White Box Switch: to Be or Not to Be

Current Situation

White box switch refers to the ability to use “generic”, white box switching and routing hardware in the forwarding plane of a software-defined network (SDN). So that consumer can purchase a generic Ethernet switch without a network operating system (NOS), and install an operating system of their choice. However, white box switch hasn’t been widely accepted and recognized currently. The reasons are as followed: 1. No matter in a data center or enterprise, switch accounts for a very low share in network construction, far below the server, storage, and bandwidth. But it takes up a very important spot in an enterprise, and any problem of it would result in widespread influence. 2. In terms of customer technicians, few people are knowledgeable about network. So when they have problems with network equipment, they are prone to turn to vendor service. While unfortunately, white box switch manufacturers are not professional enough, especially those manufacturers having separated software and hardware, which means white box manufacturers can’t take on projects like branded manufacturers. 3. White box manufacturers have little proficiency. They don’t have complete product lines, and they don’t make core equipment, let alone functionally complex provider equipment (PE).

white box switch

Production Mode

Generally, there are four major components that make up a network switch, namely silicon, box, network OS and drivers, and applications. White box switching is the idea that the silicon & box can be bought as one thing, and the network OS and applications as other things. This idea is opposite to the traditional norm of network switch acquisition. Through the separation of software and hardware, customers can obtain different support levels for hardware and software. Having a software platform that is independent of hardware also allows support engineers to debug it easily and provide relevant output to the networking team.

Advantages

Although status quo of white box switch is not so satisfactory, it won’t block and cloud its prospect of development since it still has a lot of advantages overweighing its disadvantages.

1. Cost

To be honest, most vertically integrated switching & routing platforms are loaded with features the most of consumers will never use. Furthermore, many of the features that consumers want to use come at a high price. So they often have to pay extra expenses for these features. However, the overall cost of white box switch is lower than those branded equipment, because it removed some features that consumers rarely used and brand premium as well.

2. Quality & Simplification

Despite this price advantage, some consumers would regard white box as cheap inferior goods, which turns out a misunderstanding. Because the companies making hardware are professional OEM factories. Their quality of switches is as good as branded switches. Even the brands of hardware are their OEM. That is to say, white box is on par with brand-name systems because they are actually the same hardware. Apart from the quality, white box switch does not involve complicated function, and they only make function sets needed by target consumers. For example, they are less likely to involve MPLS VPN, ISSU Etc. Instead, they focus on relatively simple and controllable data center, especially SDN switch. It simplifies software and makes it understood to most users.

3. Features & Capabilities

White boxes typically are used as a top-of-rack switch or as part of an SDN deployment. They support industry standards such as OpenFlow. Besides, they are highly programmable and work with orchestration tools such as Ansible, Chef and Puppet. Also, white box switches are characterized by strong telemetry capabilities and openness so that network administrators can get whatever information they need for whatever purpose. In fact, in this area, it’s fair to say white boxes are often superior to traditional layer 2/3 switches.

Prospect of White Box Switch

White box switch puts new ground rules in the market, and lowers the cost of acquisition, while at the same time allows consumers to pick and choose the features and functions they are willing to pay for. As the white box switching and NOS market begin to broaden, I believe what the market will see is a broad variety of applications that consumers can choose to add to their newly flexible networks. White box switch is not merely about choosing a hardware manufacturer or NOS provider. The path white box switch ultimately takes us down to is choice of applications running on those switches. That’s a whole different market. That’s a whole different way to think about networking.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Wireless Access Points

With more and more wireless Internet users, wireless Internet access has become a trend. A wireless access point (AP) is ubiquitous no matter in a family or a large department store. However, everything is imperfect, since advantages are always followed by disadvantages. This post will interpret the advantages & advantages of wireless access points respectively.

Advantages:
1. More users access

An ordinary wireless router can only support 10-20 users access, while AP is able to allow over 50 or even hundreds of users access, and what’s more, it has stronger ability to send and receive signals. Especially in a large area needing wireless coverage, an AP has more advantages than a wireless router.

2. Broader range of transmission

Generally, the range of signal transmission that a wireless router can cover is just dozens of meters, and if beyond this range, signal will be lost. Nevertheless, an AP can cover further distances, up to 100-300 meters, and the increase of wireless access point will extend signal coverage proportionally, which enables users to roam freely in the network. Especially for enterprises, their office space is usually larger, and even some need to communicate across the buildings, and the number of users accessing the network is so large that they need a larger wireless network coverage, thus avoiding management of cabling.

