Pica8 Offers PoE Support for White Box Networking Gear

The vendor's open PicOS network operating system will run in switches from Edge-Core Networks that offer PoE capabilities for service providers.

Ethernet networking

Pica8, whose open software is designed to help customers more easily adopt network virtualization technology on commodity white boxes, is expanding its capabilities in the service provider space by supporting Power-over-Ethernet in network switches.

Company officials on June 22 announced that Pica8's network operating system, PicOS, can now run on Edge-Core Networks' AS4610-54P bare-metal switch, which supports Power-over-Ethernet (PoE), as well as the switch vendor's AS4610-54T gear, which is the non-PoE version.

Edge-Core last year joined Pica8's hardware ecosystem partner program, which is aimed at original design manufacturers (ODMs) that make white-box and bare-metal hardware can run support PicOS. Other members include Penguin Computing, Quanta Cloud Technology, Foxconn and Accton.

Pica8 officials said the company needs "to add more breadth to our portfolio, thereby offering more of a one-stop shop for these [service] providers," Steve Garrison, vice president of marketing at the company, said in a statement.

The company, which in October 2014 raised $12.5 million in Series B funding, has been working with service providers—including telecommunications firms, cloud providers and regional Internet service providers (ISPs)—for the past six months to build new features and capabilities that these companies can use to more quickly roll out a wider array of services to their customers, according to Pica8 officials.

Key to that is supporting PoE-supported network switches, which are important for offering such on-premises services as voice-over-IP (VoIP) and WiFi. Pica8's support of PoE switches with its operating system enables service providers to more easily adopt white-box and bare-metal switching gear and offer new services to small and medium-size businesses (SMBs) that want to run their network applications on premises.

The support for Edge-Core's PoE-enabled switch is part of a larger push by the OS vendor to offer service providers with a broad range of products and capabilities. In late May, Pica8 officials announced the company's hardware-accelerated implementation of Open-vSwitch (OVS) will help simplify deployments of VXLAN and network virtualization technology and offer flexibility in options for white-box overlays.

A month earlier, the company announced it was offering service providers a choice of network overlays by supporting labeled Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) in the 2.6 release of PicOS, a move that allows carriers to more easily use multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) in overlays by leveraging the economics of white boxes and software-defined networking (SDN) rather than more expensive switches from the likes of Cisco Systems and Juniper Networks.

Pica8 also has recently announced support for 100 Gigabit Ethernet switches and the OpenStack open-source cloud orchestration stack.

As data center resources become more software-defined, interest in white boxes—unbranded systems made by ODMs that can run a broad array of software—continues to grow, not only for networking but also for compute and storage. Dell'Oro Group analysts in a report in April noted that revenue growth for networking white-box makers—taking advantage of the increasing interested in SDN and network-functions virtualization—as a whole in 2014 jumped more than 40 percent over the year before.

Infonetics Research analysts in March said that bare-metal switches accounted for 11 percent of the data center ports shipped last year, adding that the number will grow to almost 25 percent by 2019.

Some top-tier networking vendors, such as Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Juniper, have countered by offering what Gartner analysts call "brite boxes"—branded networking gear that can run third-party operating systems and applications. They're less expensive than traditional switches, and while more expensive than ODMs' white box systems, they come with top-line support and services that white box makers can't yet match.