Sources: Google Taps 10GigE ODMs

Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)'s search for 10-Gbit/s Ethernet switches has taken it to Taiwanese original design manufacturers (ODMs), sources say, a further indication that certain types of 10-Gbit/s equipment are following their gigabit predecessors into commodity status.

A recent report from Nyquist Capital indicated that Google, which builds some of its own servers, has also built its own 10-Gbit/s switches, possibly using Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM) chips. (See Google Goes DIY With 10 GigE.)

Now other sources, requesting anonymity, say Google is considering ODM designs, too. One source says Google may have two or three ODM candidates in mind.

Another source says Quanta Computer Inc. , a large ODM better known for notebook computers, is headed to the Bay Area in mid-December to show Google a 10-Gbit/s switch based on chips from Applied Micro Circuits Corp. (Nasdaq: AMCC) and Marvell Technology Group Ltd. (Nasdaq: MRVL).

A Google spokeswoman says the company doesn't comment on its infrastructure activities.

Most sources assume Google wants to compare the ODM boxes to its own switch, or use them as second sources. But some are speculating that Google's "own" switch is itself an ODM design.

Either way, the fact that ODMs are getting into 10-Gbit/s Ethernet switches could be a harbinger of price drops and the usual commoditization that comes with the Ethernet name.

Conventional wisdom in Ethernet circles says low-end stackable switches tend to get cheap quickly, becoming a market left to ODMs. By scouting ODMs now, Google might be trying to get in on that process early.

One source thinks Google's moves are more a jab at Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), which dominates the 10-Gbit/s Ethernet market. "With 10 Gbit/s Ethernet, you're kind of a slave to Cisco and their IOS. You have to buy their modules," the source says.

Most in the industry agree Google is probably looking to build just workgroup switches -- little, simple ones -- as opposed to the bigger, more complex switches. That would be a sigh of relief for vendors such as Force10 Networks Inc. (which touted Google as an early customer) or Woven Systems Inc. -- both of which deal in high-end systems.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

Hanover_Fist 12/5/2012 | 2:58:28 PM
re: Sources: Google Taps 10GigE ODMs Butter or Parkay...is there a real difference between Enterprise and Workgroup switches?

All 'value-add' positioning aside, a fixed configuration system can be nothing more than a stand-alone modular line card stripped from the chassis, wrapped in its own sheet metal and married to a power supply.

You can bet that Google knows this and doesn't buy into the manufactured (pun intended here) 'difference' argument about price per port and/or the requirements of value-add features.

Google has been involved in data center design long enough to engineer their own switch design and have an off-shore ODM follow that switch recipe.

I'd wager that they will build an "enterprise" class product because they'll likely target the highest possible densities at the lowest possible price.

Can you say 1000's of ports of Gigabit Ethernet collected and collapsed into 100's of ports of 10 Gigabit Ethernet?

The writing is surely on the wall.

Stevery 12/5/2012 | 2:58:27 PM
re: Sources: Google Taps 10GigE ODMs "With 10 Gbit/s Ethernet, you're kind of a slave to Cisco and their IOS. You have to buy their modules," the source says.

The best part? Cisco et al have forced commoditization of the module components, which now makes a DIY approach screamingly cheap. And the vendors are interchangeable.

It had to happen sooner or later. JDS and crowd have to be loving this development.

The only question in my head is how many other big companies follow suit.
opticalwatcher 12/5/2012 | 2:58:27 PM
re: Sources: Google Taps 10GigE ODMs Considering the all-in-one 24 and 48 port 10GigE chips being sold by the likes of Broadcom and Fulcrum, it is hardly suprising that it is possible to build a really cheap, really simple box that basically just powers up this one chip.

If such a product doesn't exist, then it certainly makes sense for Google to build their own (and considering the board designers they've been hiring, I'm sure that's what they did). But Google isn't in the GigE switch business, so I'm sure they'd rather someone else build these things. There's no reason an ODM couldn't more easily build and sell them for less than Google's total costs of building their own.

As was mentioned in the article, these are good for connecting your own servers together, but don't support all the various ACLs, protocols, etc. required to interface with the outside world.
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