Containers Expo Blog Authors: Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, PagerDuty Blog, XebiaLabs Blog, Automic Blog

Related Topics: Containers Expo Blog, Mobile IoT, Microservices Expo, @CloudExpo, Cloud Security, SDN Journal

Containers Expo Blog: Blog Feed Post

Network Operating Systems and White Box Switching

The major impetus behind the move towards white box is cost. And the primary cost driver is CapEx

The white box switching movement appears to be gaining some momentum. For some, it is a fait accompli that hardware and software will be meaningfully separated, allowing users to procure each independently in a model that more closely resembles what happens on the server side. The fires are fueled by projects like Facebook’s Open Compute Project, an effort to open source compute reference platforms.

I don’t actually want to debate the merits of a decoupled hardware/software model. The strategic implications are far more interesting, and how that might shape vendor activity over the next couple of years is downright fascinating.

The major impetus behind the move towards white box is cost. And the primary cost driver is CapEx. By separating the intelligence from the raw switching capabilities, switches can be relegated to relatively dumb boxes, optimized for price and performance. Certainly the industry consolidation on Broadcom has helped this trend out. Minimally, it has primed the pump to help streamline commodity purchases and deployments.

But beyond pure cost, there are a couple of other reasons this trend is important. The one touted most frequently is that the decomposition of the networking stack into its constituent elements allows for more choice and flexibility for customers. Theoretically, customers who are more interested in optimizing the stack for some outcome other than lowest cost could cobble together some combination of hardware and software well-suited for their specific needs.

The choice and flexibility argument, at least for now, is specious. Flexibility only matters when you can swap in two things that are functionally equivalent but meaningfully different. The fact that Cumulus software runs on a reference architecture manufactured by Quanta or Accton is not very meaningful if both are building essentially the same box. The only choice in this case is between manufacturers, but that doesn’t do much toward providing optionality. Sure, it will keep both vendors honest when it comes to cost, but customers are still ultimately locked in to that reference architecture.

That’s not to say that the Cumulus approach is without merit. Credit Suisse (see page 88) estimates that a Cumulus solution, when measured on a per-device basis, saves a whopping 70% in total costs (accounting for capital and support costs). This alone is going to be enough to win eyeballs. But if the long-term game is optionality, we should expect Cumulus to bob and weave a bit.

What might they do?

I have no real knowledge of what they will do, but in my opinion they need to add more horses to their stable. They need to find differentiated hardware solutions that run their software. If they can find even two or three hardware platforms, ideally with different value propositions (not just the cheapest), they will be able to promise customers the flexibility they want in their underlying hardware while preserving a cost structure that could be significantly different than legacy offerings.

The challenge in executing against this type of strategy is that you have to first make sure the base reference platform (and derivatives) is solid. There is a ton of work in dealing with all the interface support, for example, required to satisfy all of the commercial variations of the first reference platform. Once Cumulus burst on the scene, there was going to be a bunch of requests for very specific configurations, which requires all kinds of driver support. Not very sexy work, but building a business is ugly at times.

But what happens to the TCO advantage if Cisco lowers their prices? If Cumulus has a 70% TCO advantage over Cisco, won’t they just take over a bunch of accounts?

Forgetting for a moment that not everyone wants to (or can) roll their own deployments, there is an interesting point in that Credit Suisse report. If you look closely, they are estimating Cisco support costs to be $6k/year, comparing that to Cumulus’ combined license/support costs of $1.5k per year. It’s not just a CapEx play here. Cumulus is cutting prices on support. Essentially, they are competing on OpEx more than CapEx. In the Credit Suisse model, the hardware difference is $14k total but basically only $2k per year when you consider the life cycles they use. Compare that to the $4.4k difference in software licensing and support costs per year.

Cumulus has very cleverly allowed the industry to talk about the hardware costs while they have built a business model around OpEx. The question is going to be what happens to the total TCO costs when you include management and staffing, integration with other systems, and professional services type engagements. I don’t actually know the answer, but I love the direction, because it points the entire industry the right way. The pure CapEx focus that has dominated launches this year is nuts.

There will be an interesting phenomenon as the white box trend gets more attention. Other vendors will begin to paint their solutions in a similar light (not unlike the SDN washing that happened earlier this year). Companies that offer vertically-integrated products will likely claim their software is separate from their hardware. If they can create a plausible scenario where hardware and software are separated, they can seize on industry momentum.

