Bare Metal Networking, Then and Now…

What a difference a year makes.

Just last year, bare metal networking was viewed as an aspiration for only mega-scale operators. A simple solution to enable any bare metal switch to operate any networking operating system was unavailable.

Original design manufacturers (ODMs) and bare metal networking vendors were relatively unknown entities. Pricing and product availability was obscure or difficult to ascertain. The supply chain for bare metal networking was non-existent. (You can read more about The Modern Networking Supply Chain and the Death of the Multiplier Effect.) Consequently, mega-scale operators deployed solutions, procured directly from ODMs in lots of hundreds to thousands.

Today, bare metal networking is available to the mass market around the world.

The Open Network Install Environment, ONIE, is a fundamental enabler to bare metal networking. ONIE is an Open Compute Project (OCP, pioneered by Facebook) initiative facilitating any network operating system to be installed (or removed) on any ONIE-based switch. Bare metal networking vendors have adopted ONIE en masse, simplifying operations for distributors and resellers with a minimum number of hardware SKUs, in parallel, making the simplified supply chain available to a range of software suppliers. Today, there are approximately 20 ONIE-based platforms in flexible 40G, 10G and 1G configurations available with PowerPC or x86 CPUs providing the key building blocks for a modern data center network.

Bare metal networking vendors have been leading the industry and delivering customer success. Dell, the first tier 1 OEM to embrace bare metal networking, is providing global, comprehensive IT capabilities. Edge-Core Networks by Accton has been blazing the trail with networking hardware innovations and OCP networking contributions. Quanta, often associated with the white box server movement, has targeted the bare metal switch market complemented with a converged infrastructure solution. In conjunction with the bare metal networking vendors, Cumulus Networks now powers over 1 million ports worldwide. Enterprises, education, government, and technology entities around the world have adopted bare metal networking to avoid vendor lock-in, increase performance and significantly reduce total cost, both capital and operational. While many Cumulus Networks customers prefer to remain anonymous, here are a few customers who have adopted bare metal networking:

  • Broadsoft — leading global provider of software that enables service providers to deliver real-time communications over their IP network
  • Internet Initiative Japan — provides a variety of reliable and value-added solution services, including Internet access, outsourcing, and systems integration for all network usage requirements
  • Mount Pleasant Independent School District — public school district based in Mount Pleasant, Texas
  • Ooyala — provides online video technology products and services
  • UTSA — University of Texas San Antonio

Meanwhile, traditional, vertically integrated networking vendors are befuddled by the market groundswell.

Mature markets are substantiated with predictable product availability and pricing. Finished goods inventory is available at regional hubs in North America, Europe and Asia, complemented with 3rd party distributors for value added services. Today, bare metal switches can be delivered in two weeks or less, globally, from five different suppliers. For example, one customer recently placed an order for 20 units of 32 x 40G-QSFP+ switches, which arrived on the customer docks within 5 business days.

Pricing in the networking industry is typified by a skimming approach and often shrouded in mystery. It is common for traditional networking vendors to extract 4x average sales price range from SMBs to mega-scale operators. For instance, the Cisco N3K-C3132Q-40GE, which is a 32 x 40G-QSFP+ switch, has a list price of US$48,000 and can be acquired at a 45% discount for US$26,400. Conversely, large data center operators procure the same switch at an 85% discount, or US$7,200. With the bare metal switching revolution comes pricing transparency and simplicity. For instance Edge-Core Networks offers an equivalent 32 x 40G-QSFP+ switch using the same Broadcom networking silicon with a MSRP of US$11,599 (model 6701-32X-O). Similarly, Quanta’s reseller offers a 32 x 40G-QSFP+ switch (model T5032-LY6) for a street price of US$7,200. Now, with bare metal networking, data center operators of all sizes can procure high performance, high quality switches at price points, regardless of volume, typically only afforded to the mega-scale operators.

The last mile is enabled by a global ecosystem of system integrators, resellers and distributors providing IT solutions, vertical expertise, and professional services. Today, Cumulus Networks has partnered with 27 partners operating in over 50 countries. Here are a few examples of channel partners successfully leading the bare metal networking revolution:

  • Penguin Computing — a global leader in innovative, cost effective, and easy to use enterprise and high performance computing solutions
  • OCP solution providers — Racklive, Infrx, AMAX and ASI
  • International system integrators — Alyseo in France, CTC in Japan, and BEarea in Australia
  • Disruptive resellers — and
  • Professional services — SDN Essentials

With the rapid market adoption for bare metal networking, the global ecosystem is translating customer problem statements into innovative, open solutions. Whether you are looking for low cost fulfillment, specialized vertical expertise, or turnkey technology solutions, bare metal networking partners are available worldwide. Find a partner near you, or to inquire about a partnership, click here to become a partner or contact us at [email protected].

“Whatever there be of progress in life comes not through adaptation but daring.” — Henry Miller.

In the last year, the bare metal switch market progressed with adaptation of proven systems and processes, coupled with the daring to disrupt legacy business models to deliver fast, easy, and affordable networking. Open networking is now here to stay with global product availability from five different suppliers supporting numerous network operating systems like Cumulus Linux software. If you would like to Bring the Linux Revolution to Networking, contact us at [email protected].

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