White boxes for everyone?

White boxes and their impact on enterprise networking is a hot topic today, with many point of views.

The last update from Dave Temkin, VP of Network Architecture ad Netflix, put more gasoline on the flames:

**Update April 2018: the original tweet was deleted, the message was:

Super proud of my team - today they removed the last “big expensive router” from our network; no more Cisco ASR or Juniper MX. Inexpensive commodity switches run the entire Netflix Open Connect CDN!

If you want to know more about Netflix infrastructure read these

or take a look to

Is it about different requirements?

FANG have very specific needs

they run custom-built single-purpose software in a very big scale

So all the really want/need are

dumb boxes and smart people

Put highly skilled engineers, give them programmable commodity hardware and you get a custom infrastructure focused on delivery of the service.

To do that they rely on

  • large availability of skills
  • ability to attract talent and skills
  • a big engineering effort focused on a single purpose

The drivers for this strategy are

  • lower hardware cost
  • don’t rely on innovation coming from vendors

A example at different scale

See what Giacomo Bernardi from EOLO presented at RIPE69 in 2014. PDF or VIDEO are available.

An update on that project will be available soon on ITNOG3 website.

Enterprises are different

Enterprise have another view, they want

smart boxes run by dumb people

No offense to anyone working in an enterprise, and this does not apply to all enterprises, it’s obviously a simplification and a provocation.

The enterprise has different problems

  • low pay for IT, call it “cut operational costs”
  • skill shortage is a problem: low pay and office politics don’t attract talents
  • high turnover: cool companies steal talents, can’t rely on smart people to create teams and run innovative projects

Vendors understood this, products like Cisco DNA Center, Intersight, Meraki focus on the clear purpose to “dumb down” the enterprise IT and move skills into VAR’s and consultants - or vendor’s professional services.

It all started with servers moving to the cloud, now it’s time for the network/on-prem infrastructure. Nobody should be surprised.

What’s next

As I wrote before I think an Enterprise should not move all the intelligence outside focusing only on cutting cost on the short term.

No one from outside, being a consultant, a VAR, a Vendor, would really understand the business and create a technology strategy to support it.

What a company should do is to keep the smartest IT guys, involve them in the business and understand that IT and business are merging becoming one thing.

Whitebox price and customization efforts are only part of a bigger picture that will reshape how companies think about IT today, from commodity to business driver.

Source: Dilbert, June 09, 2005


Some smart people who commented my post:

Nicola Arnoldi: White-boxes for everyone: my point of view.

Russ White: Enterprise versus Provider?

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