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Myth-busting: White-box Switches are No Bargain

In the last episode of our myth-busting series, Cisco SDN expert Frank D’Agostino and I are debunking the myth of the bargain priced white-box switch. White boxes aren’t a new subject in the market, but customers are just now starting to evaluate them for return on investment. So, where to start? When considering a white-box deployment, it is crucial to do all of the math. You must consider both the capital costs and the ongoing operational costs of this type of solution.

Two independent reports show that the up-front cost savings of a white-box switch are marginal as compared to those of traditional vendors. Deutsche Bank published “Whitebox Switches are Not Exactly a Bargain” in 2013, while Forrester Research recently released a study titled, “The Myth of White-Box Network Switches,” (February 20, 2015).

While the cost of a white-box and traditional switch are fairly similar from a capital expenditure point of view, Cisco analysis shows that white-box switches are more expensive when you include operational expenditures, such as the integration of third party software, tools and support costs. In fact, these real-life deployment factors can result in a total cost of ownership for Cisco that is approximately 20-30 percent less expensive than the full deployment of white-box switches.

Bottom line: White-box switches have hidden costs that make them more expensive than traditional switches when fully deployed. When you add up the cost of hardware, third-party software, integration and support, they are clearly no bargain. Check out our video conversation for more on this topic.


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Interop 2015 : ITD is Best of Interop finalist


ITD (Intelligent Traffic Director) has been selected in Top 3 finalists in the Best of Interop 2015 Data Center category. ITD Delivers:

  • $2 Billion TAM disruptive technology: This technology innovation disrupts today’s $2 Billion TAM for load-balancers, redirection and clustering solutions
  • 100x Scale improvement: The high-end load-balancers today can handle about 200Gbps traffic. ITD can load-balance 20Tbps traffic.
  • 1000x cost-savings for customers: A 40Gbps L4 load-balancer costs about $200k to customers. ITD provides multi-Tbps load-balancing for a fraction of the price.
  • Zero Latency: ITD performs load-balancing, redirection, NAT and access control, all in one-clock cycle in hardware, hence it introduces zero latency.
  • 10x OPEX savings : Order of magnitude reduction in configuration, and ease of deployment
  • Overall CAPEX savings : Wiring, Power, Rackspace and Cost savings
  • 70+ customers interested in deploying within 1 month of shipping.
  • 10x High availability : N + M redundancy, health-monitoring and automatic failure handling
  • $15 Billion install-base can be leveraged: The technology has humongous market capture potential. It works on existing hardware. $15 Billion install-base of Nexus switches is able to use this technology.
  • 30+ patentable ideas: ITD has unprecedented innovations.

Cisco ITD (Intelligent Traffic Director) is a hardware based multi-Tbps Layer 4 load balancing, traffic steering and clustering solution on Nexus 9K/7K/6K/5K series of switches. It supports IP-stickiness, resiliency, NAT, (EFT), VIP, health monitoring, sophisticated failure handling policies, N+M redundancy, IPv4, IPv6, VRF, weighted load-balancing, bi-directional flow-coherency, and IPSLA probes including DNS. There is no service module or external appliance needed.


ITD has a lot of different types of use-cases. Some of these are:

  1. Create a multi-Tbps Firewall
  2. Create a multi-Tbps Video-cache
  3. Firewall/IPS/IDS/WAF load-balancing.
  4. Web Server load-balancing
  5. Application server load-balancing
  6. Replace WCCP. Redirect and Load-balancing traffic to Web-cache, WAAS, WAE
  7. Traffic steering to VDS/video-cache/Professional Media Network devices
  8. Load-balance to Hadoop/Big-data cluster.
  9. load-balancing to mobile equipment
  10. Load-balancing to Layer 7 load-balancers
  11. Replace legacy features such as ECMP, port-channel, PBR, etc

Recording of the presentation


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Myth-busting: Is Cisco’s Approach to SDN Open?

In our continuing myth-busting series, Cisco SDN expert Frank D’Agostino and I are debunking trendy technology myths around SDN.

