Getting Enterprises to Adopt White Box Switching Will Take a Sea Change

Mike Fratto
Mike Fratto

Summary Bullets:

  • Enterprises have better things to do than do than perform the heavy lifting white box switching requires, even if there is a CapEx savings.
  • A well-heeled VAR or integrator could step out with their own branded white box product line and offer real competition to vendors.

Enterprises are slow to change to new technologies because, without a compelling benefit—and often the comfort of knowing what their peers are doing—they see no need. When companies do make technological changes, they often do so with the help of a VAR, integrator, or consultant to help them along. Even the big multi-nationals will get lots of on-site assistance directly from a vendor during the trial period and when moving to production. Few enterprises are going to go it alone on a project migration that involves new technologies. When the market does move, the technology has often matured and implementers have enough experience that deployments are often manageable.

White box switching is one of those new technologies—product strategies is probably a better description—that could disrupt the enterprise switching market with low cost hardware from ODMs like Accton and Edge-Core and software from companies like Cumulus and Pica8 that is as feature rich and capable as switches from incumbent networking vendors. In order to do so, enterprises would need to have the same assurances from their VAR, integrator, or consultant that they have today and white box switches and software would have to be as reliable or better than what they can get. It’s not impossible. In fact, a forward-thinking VAR making percentages on a margin rich business might do well to launch their own private label switching line and keep more of the profit for themselves.

To be successful, a VAR would need to:

  • Articulate the advantages of its own switching product line compared to what the customer is using and be prepared for a long sales cycle. Getting enterprises to change technologies is hard.
  • Offer prolonged trials with liberal licenses that showcase the capabilities of the white box switches and offer integration services for the customer’s network monitoring, management, and other operations software.
  • Offer full support for the switch line that is at lease comparable to what their customers get from their network vendor today. It’s a bit more cost up front, but a wise product selection should keep support calls to a minimum.
  • The hardware and software that is offered needs at minimum to have similar features and capabilities the customer is already using. However, showing the white box solution is clearly better in the near and long term will help sell it.

I think few enterprises are willing to go the white box route on their own and when they do, they have a clearly defined requirement and today it usually encompasses only a part of their IT infrastructure.

Of course, any VAR going this route faces displeasure from the networking vendors they are also reselling since they are effectively competing in the same space, but the upside could be huge if successful. It’s also the only way I see that white box switching will make in impact in the enterprise.

What do you think?

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