Blog post

White-Box Switching Market Share

By Andrew Lerner | September 02, 2014 | 2 Comments


In August, we published market share research for Data Center Ethernet Switching, which covers 1G/10G/40G/100G port shipments/revenue.

While it is no surprise that Cisco is on top with over 50% of total share (which is more than 2X the next 5 vendors, combined), there are some interesting sub-plots… One thing in particular that caught my eye is that self-build/ODM switchports (i.e., White-Box) now comprise 3.8% of overall port shipments, with 1.8M ports shipped.  To put that into context, that is more ports shipped than Brocade or Arista.  In fact, that is roughly the same number of 10G ports that Juniper shipped.  Today, the majority of these white-label switchports are going to Cloud Service Providers, Telcos and service providers, but we’re starting to get client calls from enterprise clients on this topic as well, so it is slowly matriculating into the mainstream.

The biggest question I have is what OS are people running on these switches?  Generically, there are two options:  Write your own or install a third-party switching OS.  If you’re Facebook, you can write your own.  However, the other option is 3P software from folks like Cumulus (who claims 1M ports),  Big Switch, and Pica8. A few months back, we profiled 2 of these 3 as cool vendors.

Cool Vendors in Enterprise Communication Strategies, 2014 (Tim Zimmerman Joe Skorupa Andrew Lerner)

Summary: Software-defined networking is a new and innovative approach for organizations to design, build and manage their data center networks in a more agile and cost-effective way. IT leaders should plan for SDN as deployments shift from very large network operators to mainstream enterprise early adopters.

As a result of these numbers and rising client interest, we are considering writing research aimed at mainstream enterprise on white-box switching and/or what we’re referring to internally “gray-box switching” (white-box switching concepts delivered in a way more palatable to the mainstream).  Please drop me an email or comment if this is research you’d be interested in as a client….

Regards, Andrew

Leave a Comment


  • Hi Andrew

    Thank you for the article.

    Yes these trends are exciting and developments will surely provide more agile, cost effective ways to plan, build and manage networks. This is also creating awareness among enterprise clients for wider deployments.

    However, there are so many new terms getting coined each day such as brite Box, gray box, bare metal, white box overlay underlay ODM etc ..

    Also I do not understand how this will mesh with SDN environments Can you please drop a mail or provide a link or write a paper to throw light on these unclear concepts ?


    • Andrew Lerner says:

      Hi Rajesh, thanks for the comment. We do cover the mix of technologies in our hype cycle, with an overview (and link) here: Brite-Box switching is short-hand for branded white-box, which is based on several key concepts: #1 ability to disaggregate switching hw/sw (avoids lockin), #2 ability to get “branded” hw/sw support from a single vendor, #3 white-box economics and #4 using commercial s/w versus roll-your-own. Also, I don’t know of an official definition for a bare-metal switch but I think of it as a network switch with no OS load on it.