The more I speak to customers these days, the more I hear them talk about open. Customers want an infrastructure that is programmable and based on open standards. They want rapid feature integration and network automation. And they’re looking to take advantage of third-party tools and existing assets, and integrate them efficiently and cost-effectively into a modern network.

To address these needs, Cisco has modernized our operating system NX-OS through programmability, provided open northbound and southbound APIs for ACI, and established an open Partner Ecosystem—which even includes some of our competitors—for the integration of third-party tools.

But that’s not all. Cisco has a history of contributing technology innovations to open and standards initiatives, and things are no different with SDN. In the past year, for example, we’ve opened up and published our ACI interfaces and have contributed ACI’s Group Based Policy model to OpenDayLight and OpenStack.  We’ve also published the OpFlex standard to the IETF and worked with the open source community to provide a reference implementation of the OpFlex agent, which is leveraged by the OpenStack and Linux communities. In addition, we’ve created an open model to enhance SDN network agility and make it easier for customers to manage virtual machines using BGP-EVPN (which stand for Border Gateway Protocol and Ethernet Virtual Private Network respectively) with VXLAN. Our goal is to provide openness and scale in a multi-vendor environment.

Bottom line: Cisco embraces an open approach through open APIs, open standards, open source contributions. Customers benefit because they can integrate with their existing tools and appliances, and that really represents true investment protection.

We look forward to reading your comments and feedback.

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How and Why We Created “Software Defined Networking for Dummies”

SDN for DummiesLast week we launched our new book, Software Defined Networking for Dummies, which I wrote the vast majority of and was responsible for producing. And the response to date has been far more enthusiastic than even I anticipated. The feedback from the Cisco field has been great, and there is strong demand for reprints across all regions and localization in a number of languages. [Printed copies can now be ordered from the Cisco Collateral Store at nominal cost here.]

Naturally, we’ve also gotten a number of questions, such as “Does this mean we think SDN is for Dummies?”, “Do we think our customers are Dummies?”, “Why did Cisco decide to leverage the Dummies brand for this topic?”, etc. In order to clear some of this up, the social media team asked me to write a bit of the backstory of the creation of the book, why we decided to do it, and why it’s proving to be such a popular asset.

It all started when I was looking to fill a large gap in Cisco product marketing, particularly around SDN and our Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI). SDN has certainly proven to be a revolutionary break from traditional networking architectures and is really changing the way organizations think about their IT processes and how they design data centers. With all this change, it’s been hard for a lot of people to get their heads around what this new technology trend is really all about. When Cisco introduced ACI as a very sophisticated and comprehensive SDN solution, there’s no doubt it took people a lot of time to understand ACI, how it was similar to SDN, and where it was introducing new innovative concepts.  Read More »

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Myth-busting: ACI or NSX, which is the Real SDN Leader?

I speak with customers every day and often hear they are confused by conflicting vendor claims, marketing hype and embellishments. This is especially true when discussing SDN, where both the technology and the market have evolved significantly over the past few years.

I’ve invited Frank D’Agostino, one of Cisco’s top technical experts on SDN, to join me in separating fact from fiction. Frank and I are on a mission to debunk trendy technology myths, and this is the first in a three-part video series that we’ll bring to you over the next week.

In this first episode, Frank and I discuss the differences between Cisco’s ACI and VMware’s NSX. Frank is in a unique position to discuss both technologies, since he’s the only expert that has been deeply involved in the development of both NSX and ACI.

We think that ACI and Nexus is the most complete solution on the market. It does everything customers want from SDN, while offering more capabilities than NSX, and being two to three times less costly in typical customer configurations.

Cisco also collaborates very closely with our customers on technology, and we work with a wide variety of industry leaders, including competitors, to offer the best level of technology integration and interoperability. The reality is that the choice between ACI or NSX is not “either or:” if customers want both, NSX can run on ACI just like any other application, and in fact NSX will run better over an ACI infrastructure than over any other infrastructure on the market.

Take a look at our first video below, and then compare for yourself which solution makes the most sense from the perspective of cost, performance, scalability, and features.

We look forward to reading your comments and feedback.

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