability to develop and design our own hardware switches and ONOS , the ability to make continuous contributions in major open source communities and ecosystems and the great mission to “Re-engineer the cloud networks with whitebox networking “

Asterfusion’s Bare Metal Switch Solutions

We design and produce our own high performance hardware switches with the shortest lead time (only 2 weeks), offering efficient supply chains to provide the most cost-effective service for our customers.

Asterfusion SONiC NOS

AsterNOS: A production ready and feature-rich SONiC distribution

SONiC (Software for Open Networking in the Cloud) is a free and open network operating system based on Linux and developed by Microsoft which nowadays has attracted a large number of industrial chain partners, forming a comprehensive SONiC ecosystem +visit azure.github.io/SONiC/

Asterfusion has officially joined the SONiC community just when its establish , becoming one of the earliest cloud network companies to participate in SONiC community. Adhering to the spirit of open source and openness, Asterfusion actively contributes to the community by a provides feature -rich enterprise SONiC NOS and full series SONiC switches .

Asterfusion SONiC NOS

FusionNOS :a high-performance software extended data plane for L3-L7 for X86 & ARM64

By combining our open hardware and software solutions together, we provide open source, dissagregation, programmability, cloud native one-stop solution to enterprise, data center and service providers.

Asterfusion one stop open- networking solution

Asterfusion believes from traditional vendor lock-in networks into today’s software and hardware disaggregation is an inevitable trend of networking industry.

Let us embrace whitebox networking with Asterfusion!

For more contact: [email protected]

Reference:

  1. Bera S, Misra S, Vasilakos A V. Software-defined networking for internet of things: A survey[J]. IEEE Internet of Things Journal, 2017
  2. Shuo W, Yang S,Binwei W. White Box Switch Technical White Paper, Network Communication Purple Mountain Laboratory, 2021
  3. Sharon Y, The next generation networking: It’s in White box switch vendors ,Asterfusion data technologies network blog ,https://cloudswit.ch/,2021
  4. ONF Official Website:https://opennetworking.org/
  5. SONiC Official Website:https://azure.github.io/SONiC/
  6. https://www.opencompute.org/

Asterfusion Networks is the leading provider of open networking infrastructure solutions. We provide an open, disaggregated, and highly programmable network fabric for next generation data centers and campus with white-box switching. 

For more information on Asterfusion’s products and solutions, please visit https://cloudswit.ch/. For sales inquiries, please send an email to [email protected]

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