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December 2013 Vol. 4 / No.6

Bare metal switches: Will merchant silicon take over networking?

Half a decade ago, the Barenaked Ladies played at Cisco Live in Orlando. I skipped the performance because I have good taste. Today I can't help but wonder if Cisco was prescient with its choice of mediocre musical entertainment, because the networking industry is baring it all. A growing number of vendors are promoting networking architectures that decouple software from hardware and run on bare-metal switches. It's easier to do this now that merchant silicon vendors like Broadcom and Intel are ramping up the processing power of off-the-shelf chips for network hardware. The trend is similar to what happened in the compute market when x86 operating systems were decoupled from bare-metal servers. Companies like Cumulus Networks, Pica8 and Big Switch Networks are all selling network operating systems designed to run on bare-metal switches. In a perfect world, these vendors don't want anything to do with hardware. They'd rather sell you software and services and have you buy your own switches from Accton, Penguin Computing or ...

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