Vertically Integrated Musings

Packet Pushers podcast is a constant source of inspiration for my blog posts. Recently I stumbled upon Rob Sherwood’s explanation of how they package Big Cloud Fabric:

It’s a vertically integrated solution, from Switch Light OS to our SDN controller and Big Cloud Fabric application.

Really? What happened to openness and disaggregation?

You might remember every overly-zealous SDN pundit or whitebox evangelist telling you networking sucks due to monolithic vertically-integrated solutions… and what happens when a startup ditches religion and turns to engineering to implement something that has a fighting chance of running in a production network? You get a vertically integrated solution because that’s the thing that you can make to work today as opposed to works-best-in-PowerPoint dreamland ideas we hear about all the time.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not trying to judge whether vertically integrated solutions are good or bad, and there are definite advantages of separating hardware from software licenses. All I’m saying is that once we get beyond meaningless claims that don’t have to be backed-up with something that works, you can’t get rid of lock-in and whitebox switching remains primarily a margin shifting exercise.


  1. Couldn't agree more. White box switching just moves the cost from upfront capex to long term opex.
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