Growth in public cloud adoption isn’t slowing down. As the face of the data center changes and enterprises seek out cost-effective solutions, Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) hardware is transitioned out for less expensive white box and original design manufacturer (ODM) products. While offering leaner products without branding or additional features, white box is finding it’s place in a market faced with tighter IT budgets. By replacing name brands, white box products like switches and servers provide a generic offering for the data center industry.
White boxes can focus on the products themselves and cut out some of the marketing and sales-related costs. Sometimes, this means that other companies buy up the products and put their own logo on them. But because ODMs supply to other vendors, the price for enterprises to purchase is significantly lower than OEM equivalents.
Lower costs require sacrifices, and white box is no exception. White box doesn’t typically come with all the frills and additional features that you might find with OEM hardware. This means that the same level of support and proprietary software won’t be found with white box as with OEMs. This also means that white box doesn’t provide a very bundled offering. Upon white box purchase, the owner of the equipment becomes responsible for the hardware operation and must find supplemental software, monitoring support, and other professional services on their own.
Many enterprises looking at white box servers exclusively won’t find a lack of software to be as problematic because, in most instances, they’ll load operating systems on the servers regardless. Additionally, with components being manufactured by the same companies that OEM brands like Cisco use, white box servers are compatible with a broader range of software. Many managed service providers find white box more appealing because of this ability to leverage software-defined services rather than hardware-defined. With technology advancements, this ability to change rapidly is only an advantage.
With servers that aren’t fitted for specific applications, enterprises can mold them to meet their exact needs. The solutions can be purpose-built and fully optimized to meet changing needs. Paired with better compatibility options, the white box servers empower enterprise agility. This doesn’t, however, negate the fact that white box servers do require greater expertise in handling operational functions for the servers. The services don’t come ready to deploy straight from the box. If your enterprise isn’t equipped to install or operate servers that aren’t as readily deployable, resellers and vendors do offer solutions to help, though that’s one more cost to factor.
For smaller organizations who need the support and deployment assistance, OEM is probably a more cost-effective route. While it used to be standard to stick with an OEM brand you knew, hyper-convergence and shrinking budgets are changing the way enterprises look at their hardware. Before making the switch, price out your solution options and determine which makes business sense for your company.