Whitebox Switching and Fermi Estimates

Craig Matsumoto recently quoted some astonishing claims from Dell’Oro Group analyst Alan Weckel:

  • Whitebox switches (combined) will be the second largest ToR vendor;
  • Whitebox 10GE ports will cost around $100.

Let’s try to guestimate how realistic these claims are.

According to the same source, “whitebox switching comes down to just two customers: Amazon and Google”. Each of them has approximately a million servers. Assuming 50% year-over-year growth rate (which has never been sustained for long periods), both companies have to buy around a million new servers (and switch ports) every year.

The total value of those switch ports (according to Craig’s source) would be $100M. Let’s round this up (you need uplinks, spine switches …) to $200M.

The current size of data center networking market is $12B, and Ethernet switches represent at least $8B out of that total, with fixed switches being two thirds of that (around 5B). The $200M guestimate from the previous paragraph would represent 4% of the market share. I hope the second ToR vendor has more than that, or we’re really dealing with Cisco and seven dwarflings.

Conclusion: the whitebox switching claims were exaggerated unless the analysts considered 10GE-only ToR switches, in which case they might be about right (but that’s not what the article said).


  1. I think that analyst is anticipating a surge of interest from cloud providers and smaller web content providers. That's what Dell is hoping for with its Cumulus and Big Switch partnerships.
    1. I must be talking with the wrong people - apart from my fellow bloggers I found zero interest in whitebox switching. Top 10 cloud providers? Maybe. Most everyone else? Meh.
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