The data center is in a constant state of transition. What was once home for rows upon rows of propriety and often siloed equipment based on closed-architecture designs, the modern day data center is now filled with white box solutions serving various functions but working in a harmonious or converged manner.

Several key factors are driving the change to white box or open hardware – ROI, flexibility and customizability of design, ease of implementation, and the avoidance of vendor lock-in along with the high price-tag it can bring. The rise of white box hardware started with servers and storage, and now a movement towards the adoption of open networking has gained quite a bit of traction.

The Open Compute Project (OCP) movement is driving creation of bare metal switches, such as Open Switches, that are designed to be open and disaggregated. This white box model for switching enables users to deploy, monitor, and manage networking alongside servers and storage at a much lower price-point than a traditional network switch.

Scaled Networking Simplified

With a white box switch, the OS layer is decoupled from the hardware itself which allows users to independently select the best-of-breed components and networking software stack for their workload. With the introduction of x86 architecture on the control plane, users are able to automate and streamline their deployments. A big draw to open networking is the ability to run bootstrap and DHCP, reducing complexity and enabling a more nimble approach to automated provisioning.

AMAX’s CloudMax Converged Cloud Infrastructure Solution is one example of an industry-embraced product that features open networking. Winner of the Best of VMworld award for private cloud solutions and the Intel Innovative Server Solution award for best data center product, CloudMax features a total open architecture design from compute and storage built upon traditional white box or OCP (Open Compute) servers, as well as open networking options including Cumulus Linux from Cumulus Networks. Cumulus Linux takes out much of the guesswork when users make the transition to a white box switch by featuring a robust list of supported hardware and technical software support. Cumulus offers a true Linux network stack that permits users to leverage familiar tools already used on servers, and employ those for networking as well. Starting with software release 2.0, the Cumulus Networks software stack fully supported Broadcom’s Trident II chipset, which in turn allows for hardware VXLAN offloading.

As the market continues to evolve and the data center footprint expands, more and more companies are looking for ways to gain more efficiency and agility from their data center while controlling costs and maintainability. The major way this movement is taking shape is by switching from proprietary closed-architecture designs, to open architecture based on white box solutions; the other is converging the various functions (i.e. compute, storage and networking) so that all facets of the data center can be streamlined to function and be maintained more or less homogeneously. Networking has been the most complex facet of the data center to convert towards the open movement, and 2014 was the first year that open networking was truly considered as a potential market-ready development in a space that is increasingly being taken over by white box solutions. As more and more companies test the technology and consider implementation, 2015 will be the year to see the pace of open networking adoption in enterprises.

Guest Blogger: Thai Vuong, Cluster Engineer, AMAX

Thai Vuong is a cluster specialist who has worked with several of the top supercomputers in the world, some of which are still listed in the “TOP 500.” As part of AMAX’s elite Data Center and HPC infrastructure team, he is responsible for architecting and building out large scale cloud, data center and parallel computing solutions, including writing custom test automation scripts that give AMAX solutions the competitive edge for reliability and performance optimization. AMAX is an official Cumulus Networks partner, offering integration of Cumulus Linux in several of its products. To learn more, please visit www.amax.com.