HP has become the latest “legacy” IT vendor to announce it would ship commodity switches for web-scale data centers that support network management software other than its own.
The Palo Alto, California-based company said its differentiation in the competitive commodity switch market would be a global supply chain that extends across more than 160 countries and a smorgasbord of support and consulting services.
Internet giants, such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon, which operate massive data centers around the world, have found it more effective to design their own hardware and have so-called “Original Design Manufacturers,” the likes of Taiwan’s Quanta and Foxconn, manufacture it for them. The trend has created a problem for incumbent IT vendors, such as HP, Dell, IBM, and Cisco, which found themselves competing with contract manufacturers of their products for the same high-volume deals.
Facebook, through its Open Compute Project, has spread awareness about cost effectiveness of this IT procurement model, and there is now growing interest in low-cost commodity hardware among enterprises who are not necessarily Internet giants, creating a new threat to the incumbents’ market share. Facebook started with servers, but now, it has also designed its own network switch and plans to contribute that design to OCP like it has with its server designs.
HP’s competitors Dell and Juniper have already announced open commodity network switches of their own. Dell said it would ship data center switches with a Linux-based network operating systems by Cumulus Networks or by Big Switch Networks, as alternatives to its own network OS, last year.
Juniper announced it would start shipping a commodity switch that would support any OS sometime in the first quarter of 2015. Taiwanese manufacturer Alpha Networks will manufacture its “white box” switch.
Notably, Cisco has not introduced commodity switches. The world’s largest data center networking vendor has built an empire selling tightly coupled hardware-and-software bundles, and cheap open network hardware is a threat to its dominance.
HP’s commodity switches will come with Cumulus software as well. They will be manufactured by Taiwanese ODM Accton Technology Group.
The company plans to start shipping switches for 10G/40Gspine and 10G leaf data center deployments in the second half of the year. It expects to expand the line with 25G, 50G, and 100G switches, as well as 1G, sometime in the future.
“Web-scale data centers are a growing market segment with distinct needs for high scalability and network flexibility,” George Tchaparian, general manager of data center networks at Accton, said in a statement. “This joint venture will build on the expertise of both organizations to provide global customers with a unique disaggregated networking solution built on new HP-branded brite box switches and choice of networking operating system software.”