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Are White Box Switches Equal to OEM Switches?


With a low cost and excellent performance, white box switch has been a hot topic in the past few years. However the basic definition of white box switch is still vague and ambiguous as a result of various reasons. Firstly, no one has ever made an accurate and standard conception of white box switches before; secondly, manufacturer with different interests and demands will deliberately obscure the definition of white box switch; thirdly, people who are unaware of the truth of Internet tend to be wrongly informed, which also lead to chaos in its definition. Some even simply equate a white box switch with an OEM switch. So what is a white box switch exactly?

white box switch

How to Understand White Box Switches?

According to its literal meaning, white box switches refer to switches without a label. However, there exists a deep connotation in white box switches which means this kind of switches don’t focus on brand. Based on this core idea, to better understand white box switches, here we might as well divide them into the following three models:

  • Bare-mental switch. It is the fundamental type of white box siwtch with no network operating system loaded on them except a boot loader. Customers can purchase a software through a third party like Big Switch, Cumulus and Pica8 or even write a software by themselves. They ask for hardware support from hardware vendors and software support from software vendors.
  • White box switch. In this model, the supplier will offer switches with both hardware and software (the supplier only provide one of them, either hardware or software, but they got the authority of another from their partners). So customers can seek support for both hardware and software from one supplier. Besides, there are options for customers to choose for both hardware and software.
  • OEM switches. The hardware and software of the switch are manufactured and provided by an OEM (original equipment manufacturer). These OEMs design and manufacture a switch as specified by another company to be rebranded or not branded. This kind of switch is also called white box switch by many people. And suppliers offering this service are called white box supplier, especially when the supplier is small and not well-known.
The Market for White Box Switches

With a wide choice of networking software based on low-cost, commodity hardware, white box switches are bound to have a vast market in the future. Also, with the deployment of SDN, there is an increasing interest in white box switches within the IT community. In the previous text, we have divided white box switches into three types. Next I will analyze the market for white box switches based upon this classification.

The market for white box switches

  • Bare-mental switches have been most widely used with a customer group mainly from networking giants like Google, Facebook and Microsoft. They purchase a bare-mental switch and develop networking software by themselves. In china, large companies like Baidu, Alibaba, Tecent and JD also tried this model, with Baidu being the most successful example. The reason why these giants chose such a kind of white box switch is that they are confident and capable enough to handle the development and operation of the software for a switch. Besides, these major technology firm have an extremely large-scale network, which requires them to control the network completely by themselves.
  • The customers for the second type are mainly distributed abroad with only a few in china. They mainly come from large financial companies, international data corporation and some network operators, whose size may only behind those internet giants. Cost saving is the most important driving force for them to buy a white box switch. Also, part of these enterprises chose it just for the differentiated operating system provided by white box supplier who are willing to satisfy their specific demands through customized service.
  • The customer for the third type is distributed both at home and abroad. Although the market for this part is smaller than the first two, it has the largest potential for its customer group involving a large number of VARs (value added resellers), system integrators, IT products providers and many medium-sized clients. They adopt a white box switch for varied reasons such as improving the production line and saving costs.

Through this essay we can see clearly that white box switch is much more than a OEM switch and the latter can be classified as one kind of the former. With a lower cost, excellence performance and huge market potential, white box switch will definitely grow up as the mainstream for switch adoption.

100G CFP Modules Power and Connectors Comparison

In today’s market, only several vendors can provide 100G CFP modules, such as Cisco, Juniper, Brocade and Huawei. In this blog, I will compare the Cisco CFP modules and the Juniper CFP modules, and analyze the power and connectors of these modules.

100GBASE-SR10 CFP Modules
Both Cisco CFP-100G-SR10 and Juniper CFP-100GBASE-SR10 CFP module supports link lengths of 100 meters and 150 meters respectively on laser-optimized OM3 and OM4 multifiber cables. It primarily enables high-bandwidth 100-gigabit links over 24-fiber ribbon cables terminated with MPO/MTP-24 connectors. It can also be used in 10 x 10 Gigabit Ethernet mode along with ribbon to duplex fiber breakout cables for connectivity to ten 10GBASE-SR optical interfaces.

100GBASE-SR10 CFP Modules

100GBASE-LR4 CFP Modules
Both Cisco CFP-100G-LR4 and Juniper CFP-GEN2-100GBASE-LR4 CFP module supports a link length of 10 kilometers on standard duplex single-mode fiber (SMF, G.652). However, the connectors of Cisco CFP-100G-LR4 are duplex SC, and the connectors of Juniper CFP-GEN2-100GBASE-LR4 are duplex LC. 100 Gigabit Ethernet signal is carried over four wavelengths. Multiplexing and demultiplexing of the four wavelengths are managed within the device.

100GBASE-LR4 CFP Modules

100GBASE-ER4 CFP Modules
Both Cisco CFP-100G-ER4 and Juniper CFP-GEN2-CGE-ER4 CFP module can support link lengths up to 40 kilometers on standard duplex single-mode fiber (SMF, G.652). Like the 100GBASE-LR4 CFP modules, the connectors of Cisco CFP-100G-ER4 are duplex SC, and the connectors of Juniper CFP-GEN2-CGE-ER4 are duplex LC. Multiplexing and demultiplexing of the four wavelengths are managed within the device. The 100GBASE-ER4 CFP module meets the IEEE 802.3ba requirements for 100GBASE-ER4 performance and also supports Digital Optical Monitoring (DOM) of the transmit-and-receive optical signal levels.

Tx/Rx Power of Cisco and Juniper 100G CFP Modules
Minimum and maximum Tx/Rx Power of Cisco and Juniper 100G CFP Modules are displayed in the table below. We can see that there is no significant difference between Tx/Rx Power of Cisco and Juniper CFP modules.

P/N Connector Transmit Power Receive Power Wavelength
Cisco CFP-100G-SR10 OM3 100 m; OM4 150 m 24F-MPO/MTP min: -7.6 dBm
ma: -1.0 dBm
min: -9.5 dBm
max: 2.4 dBm
Ten lanes, 840 to 850 nm
Juniper CFP-100GBASE-SR10 OM3 100 m; OM4 150 m 24F-MPO/MTP min: -7.6 dBm
max: 2.4 dBm
min: -9.5 dBm
max: 2.4 dBm
840 through 860 nm
Cisco CFP-100G-LR4 10km duplpx SC min: -4.3 dBm
max: 4.5 dBm
min: -10.6 dBm
max: 4.5 dBm
Four lanes, 1295.6 nm, 1300.1 nm, 1304.6 nm, and 1309.1 nm
Juniper CFP-GEN2-100GBASE-LR4 10km duplpx LC min: -4.3 dBm
max: 4.5 dBm
min: -10.5 dBm
max: 4.5 dBm
1294.53 through 1296.59 nm
1299.02 through 1301.09 nm
1303.54 through 1305.63 nm
1308.09 through 1310.19 nm
Cisco CFP-100G-ER4 40km duplpx SC min: -2.9 dBm
max: 2.9 dBm
min: –20.9 dBm
max: 4.5 dBm
Same as CFP-100G-LR4
Juniper CFP-GEN2-CGE-ER4 40km duplpx LC min: -2.9 dBm
max: 2.9 dBm
min: –20.9 dBm
max: 4.5 dBm
Same as CFP-GEN2-100GBASE-LR4

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