'White Boxes' Help Cut Cost of Building Giant Enterprise Data Centers

By Jeff Burt  |  Posted 2015-03-30 Print this article Print
White Box Hardware

For companies like Pica8, the growth of brite boxes only means more business, Chai said.

"We think that is a great trend because, ultimately, that model helps us," he said. "We want to be able to support any platform. At Pica8 'we don't care, really, if the platform is from this vendor or that vendor. Our value-add comes when we bring [our products] to the hardware," said Chai.

Not every OEM is impressed with the white boxes or brite boxes. Even though some industry observers expect vendors like Cisco and Arista eventually will embrace the brite box trend, Cisco CEO John Chambers doesn't sound like an executive looking to move his company in that direction.

In February, after a quarter that saw sales of its Nexus 9000—the foundation of its Application Centric Architecture (ACI) initiative—grow 350 percent and the number of customers for the switch and ACI reach 1,700, Chambers declared the competition in the SDN space essentially over, with Cisco being the winner.

"We are seeing no unusual competition in the market, no unusual competition with white-label or white-box [vendors], nor will we in the future," he said. "VMware is a competitor. We view them as a competitor. We are going to beat them as a competitor, and we will beat them and have fun doing it."

IDC's Stolarski said that while OEMs are looking to guard their businesses against the incursion of white boxes into the data center, ODMs also are looking to build up their weaknesses. They traditionally haven't had strong services and support capabilities, but over the past several years, they have worked to shore up those deficiencies to enable them to better court service providers and other businesses.

"Both sides are trying to fix what they see as their gaps; so I don't think it's clear that one side will win out over the other," Stolarski said.

Medallia's Armani said Dell's brite box offering suited his company best. The company can embrace the lower costs and flexibility that come with the Open Networking switches, while Dell's services and support brings a level of comfort and gives Armani's "lean" IT team the ability "to focus on our business" rather than on the hardware.

Medallia—whose SaaS technology enables customers to grab customer feedback from the Web, social sites, mobile environments and contact centers and then analyze it—currently is running the Open Networking hardware in its QA environments and in some limited test deployments.

But Medallia plans to expand its use as it opens the three new co-located data centers over the course of the year. So far, the results have been good, and Armani said he is pleased that he went with the Dell solution rather than a white-box environment.

"It was more comfortable for us to go with a tier-one supplier we could go to for support as we embark on this open networking," he said, adding that the support was worth the extra money Medallia is paying for the Dell offering rather than going with a white-box solution.

"The price difference was significant from the traditional vendor to an open networking model, but the delta between a white-box and a tier-one vendor definitely justified the value we were getting."



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