Open Source Switch: How Much Do You Know?


Usually, most enterprises employ closed switches in the data center. However, with the increasing demands for customized hardware and software of the switch, the open source switch starts drawing companies’ attention. Well, what is open source switch? How many kinds of open source switch do you know? This article will give a thorough introduction to it and make a comparison of open source switches.

What Is Open Source Switch?

An open source switch is the network switch that runs an open network operating system (NOS). Its hardware and software are separate entities and can be changed independently. Therefore, the same hardware can support different operating systems or the same operating system can work on multiple hardware configurations. This allows vendors to customize or rebrand their open source switches by adding their own software. Moreover, bare metal switch, white box switch, and brite box switch are three kinds of commonly used open source switches in the market.

Picture of an open source switch
Figure 1:Open source switch

Open Source Switches Comparison

Are there any differences among bare metal switch, white box switch, and brite box switch? Some are not clear about these open source switches. The following will make a comparison of them.

Bare Metal Switch vs. White Box Switch

The bare metal switch is from original design manufacturers (ODMs) such as Alpha Networks or Accton. These companies design and manufacture products for many of the mainstream switch vendors. However, warranties offered by ODMs are just hardware based and very basic. That’s to say, the bare metal switch has no label, no operating system, and at a low cost. What’s more, it comes with a boot loader called the Open Network Install Environment (ONIE). Based on ONIE, consumers can load NOS onto the switch. And there are multiple operating systems, including Cumulus Linux, Big Switch Light, Pica8 Pic, etc.

The white box switch is the Gigabit Ethernet switch without a label. Basically, it comes with three types. The first type is the one whose OS and the hardware is completely separated. This type is just like a bare metal device. The second type of white box switches may be brought from the vendor who pays more attention to the service of hardware and OS. The third type has hardware and installed OS just like the branded switch, but it can be labeled with the brand of buyer’s company or with no brand labeled.

All in all, a white box switch differs from a bare metal switch in that it comes with an operating system installed.

White Box Switch vs. Brite Box Switches

Just as the bare metal switch, brite box switch is often used interchangeably with white box switch. White box switch is able to use generic, off-the-shelf switching, and routing hardware. Brite box switch is made by an ODM and is often the same switch offered by the ODMs as bare metal. However, it sports a front bezel with a brand name like HP or Dell that it supports a brand name of any reputed IT vendors. All in all, the brite box switch refers to the branded white box switch.

Bare Metal Switch vs. White Box Switch vs. Brite Box Switches: Which Is the Best?

As mentioned above, bare metal switch, brite box switch, and white box switch are all open source switch. They share some similarities, but they still have some differences. Bare metal switches mainly matter to commercial software providers. Brite box switch has the brand. Actually, white box switch has more advantages than bare metal switch and brite box switch. The white box switch is cost-effective and flexible, and its reliability is equivalent to the brand-name switch. More and more enterprises choose white box switch to customize the devices to their need.


The open source switch is more and more important in the networking industry. When choosing open source switches such as a bare metal switch, white box switch, and brite box switch, you’d better consider your needs. Any requirements for open source switch, including a 1G switch, 10G switch or 40G switch, please contact FS.COM.

Related Article: Open Switch vs Openvswitch: What’s the Difference?


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