Open Compute Project-certified switches sit atop the bare-metal throne

Bare-metal devices in the second quarter attained market-leading growth in the data center (DC) switching business, with revenue rising 32 percent compared to a year earlier as DC operators increasingly embrace commoditized hardware.

Global revenue for bare-metal switches handily outgrew the markets for legacy switches during the quarter, according to IHS Markit | Technology, now a part of Informa Tech. Growth in this area will continue in the future, with bare-metal switches expected to account for 34 percent of all DC ports shipped in 2023, up from 20 percent in 2018, as noted by the Data Center Network Equipment Market Tracker - Q2 2019 report.

The DC network switching market has been stable for an extended period due to various factors, including the evolution of networking software, increased availability of higher port speeds, declining price-per-port characteristics and the acceptance of open and standardized switch hardware. Consequently, bare-metal switches have been flourishing in the DC networking market compared to competitive legacy switches, such as general-purpose and purpose-built models.

“The bare-metal switch segment is projected to undergo long-term growth as hyperscalers, second-tier cloud service providers (CSPs), telcos and large enterprises expand their deployment of commoditized hardware,” said Devan Adams, principal analyst at IHS Markit | Technology.

OCP takes the lead

The growth experienced by the bare metal segment is also propelling Open Compute Project (OCP) certified switches, whose popularity is increasing along with that of disaggregated hardware and software solutions.

OCP switch adoption isn’t expected to slow down anytime soon as the number of respondents planning to use OCP-certified switches in their DC networks is expected to increase 14 percentage points from 2018 to 2019, according to results from our latest Data Center Network Strategies North American Enterprise Survey - 2018 .

Vendors’ OCP-certified switches sold in the DC market garnered $221 million in revenue in the second quarter, amounting to a 55 percent bare-metal share. This is up noticeably from the 34 percent share in the second quarter of 2018. Revenue from vendors’ OCP-certified switches, which doubled year-over-year from the second quarter of 2018 to the second quarter of 2019, is expected to continue to rise as more vendors introduce OCP-certified switches.

Revenue will also be propelled by rising demand for open, merchant-silicon-based switches and lower-cost DC switches—all characteristics exhibited by OCP models.

Final Takeaways

The growth experienced by the bare-metal switch segment is due to several factors, including DC capex reduction directives, ramping software defined networking (SDN) deployments and rising adoption of merchant-based and programmable switch silicon. These same developments are bringing OCP-certified switches into the networking limelight and boosting their deployments in DC networks.

“This year’s survey results and the latest DC networking market tracker confirm that OCP-certified switches have moved past the trial and wait-and-see phases,” Adams said. “Customers now are confident in them and are deploying them in critical parts of their DC networks.”

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