A week after a report that Amazon Web Services was building its own bare-bones networking switch in a potential threat to networking powers like Cisco and Huawei, Cisco doesn’t worried after checking in with AWS CEO Andy Jassy.
Jassy and Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins had a “recent call” from which Robbins walked away satisfied that AWS wasn’t “actively building a commercial network switch,” Marketwatch reported Wednesday, citing a statement from Cisco that it confirmed as authentic with AWS. That follows a report last week from The Information that AWS was working on a so-called “white-box switch,” which the site portrayed as a frontal assault on Cisco that sent networking stocks slumping on a lazy summer Friday afternoon.
At the time, it seemed much more plausible that AWS had a different goal in mind with its skunkworks switch, which still could be just an experiment that never sees the light of day. White-box hardware is gear that is sold without a recognizable brand name, usually built from standard components that anyone can put together. It has existed for years in the server and networking markets, and while the trend might have siphoned some low-end business from the big vendors it hasn’t really hurt them; cloud computing has done way more damage to their growth trajectories than white boxes.
The key is that according to The Information, AWS plans to configure these switches with hooks into AWS’s cloud services. That would make them an attractive deal-sweetener for a company that wants to put some workloads in AWS but needs to maintain its own data centers for whatever reason, as opposed to a legitimate threat to the networking industry.
AWS, like most big cloud providers, has been building its own hardware for years under the direction of James Hamilton, who built the cloud leader’s infrastructure from scratch. Sharing that expertise with current or potential customers is one thing, but the notion of AWS sending armies of salespeople out to do battle with Cisco at data-center customers just doesn’t really hang together.
Note the “commercial network switch” language in Cisco’s statement. If AWS is really working on something, Robbins, who is definitely in the “commercial network switch” business, doesn’t see it as a threat.