Over the past year, buzzphrases like SDN, cloud, and IoT, reflected an onslaught of innovation and claims that IT is going to change forever. While we’re seeing that realism has led to a gradual drop-off in this hype cycle, the separation of hardware and software will continue to be a primary focus in the year(s) to come.
Because the decoupling of hardware and software will continue to manifest in 2015, organizations are looking for tangible ways to adopt SDN-like strategies, and the most feasible option is what Gartner refers to as “brite box” switching. Brite box switching is essentially the middle ground between traditional switching and white-box switching—and it involves network software that can run on other vendors’ certified hardware. Brite box switches, as opposed to traditional switching approaches, can simplify hardware acquisition processes, improve management, and streamline the integration of hardware and software.
However, companies that believe they will experience massive CapEx savings by switching to brite box may have misconceptions about the benefits and caveats. Here is my breakdown of these industry conceptions that can help you deliberate whether brite box switching is right for your organization:
- Cost-saving benefits are frequently over-estimated. When you’re comparing the bare hardware of a brite box to a traditional switch, the CapEx savings seem huge. However, organizations tend to ignore the human capital cost—if your organization will be managing your own deployment you will need programmers and engineers to build, customize, and maintain the software. If you are looking to a vendor to provide a brite box solution for you, the vendor will have to incorporate cost to the bare hardware for software customization and support.
- For companies that do adopt brite box, CapEx savings will be long-term results, not immediate funds. Because the initial procurement of a brite box requires such a high human capital cost, the timeline is a little longer for the benefits to outweigh the cost.
- Brite boxes are not plug-and-play devices. As of now, enterprise level companies cannot expect the brite box to be fully developed with written, customized software that will be activated immediately. These devices will require staff to write, test, and support software as well as the brite box itself.
If one thing is for sure, it’s that the adoption of brite box switching will change vendor relationships over the coming years. With brite box switches, hardware and software are no longer coupled, and as a result, companies can avoid the traditional vendor lock-in that has been characteristic of hardware ownership. The desire to avoid vendor lock-in has become the top priority for forward-thinking organizations—and this is causing a hugely effective disruption in the market. The current status quo of buying hardware, software, and maintenance from the same vendor is being challenged by enterprise-level organizations as well as providers like Arista, Cumulus and VMware. In an era of decoupling, it’s pretty clear that the fear tactics of vendor lock-in have run their course, and companies will need to adapt to this drastic market change.
At Curvature, we have always been dedicated to helping companies achieve better business outcomes by avoiding vendor lock-in. Developing a strategy to define brite box solutions is our next step to providing the globe with today’s most advanced data center and networking solutions.
The decoupling of hardware and software will streamline processes for hardware acquisition and support in the year to come, but it’s important that all organizations look beyond the popularity to consider the caveats that come with brite box switching.