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.