How Internet giants have turned the business of selling network hardware

Original author: CADE METZ
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Google, Facebook and Amazon do not sell switches and will never do that. However, these companies managed to change the way others sell such equipment.

Without switches (“switches”), it is impossible to imagine the Internet working - because it is with their help that huge amounts of data are sent between data centers and private networks. Traditionally, large American companies such as Cisco and Juniper dominated the market for selling these devices - they offer customers quite expensive equipment running on proprietary software.

But the traditional device of this market has gradually become increasingly uncomfortable for growing Google, Facebook and Amazon. The equipment of American companies was too expensive and complicated to set up, so Internet giants turned their eyes to sellers of hardware from Asia.

First of all, they managed to agree on the installation of “custom” firmware on the equipment of Asian manufacturers. At first, manufacturers were reluctant to agree to such a practice (and later, some abandoned it altogether, since only IT giants can create their own software). However, later the market pulled in this direction.

HP announced last weekthat he will start selling “only iron” (that is, without software) switches on which anyone can install their own software. At first glance, the news is not very impressive, but it speaks of a huge shift in the entire paradigm of the network device market. In providing bare metal to customers, HP follows Juniper and Dell .

“Everything happens much faster than I imagined,” said JR Rivers, CEO of Cumulus Networks, a startup that creates switch software — this HP software is also going to offer its customers.


Jay Ar Rivers

For some time, Rivers worked on the creation of network equipment in Google, and now promotes the same ideas in the whole market. Google created switches on which it is possible to install own network software and to update it further, now Cumulus helps other companies to do the same.

A couple of weeks ago, the social network Facebook announced the transfer of its data centers to internally developed switches and software for managing them.


Facebook modular switch called 6-pack

The current situation is clearly worried at Cisco, according to Wired reporters, because right after the news from Facebook, the network equipment maker sent a press release to the publication stating that “8 of the 10 largest Internet companies are Cisco customers,” and Facebook creates own servers because “a company can satisfy some unique requirements only with the help of its own developments”.

In fact, there is nothing unique in the idea of ​​switching to our own equipment.

Cade Metz of Wired believes that in the near future the network equipment market will become similar to the PC and server markets - hardware and software will be separated, which will allow customers to combine them, sharpening for their own needs.

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