News & Insights for the AI Journey|Wednesday, November 20, 2019
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Open Compute Switches Flood Datacenters 

Datacenter operators increasingly turning to commodity hardware are embracing bare-metal provisioning of switching gear certified by the Open Compute Project, according to a quarterly market survey.

IHS Markit reported this week that bare-metal switching gear based on OCP specifications are making steady headway in datacenters, outpacing legacy switching technologies during the second quarter of 2019. Demand for OCP-certified switches running on datacenter networks is expected to jump 14 percent year-on-year.

Through 2023, the market watcher estimates bare-metal switches are expected to account for about one-third of all datacenter network ports shipped, up from 20 percent in 2018.

“The bare-metal switch segment is projected to undergo long-term growth as hyper-scalers, second-tier cloud service providers, telcos and large enterprises expand their deployment of commoditized hardware,” said IHS analyst Devan Adams.

The popularity of OCP-certified switches is driving datacenter growth, along with the steady shift to disaggregated hardware and software platforms, IHS said.

OCP-certified switching gear accounted for 55 percent of bare-metal switch sales to datacenter operators during the second quarter, the market tracker reported. Estimated quarterly revenues totaled $221 million. IHS said it expects that trend to continue as more commodity hardware is installed in a growing number of datacenters.

The shift to bare-metal switches and other commodity hardware is driven by reduced capital spending by datacenter operators as data volumes soar. “A main concern of hyperscale datacenters is keeping costs down while scaling to meet exponential traffic growth,” noted Michael Klempa of the University of New Hampshire’s InterOperability Laboratory.

The lab is working with vendors to develop new, open network connectors for add-in cards.

Along with addressing cost considerations, datacenter operators are also adopting programmable switching silicon. Other incentives include accelerated deployment of software-defined networking and a preference for switch silicon from specific vendors

“These same developments are bringing OCP-certified switches into the networking limelight and boosting their deployments in [datacenter] networks,” IHS said.

OCP members have been partnering over the last 18 months to develop new network adapters and programmable switches aimed at cloud, HPC and storage as well as datacenter applications.

Along with bare-metal provisioning and automated configuration management, member companies have focused network hardware and software development on open, disaggregated network technology stacks as well as Linux-based operating systems, developer tools and ReST APIs.

A list of OCP networking projects is here.

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).

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