3. Flexible networking

It is known that except home networking, wireless networking in commercial locations often involves the use of many wireless devices, and different networking patterns should be adopted based on the environment and requirements. The networking mode of the wireless router is relatively single with low flexibility. On the contrary, an AP has a variety of modes for you to choose, which meant to be very flexible, such as Simplex AP, Wireless Client, Wireless Bridge, Multi-point Bridge, etc. and it can be managed in a centralized way with the cooperation of wireless AP controller.

4. Multi-AP interconnection

The enterprise can design the wireless program flexibly according to its actual situation. Multi-AP interconnection can give full play to its advantages. Multi-AP applications are typically found in businesses but rarely exposed at home. In the business, the coverage of single AP is limited, so in order to extend the coverage of wireless networks and allow clients to roam seamlessly in the network, multi-AP interconnection will be a favorite for an enterprise.

multi-APs interconnection

Disadvantages:
1. High cost

Some people think that wireless AP is a little bit expensive, because for enterprises, when the scale of enterprise wireless network is larger, the more wireless APs are needed, thus the higher cost that enterprises will undertake. So the priority for an enterprise is to control cost, which leads many people to be reluctant to use wireless AP, instead, they prefer using home wireless routers with lower performance.

2. Inability to be used alone

Now, many people would firstly think of wireless routers instead of wireless AP at the mention of building wireless networks, unless it’s a large hotel, or public places. The main reason is that a wireless AP can’t be used alone, can’t be directly connected to ADSL (Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Loop) modem and it needs to be used in conjunction with other equipment like switches, controllers, ethernet hubs, etc. Therefore, many people would find it very troublesome and less convenient as a wireless router.

WiFi-AP can't be used alone

3. Poor stability

Poor stability is aiming at cable networks. Wireless networks take air as transmission medium while cable networks take cables as transmission medium. It’s not difficult to know that the cable network is faster and more stable than wireless network. Wireless AP only functions well when failing to build a cable network.

Conclusion

Wireless AP and wireless router are facing different targeted groups, a wireless router is aimed mainly at home users and students with low cost and good performance, and it’s able to meet the basic needs of the general family users. Wireless AP is mainly for business users, and its transmission range is wider and broader, it supports more users access, and has stronger signal sending and receiving capability. At the same time, it also has better safety performance, of course, the price will be far more expensive accordingly.

25G Vs. 40G Ethernet: Who Is the Winner?

In recent years, the fast growth of data centers leads to increase in global data traffic, which give rise to the need for faster data transmission over a network. 25G Ethernet is the product of that condition. 25G Ethernet is regarded as an incremental update from 10G Ethernet, and it supports 100G Ethernet with single lane at 25Gbps. Due to the booming of 25G, some industry experts claimed that 40G Ethernet is dead, which is biased in some degree. Then 25G vs. 40G Ethernet, which is even better?

Advantages and Disadvantages of 25G and 40G Ethernet
Advantages of 25G Ethernet

Different from 40G and 100G, 25G is a single-lane variant for 25Gbps operation, and that allows a breakout of 100G, which fit the most popular form factors. Based on existing module form factors, such as SFP28 and QSFP28, 25G operations allow for a breakout connection that is configurable as either 25G per lane or the full 100G without changing the port on front of switches, bring more flexibility in the rack and front-panel connections. In addition, with the 25G Ethernet, network operators are no longer forced to use a 40G QSFP port to go from one individual device to another to achieve 100G throughput. The final advantage of 25G is that it can use existing optical plants (depending on what was installed) and increase the bandwidth by 2.5x without changing the physical infrastructure.

25g ethernet sfp28

Disadvantages of 25G Ethernet

As 25G Ethernet is just rising, the interoperability becomes an important factor to ensure wide market adoption and to offer higher speeds for future applications. Besides, compared with 10G 40G and 100G, there aren’t many products of 25G, which limit the development of 25G networks.

Advantages of 40G Ethernet

40G Ethernet is an Ethernet standard developed by the IEEE 802.3ba Task Force to support sending Ethernet frames at 40 gigabits per second. It also addresses physical layer specifications for communication across back planes, copper cabling, multimode fiber optic cable, and single mode fiber. And 40G Ethernet technology is more mature compared with 25G. In the market, there are various types of products for 40G applications, especially the MPO trunk cable assemblies, cassettes, and QSFP 40G optical modules, which offers the required bandwidth for different applications.

40G solution

Disadvantages of 40G Ethernet

At present, 40G is popular in data centers and no drawbacks found. If we have to say one, the utilization of fibers may be one. As we all know, 12-fiber cabling solution is common in 40G networks. But there are four fibers unused, resulting in fiber waste.

