White-box , Bare Metal Networking

Bare Metal Definition , Hardware and Software

Reza Toghraee

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Bare Metal Networking

Bare Metal and whitebox switching now accounts for more than 5% of all data center ports shipped and is growing well above market rates. 

White box switches are generic, off-­the-­shelf switches that are supplied by original design manufacturers (ODM). They come with a switch chipset, Interfaces, power supplies and CPU module. 

Interest and deployment of white­box switches has increased significantly within hyperscale data centers over the past several quarters. As a successful move, the same model is being adopted in Enterprises. every Enterprise wants to have a network which can scale out and be be flexible. 

The main difference between Bare Metal networking for hyperscale datacenters and Enterprises is that hyper scales build their own software (and some also hardware), but Enterprises can procure their choice of switching operating system. 

Emerging vendors such as Big Switch and Pica8 provide switching OSs that can be run on top of white­ label switches. 

The Facebook Open Compute Project (OCP) Wedge provides a reference platform for others to develop commercial solutions.

What's Inside A Network Switch 

Switch Structure Past - Now and Bare Metal

Traditional networking gears in the pas had a complete proprietary architecture. vendors used to design their own ASIC (Chipsets) and use them in the networking equipment. 

In last couple of years, chipset vendors such as Broadcom, Marvel, Mellanox, Vitesse (Acquired by Microsemi) and Cavium started producing Ethernet switching ASICs with lots of features and higher switching throughput. these chipsets are also known as Merchant Silicons. 

The use of Merchant Silicon in enterprise networking products started growing in 2009, where vendors realized that the merchant silicon provide a higher throughput and costs less comparing to building a proprietary ASIC. So vendors started outsourcing the complete switch production to ODM companies, however and they kept the switch software in their hands. 

Bare Metal switches are the same hardware which has been produced by ODM for other vendors, but they don't have any operating system.

Bare Metal Servers vs Switches