But be careful here. Saying that software could run on other hardware is one thing. Actually delivering against that vision is another entirely.

For a network operating system to run on other hardware, it is about more than abstracting out the hardware. The hard bits to solve go well beyond modular software architectures. You have to build a release process that delivers a binary to your partners. If you claim that your partners can innovate on the hardware side independently, then you have to give them the ability to modify and extend the software. This is not just APIs by the way. How does the partner do things like debugging if they don’t have access to the source code? Is the code sufficiently instrumented? And then how is this software released? How are bug fixes administered? What do you do with package signing and builds? How are issues handled by support? It is not impossible, but it certainly is harder.

My point is not that this is not doable, but rather that it is much harder than just claiming that a network operating system was designed with this end in mind. The legal issues around IP protection, the licensing issues around open source or even purchased code, security issues around secure software life cycles, developer support challenges around maintaining a proper developer tool kit… the list goes on. Customers who are interested in a decoupled hardware/software offering ought to be asking a lot of questions.

So what does all of this mean?

I think the industry is poised to battle more openly on OpEx. The CapEx arguments are real, but the convergence on a small set of similar hardware is going to make the CapEx differences between platforms far less interesting than the OpEx considerations. And once we transition to OpEx, you will see a whole bunch of jockeying for position as people test out what resonates in the marketplace. Cumulus has seized on support costs. Arista and Juniper have touted provisioning automation.

Customers can get ahead of this if they instrument their own environments and find out where the real OpEx costs are. Knowing your own environment would seem to be the best way to not be unduly persuaded by what will certainly be a strong show of marketing force in 2014.

[Today's fun fact: Every year about 98% of the atoms in your body are replaced. So when people tell me I am half the man I used to be, they are really overestimating.]

The post Network operating systems and white box switching appeared first on Plexxi.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Michael Bushong

The best marketing efforts leverage deep technology understanding with a highly-approachable means of communicating. Plexxi's Vice President of Marketing Michael Bushong has acquired these skills having spent 12 years at Juniper Networks where he led product management, product strategy and product marketing organizations for Juniper's flagship operating system, Junos. Michael spent the last several years at Juniper leading their SDN efforts across both service provider and enterprise markets. Prior to Juniper, Michael spent time at database supplier Sybase, and ASIC design tool companies Synopsis and Magma Design Automation. Michael's undergraduate work at the University of California Berkeley in advanced fluid mechanics and heat transfer lend new meaning to the marketing phrase "This isn't rocket science."

