Enterprise Wi-Fi customers can now, for the first time, choose an access point from Column A and a network operating system from Column B. Even when both options happen to be on two different suppliers’ menus. It’s all made possible with new offerings from white-box Wi-Fi pioneers Mojo Networks and EdgeCore Networks.
The Wi-Fi access points that Mojo Networks and EdgeCore Networks offer to enterprise clients are actually encased in white boxes. But don’t let that fool you. Because they’re not actually white-box Wi-Fi APs.
At least, they weren’t. Until now.
This week, the two companies ushered in a new era of choice, announcing the industry’s first-ever multivendor, mix-and-match hardware-and-software combinations for Wi-Fi deployments. Enterprise IT buyers can choose to run Mojo’s network operating system, or NOS, on either Mojo or EdgeCore APs – or a mix of both companies’ devices – for a given installation. As well, the two vendors laid the groundwork for customers to run other NOS offerings on those same APs.
The term “white box” was coined about 30 years ago, when value-added resellers, or VARs, began assembling and deploying personal computers that were custom-configured to clients’ specifications. The term was a reference to the systems’ non-descript, off-the-shelf rectangular cases, most of which were white or off-white. In an age where just a few big brands like IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Compaq dominated the enterprise market, “white-box” PCs were compelling because they offered unprecedented choice at compelling prices too low for the blue chips to approach.
The term is no less relevant today, covering mix-and-match alternatives at compelling prices in myriad technology markets, from servers to DVRs, and airport kiosks to network switches.
And, as of this week, Wi-Fi.
Mojo and EdgeCore foreshadowed this week’s announcement three months ago, when they showcased the first large-scale white-box Wi-Fi installation in action at the Open Compute Project’s US Summit. On a rainy March day in San Jose, APs from both Mojo and EdgeCore – managed by Mojo’s NOS – blanketed the OCP Summit trade show floor with coverage for the show’s 3400 attendees.
If successful, the open platform will lure more hardware and software players into the white-box fold, helping propel the platform into the thick of enterprise buyers’ deployment plans. In the meantime, industry stalwarts like Cisco and HP Enterprise’s Aruba Networks are starting to see the white-box writing on the wall. In their own way, each of them has been giving a nod to the concept – though in reality, neither is close to joining the fray with open hardware or portable software.
In the meantime, Mojo and EdgeCore have taken a crucial first step in laying the groundwork for cost-plus network deployments that give enterprise buyers the luxury of choice. And in offering some relief for their stretched wireless budgets.
So does that make Mojo and EdgeCore White-Box Heroes? I think so. And I suspect that many IT decisionmakers overseeing network deployments will come to agree.
Mike Feibus is President and Principal Analyst at FeibusTech, a market research firm with coverage areas that include wireless technologies, privacy and security. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @MikeFeibus.