Attending a side meeting during the Open Networking Summit, I asked an
industry insider (principal of a startup specializing in OpenFlow
controllers) which Ethernet switches we should be considering for our
next campus upgrade. His response included not vendors or model numbers,
but a description of the capabilities of a new chipset. He was talking
about merchant silicon, not the product road map of any switch vendor.
This conversation starts to mirror those between a hypervisor vendor
(e.g., VMware) and someone planning for their next data center upgrade.
It’s not which model Dell or HP to consider but rather which CPU
architecture provides the best performance and features.

Today Ethernet switch vendors are more likely to obscure their use of
merchant silicon, putting their baked-in network features and packaging
at the forefront. SDN, and open standards such as OpenFlow, are likely
to change both vendor and customer behavior. Want to see the future
dialog of switch vendors and customers? Observe how the data center
plans its next upgrade. I wonder the big vendors will carry a logo such
as “Broadcom inside” in the near future :-)