@ThingsExpo Stories
IoT is at the core or many Digital Transformation initiatives with the goal of re-inventing a company's business model. We all agree that collecting relevant IoT data will result in massive amounts of data needing to be stored. However, with the rapid development of IoT devices and ongoing business model transformation, we are not able to predict the volume and growth of IoT data. And with the lack of IoT history, traditional methods of IT and infrastructure planning based on the past do not app...
To get the most out of their data, successful companies are not focusing on queries and data lakes, they are actively integrating analytics into their operations with a data-first application development approach. Real-time adjustments to improve revenues, reduce costs, or mitigate risk rely on applications that minimize latency on a variety of data sources. Jack Norris reviews best practices to show how companies develop, deploy, and dynamically update these applications and how this data-first...
Intelligent Automation is now one of the key business imperatives for CIOs and CISOs impacting all areas of business today. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Brian Boeggeman, VP Alliances & Partnerships at Ayehu, will talk about how business value is created and delivered through intelligent automation to today’s enterprises. The open ecosystem platform approach toward Intelligent Automation that Ayehu delivers to the market is core to enabling the creation of the self-driving enterprise.
Internet-of-Things discussions can end up either going down the consumer gadget rabbit hole or focused on the sort of data logging that industrial manufacturers have been doing forever. However, in fact, companies today are already using IoT data both to optimize their operational technology and to improve the experience of customer interactions in novel ways. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Gordon Haff, Red Hat Technology Evangelist, shared examples from a wide range of industries – including en...
Consumers increasingly expect their electronic "things" to be connected to smart phones, tablets and the Internet. When that thing happens to be a medical device, the risks and benefits of connectivity must be carefully weighed. Once the decision is made that connecting the device is beneficial, medical device manufacturers must design their products to maintain patient safety and prevent compromised personal health information in the face of cybersecurity threats. In his session at @ThingsExpo...
"We're a cybersecurity firm that specializes in engineering security solutions both at the software and hardware level. Security cannot be an after-the-fact afterthought, which is what it's become," stated Richard Blech, Chief Executive Officer at Secure Channels, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Massive Networks will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Massive Networks mission is simple. To help your business operate seamlessly with fast, reliable, and secure internet and network solutions. Improve your customer's experience with outstanding connections to your cloud.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Grape Up will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct. 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Grape Up is a software company specializing in cloud native application development and professional services related to Cloud Foundry PaaS. With five expert teams that operate in various sectors of the market across the U.S. and Europe, Grape Up works with a variety of customers from emergi...
Detecting internal user threats in the Big Data eco-system is challenging and cumbersome. Many organizations monitor internal usage of the Big Data eco-system using a set of alerts. This is not a scalable process given the increase in the number of alerts with the accelerating growth in data volume and user base. Organizations are increasingly leveraging machine learning to monitor only those data elements that are sensitive and critical, autonomously establish monitoring policies, and to detect...
Because IoT devices are deployed in mission-critical environments more than ever before, it’s increasingly imperative they be truly smart. IoT sensors simply stockpiling data isn’t useful. IoT must be artificially and naturally intelligent in order to provide more value In his session at @ThingsExpo, John Crupi, Vice President and Engineering System Architect at Greenwave Systems, will discuss how IoT artificial intelligence (AI) can be carried out via edge analytics and machine learning techn...
Everything run by electricity will eventually be connected to the Internet. Get ahead of the Internet of Things revolution and join Akvelon expert and IoT industry leader, Sergey Grebnov, in his session at @ThingsExpo, for an educational dive into the world of managing your home, workplace and all the devices they contain with the power of machine-based AI and intelligent Bot services for a completely streamlined experience.
With tough new regulations coming to Europe on data privacy in May 2018, Calligo will explain why in reality the effect is global and transforms how you consider critical data. EU GDPR fundamentally rewrites the rules for cloud, Big Data and IoT. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Adam Ryan, Vice President and General Manager EMEA at Calligo, will examine the regulations and provide insight on how it affects technology, challenges the established rules and will usher in new levels of diligence a...
When shopping for a new data processing platform for IoT solutions, many development teams want to be able to test-drive options before making a choice. Yet when evaluating an IoT solution, it’s simply not feasible to do so at scale with physical devices. Building a sensor simulator is the next best choice; however, generating a realistic simulation at very high TPS with ease of configurability is a formidable challenge. When dealing with multiple application or transport protocols, you would be...
An increasing number of companies are creating products that combine data with analytical capabilities. Running interactive queries on Big Data requires complex architectures to store and query data effectively, typically involving data streams, an choosing efficient file format/database and multiple independent systems that are tied together through custom-engineered pipelines. In his session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Tomer Levi, a senior software engineer at Intel’s Advanced Analytics ...
In the enterprise today, connected IoT devices are everywhere – both inside and outside corporate environments. The need to identify, manage, control and secure a quickly growing web of connections and outside devices is making the already challenging task of security even more important, and onerous. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Rich Boyer, CISO and Chief Architect for Security at NTT i3, discussed new ways of thinking and the approaches needed to address the emerging challenges of security i...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Dasher Technologies will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Dasher Technologies, Inc. ® is a premier IT solution provider that delivers expert technical resources along with trusted account executives to architect and deliver complete IT solutions and services to help our clients execute their goals, plans and objectives. Since 1999, we'v...
There is only one world-class Cloud event on earth, and that is Cloud Expo – which returns to Silicon Valley for the 21st Cloud Expo at the Santa Clara Convention Center, October 31 - November 2, 2017. Every Global 2000 enterprise in the world is now integrating cloud computing in some form into its IT development and operations. Midsize and small businesses are also migrating to the cloud in increasing numbers. Companies are each developing their unique mix of cloud technologies and service...
SYS-CON Events announced today that IBM has been named “Diamond Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st Cloud Expo, which will take place on October 31 through November 2nd 2017 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, California.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Datera, that offers a radically new data management architecture, has been named "Exhibitor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo ®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Datera is transforming the traditional datacenter model through modern cloud simplicity. The technology industry is at another major inflection point. The rise of mobile, the Internet of Things, data storage and Big...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Akvelon will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Akvelon is a business and technology consulting firm that specializes in applying cutting-edge technology to problems in fields as diverse as mobile technology, sports technology, finance, and healthcare.