Comparison Between 25G and 40G Ethernet in Network
Application

At present, 25G is mainly used for switch-to-server applications. While 40G is for switch-to-switch applications. In other words, no one is using 25G for switch-to-switch links right now. Even the industry giant like Cisco doesn’t offer 25G optical transceiver. But with the fast development of 25G Ethernet, 25G for switch-to-switch application maybe come into reality in the near future.

Switches Selection

Switches are important when comparing 25G and 40G Ethernet. Most switches are currently sold, like Cisco 93180YC-EX, Arista 7060CX-32S support both 10G and 25G, and the price is not higher than older 10G products with full backward compatibility. For example, each SFP28 port supports 1G, 10G or 25G, and each QSFP28 port supports 10G, 25G, 40G, 50G or 100G.

Cabling Options

Cabling options determine how far the two types of Ethernet go. It’s a big mistake to ignore cabling. In the market, there are several types of cabling options, and there are some big swings in price. Here is a simple comparison.

25g ethernet vs 40g ethernet

Summary

From the comparison above, we can draw a conclusion that 25G Ethernet can be used for data centers, but it doesn’t mean 40G is dead. Even though 25G Ethernet seems to have a brilliant future, under present conditions, 40G is a safe choice due to its mature market adoption. Perhaps in a few years, 25G connectivity will be a cheaper alternative.

Network Virtualization and Challenges in SDN/NFV Implementation

Software defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) are two closely related technologies that are both toward network virtualization and automation. The occurrence of these two technologies are mainly driven by the requirements for robust data management systems and access to bandwidth by servers located at different sites and connected over long distances through public and private clouds. SDN and NFV have some similarities but they are different in many aspects. In addition, though SDN and NFV are highly promoted as next-generation dominants in recent years, there are still many challenges in successfully deploying them. This post will give some basic knowledge about SDN and NFV, and the challenges faced in implementing SDN and NFV.

Understand SDN and NFV

Although SDN and NFV are both network virtualization technologies, they’re really not dependent on each other. And it is not always necessary to involve them in the same network. The infrastructures of SDN and NFV will be explained in the following text, and the major differences between them will be displayed.

What Is SDN?

The function of SDN is somewhat hinted by its name. With SDN, the users are able to manage and control the entire network through software that makes networks centrally programmable. It achieves this by separating the system that decides where traffic is sent (the control plane) from the underlying system that pushes packets of data to specific destinations (the data plane). As known to network administrators and value added resellers (VARs), SDN is built on switches that can be programmed through an SDN controller based on an industry standard controller like OpenFlow.

What Is NFV?

Network function virtualization is similar to traditional server virtualization mechanisms but clearly focuses on networking services. Within NFV, they’re virtualized network functions. It means NFV separates network functions from routers, firewalls, load balancers and other dedicated hardware devices and allows network services to be hosted on virtual machines. Virtual machines have a manager, which allows multiple operating systems to share a single hardware processor.

Differences Between SDN and NFV

Both SDN and NFV rely on software that operates on commodity servers and switches, but both technologies operate at different levels of the network. They are not dependent and you could perfectly have just an NFV platform operating a piece of your environment without the inclusion of full-developed SDN or only SDN. The following figure shows a use case of SDN and NFV.

SDN fabric with NFV

The differences between SDN and NFV can be summarized from five aspects. They are presented in the table below.

SDN NFV
Basics SDN separates control and data and centralizes control and programmability of the network. NFV transfers network functions from dedicated appliances to generic servers.
Areas of Operation SDN operates in a campus, data center and/or cloud environment. NFV targets the service provider network.
Initial Application Target SDN software targets cloud orchestration and networking. NFV software targets routers, firewalls, gateways, WAN (wide area network), CDN (content delivery network), accelerators and SLA (service level agreement) assurance.
Protocols OpenFlow. No protocols, yet.
Supporting Organization Open Networking Foundation (ONF). ETSI NFV working group.

 

Challenges in SDN/NFV Implementation

Though SDN and NFV are promising technologies, there are still many roadblocks in their deployments. Complete standards and proven examples are still needed for wider implementation of SDN/NFV.

Security is one of the biggest concerns in implementing SDN. While centralized control and virtualization of network topology are powerful assets that SDN allows, they also create new security vulnerabilities that must be addressed. The positive side of implementing SDN is that the user is able to make uniform security policies across the whole system. But naturally, the negative side is that, if the SDN controller is successfully hacked, the attacker would have complete control of the system.

