Deconstructing White Box Pricing

The issue with Cost Comparisons

As Open Networking has grown, we see discussions about the cost of “white box” vs vendor switches and questions if the difference in cost is real.

Vendor boxes such as the Juniper QFX3500 QFX5100, Cisco Nexus 3172, Brocade ICX 7750 are compared against ODM boxes such as the Edge-Core 5712-54x and Quanta T3048-LY8.

The numbers provided in many of the reports are cursory and not exposing some of the issues IT decision makers have to address.

Devices Covered in this Article

I looked at a few comparable devices and their associated costs including hardware, software and support.  The devices are the following:

Juniper QFX3500 QFX5100 (it has been pointed out that the 3500 is a Trident+ and I should really compare the 5100 which is a TridentII).

Cisco Nexus 3172

Brocade ICX 7750

Pica8 5101 (it has been pointed out that the 5101 uses a Freescale P2020 dual-core CPU, the only non-x86 CPU box listed)

Edge-Core AS5712-54x (running either Cumulus Linux or Pica8 PicOS)

Licensing and Support

When you buy a license for Cumulus Networks Cumulus Linux, You are also provided with a network operating system with full L3 routing features.  You are also provided with 24×7 support as part of the license.

With Juniper’s QFX3500 QFX5100 you get L3 routing features, and with the Cisco Nexus and Brocade’s ICX 7750, you get a base L2 OS with limited L3 features,  None of these products include support.

Pica8 like Cisco, sells their OS and in different flavors, an L2 and a full L3 version.  Pica8 does not bundle support with their software license.

All of the vendors offer support running anywhere from $800-$1600 a year and offering either software only or software and hardware support.

Creating the Comparison

I use the word reasonable to mean that the products are generally the same and that the comparison is as close as possible

A reasonable comparison between a Cisco Nexus 3172 at $14,000 with no support and no software would be a Edge-Core AS5712-54x at $6750 running Pica8 L2 software for $2199 and a total of $8949 making it 36% less.

A reasonable comparison between a Cisco Nexus 3172 with L3 software ($19,000) a Juniper QFX5100 ($21,000) or a Brocade ICX 7750 with L3 Software  ($20,000) with no support  would be Edge-Core AS5712-54x at $6750 running Pica8 L3 software for $3199 and a total of $9949. Or you can buy a bundled version of the P5101 from Netgate for $9940 a ~50% difference.

A reasonable comparison between a Cisco Nexus 3172 with 5 years 8x5xNBD support and L3 software (total cost $24,000), a Juniper QFX5100 with 8x5xNBD support (total cost $27,500) or a Brocade ICX 7750 with L3 and 8x5xNBD support (total cost ($23,420) would be a Pica8 P5101 with a Pica8 L3 license and support for $14,410 or  Edge-Core AS5712-54x at $6750 running Cumulus Linux for $4,499 for a total of $11,249 a minimum of 50% less.


No matter how you run the numbers, the difference is significant, with a ODM solution being 45% (fully loaded with 5 years support) to 64% (a basic L2 switch) of the cost (from most to least expensive) of the Juniper QFX5100Cisco Nexus 3172,  or a Brocade ICX 7750


Changing out the Juniper QFX3500 for the QFX5100 added about $2500 to the price.

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