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Is Cumulus Linux and White Box Switch Combination A Good Idea?

Today, enterprise organizations are facing the challenges of highly dynamic computing, storage and networking needs than ever before. They want to build data centers with efficiency, scalability, and flexibility for these increasing demands. In this quest for the perfect solution, an approach has been proposed, that is to deploy white box switch with Cumulus Linux operating system (OS). Is it a good idea? Here we will discuss it.

What Is White Box Switch?

White box switch is a data switch that is pre-loaded with minimal software or simply sold as a bare device. By using white box switches, IT staff can separate hardware-purchase decisions from software decisions. They can choose Linux or other OSes to manage the switch and network applications based on their own network demands and scales. This freedom of choice brings an open network installation environment and dramatically drives costs down.

Why Use White Box Switch with Cumulus Linux?

Most traditional switches’ OSes are highly locked and limited by traditional switch vendors like Cisco. Data centers have to pay a lot for new proprietary hardware or software. Besides, it takes a long time for vendors to develop new hardware which can satisfy the increasing network demands. Plus, with the development of white box switch, IT staffs hope to use an open network OS that can run on the white box switches. Under these reasons, Cumulus Linux is developed, which could be applied in white box switches and a variety of commodity hardware like Dell, Delta, HPE and so on. It helps users to unlock the network stack that they can choose the best hardware, applications, instead of using the expensive proprietary hardware. There is no vendor lock-in anymore, so the users can set up network architectures according to their specific requirements or scales. This helps to reduce CapEx and OpEX. Besides, Cumulus Linux provides standardized toolsets that are compatible with their hardware, so customers can use tools such as automation and others to improve efficiency.

Is Cumulus Linux and White Box Switch Combination A Good Idea?

Both Cumulus Linux and white box switch promises flexibility and lower costs, so should we all need to make the leap? It depends. For those small or medium size networks, they already have comprehensive support from the traditional vendors, and they don’t need to change or upgrade their networks frequently. Therefore, these enterprises don’t need to change the existing network devices for staying up-to-date with the trend. However, for those big data centers, they will quickly find the flexibility and cost-saving of Cumulus switches. In these places, Cumulus switches provide customers with affordable and flexible networking options.

Compared with the traditional network operating system (NOS) which is closed to users, Cumulus Linux provides an open network installation environment. Thus, users are no longer limited to one vendor’s hardware. Today, many network manufacturers like Delta, Accton are producing hardware like bare-metal hardware or white box switch. And the hardware can be built in all types, ranging from a Gigabit Ethernet switch or 10Gb Ethernet switch to 40G/100G switch. The switches that support Cumulus Linux allow users to choose the optical and electrical pluggable device they want to use, without using the software supported by the brand switch vendors. This conserves precious budgets.

Plus, Cumulus Linux helps users manage the switch with automation. Thus, all the configurations are stored in one place. Users don’t need to log into the switches when they need to make a change to different switches. They just make changes in one centralized repository, which makes upgrades much easier. Of course, network automation isn’t new. Big switch producers have their own automation tools. If users use their network OSes, they have to use the producers’ networking devices, too. This makes network operation fragile, complicated and expensive. However, white box switches with Cumulus Linux change it. Ansible, Chef, and Puppet are popular automation tools that run on Linux. This provides users with the flexibility to choose the applicable tool that works for their networks. Once you get Cumulus switches, you are free to choose your software and tools, instead of using expensive proprietary products. This will greatly reduce one’s network budget.


The combination of Cumulus Linux and white box switches helps users to set up networks with efficiency, scalability, and flexibility at a low cost. For big data centers, it’s an economical solution for reducing the cost and eliminating vendor lock-in. But for small or medium size networks without frequent upgrade demands, it’s not the best one. Therefore, customers should decide whether to use Cumulus switch or not according to their actual situations.

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