Another major challenge is the scalability of SDN systems, in the view of the virtualization that comes with the SDN systems (via NFV). It is a fact that the continuous growth of network data consumption makes scalability a challenge for any network system. If integrated properly, SDN can improve the scalability in a given data center or network. But there are scalability concerns raised by the SDN architecture. Since it is a single item, the centralized SDN controller is not necessarily scalable for larger networks. This also presents a single point of failure in the network, which would be dangerous if the controller or an uplink device fails. There are potential solutions to this problem, but these are still in development.

As for NFV implementation, there are challenges for NFV independent software vendors (ISVs). The first challenge is to develop an innovative, virtualized product that meets the reliability and scalability requirements of the telecom industry. In addition to technical challenges, ISVs also have to develop a concise value proposition to convince the large telcos why they should adopt a new, unproven product into their highly complex network operations.

Conclusion

To sum up, it is no doubt that SDN and NFV can bring many benefits to network administrators by accomplishing virtualization and automation of the systems. And it also cannot be denied that there are still many improvements needed to be made for SDN and NFV deployments. Knowing the pros and cons of them can help in correctly facing these technologies and avoid blind following up or complete refusal to new products. FS.COM has announced new 10/40/100GbE open networking switches for data centers and enterprise networks, which support SDN/NFV. Also high performance 40G and 100G DAC and optical transceivers are provided at competitive prices. For more details about SDN switches, please visit www.fs.com or e-mail to sales@fs.com.

Server Power Cords Applications in Different Cabling Systems

Each power supply has a separate power cord to support its work. Server power cord connecting the servers and PDU (power distribution unit) plays a critical role in this process. Since the power cords standard for connector types and voltage levels varies from country to country. It’s important to choose the most suitable one for network systems. This post intends to give a simple introduction to server power cords and their applications in different systems.

Power Cords Overview

Usually standard power cords or jumper power cords are available for connection to the server. Power cord consists of three necessary parts: plug, cord and receptacle. And there are many different types of power cords used all over the word. The most commonly seen types are the IEC60320 power cord and NEMA power cord. The former one is often used in US. While the latter is usually seen in North America and other countries that use the standards set by the NEMA.

Among these two types of power cords, the most popular one in some vendors like Dell, HP and IBM is the C13 to C14 power cord. And there are many kinds in this two types of power cords. Here is a simple table showing them.

C14-C13 5-15P – C13
14 to 13 power cord NEMA 15p-C13 power cord
C14-C15 5-15P – C15
C14 to C15 power cord 5-15P - C15 power cord
Applications in Different Cabling System
Cabling for Low Density System

It’s relatively easy to install cords for low density systems. Take servers in a tower configuration for an example. It needs to use a country-specific power cord for direct connection to a facility AC feed. However, server availability goals can require providing redundant AC power to the server in the form of a redundant AC bus or a UPS. The following figure shows two servers connected an UPS with a different types of server power cords. Server in picture A uses C13 to C14 power cord, and server in picture B uses NEMA 5-15P to C13 power cord.

server power cord 1

Note: Connection to a local AC outlet requires an optional country-specific power cord for each power supply. Just shown in picture A above.

Cabling for Medium Density System

Medium density system is a little complex than low density system. Therefore different types and other accessories are maybe needed to achieve an effective power connection. Just shown in the following picture, power connections are achieved using modular PDH, extension bars and C13 to C14 power cord assemblies.

server power cord 2

Note: some servers contain hot-pluggable fans accessible by sliding the chassis out on rails. This means the power cords or jumper cables connecting to the servers must have adequate length and slack to allow chassis movement while staying connected and powered up.

Cabling for High Density System

Compared with the application of power cords in the two systems mentioned above, power cords used in high density systems can be short since cable movement is of little. This following figure shows three kinds of methods to connect enclosures to AC power. The first one shown in the upper area of this figure is that the C13 to C14 power cord is used to connect a single-supply server to a vertical mount PDU, which is suitable for lower-density installations. The second shown in the central area of the figure is to use the C13 x4-to-C20 fixed cord extension bars, a method recommended for extreme-density installations using redundant power supplies. The last one shows the use of a C13 x2-to-C20 Y-cable assembly recommended for connecting a server with dual 1200-watt power supplies directly to a PDU core with C19 outlets.

server power cord 2

Note: Considering there are many cables used in high-density systems, color coding power cords are helpful in systems like that.

Conclusion

Power cords serve as an important bridge in the network device power supply system. FS.COM offers several varieties of IEC power cords, NEMA power cords, and jumper cords for server rack equipment in up to 12 colors with many different types and options for your data center power cords, including: IEC C14 to C13, C20 to C19, C14 to C15, etc. Welcome to visit our website www.fs.com for more information.