Ubiquiti UniFi USW-Leaf Performance
The Ubiquiti UniFi USW-Leaf is a 1.8Tbps half/ 3.6Tbps full-duplex switch. That aligns with what many switch silicon vendors target. For those counting, 48x 25GbE + 6x 100GbE = 1.8Tbps half/ 3.6Tbps full-duplex.
Since this is not a review and is simply an overview, we will say that we were passing traffic at rated speeds over a number of ports including the 100GbE ports and sixteen 25GbE ports.
Ubiquiti UniFi USW-Leaf Power Consumption and Noise
Power consumption is rated at 350W at maximum loading. Both power supplies are also rated for 350W. We managed to get our switch in the 75-80W range when it was only passing management traffic and a single PSU while we would hit 85-90W when both PSUs were installed.
Although we expected the six-fan design to be loud, it surprisingly was not. It was certainly audible to the point you would not want to be in the same room. At the same time, it was quiet enough to put in an edge equipment closet. Compared to some of the 100GbE and even 40GbE switches we have in the lab, this was very quiet in comparison.
From a market expansion standpoint, Ubiquiti has the potential to be a true disruptor. Designs like this offer something truly unique.
We do have some reservations. If Ubiquiti wants to move into the enterprise data center space, they need to show that there is a basic minimum feature set. Missing features such as hot-swappable power supplies seem to be features that could be added at relatively low cost but go a long way in adding a specter of equivalency.
They also need to show product longevity. Processes like abruptly canceling products which the company has been known to do will keep many customers away. There are plenty of organizations that will pay more just to have something that they know will be re-orderable. Many customers in this space are also accustomed to having access to higher-touch support than UniFi products typically offer.
From a software perspective, the networking world is accustomed to features such as TFTP boot. Frankly, one of the most interesting things Ubiquiti could have done is built an Open Network Install Environment switch with SONiC support. It could then integrate SONiC via APIs into its software stack. If enterprise buyers knew that a switch was a well-known open OS underneath, it would help mitigate fears of future support. With that said, companies like Dell EMC and Quanta are actively investing in SONiC so it has a ton of momentum. Bringing a solution like that and putting low-cost hardware in place could raise many eyebrows in the industry.
To take the market by storm with a product like this, Ubiquiti has to address a fundamental aspect to data center hardware: trust. Buyers want to trust the hardware. That is why even if power supplies and fans are reliable, having hot-swappable components allows a buyer to trust that they can swap something out if things go wrong. Buyers want to trust that the software is reliable for the intended application. UniFi for Wi-Fi sure, but for data center switching for the feature sets one wants on 25GbE switches Ubiquiti has to spend the time getting the market comfortable. That is a hurdle SONiC would have cleared for them. Ubiquiti also needs to be seen as a trusted data center partner and show it can maintain stable product lifecycles. There are gaps, and these gaps are why we are not going to see a fast and massive USW-Leaf adoption in the market. These are not important to all buyers, but to those who have heavy 25GbE workloads, they are more important than in the SMB space.
Still, let us be clear. This is a new 25GbE plus 100GbE switch that costs less than second-hand switches with the same port counts. There are customers that will buy them solely for that reason. At $2000 you are making trade-offs, but you expect to at this price. Even at $2000, there are plenty of reasons that make it hard for us to rate it as a must-buy just on price and basic functionality grounds. Still, there are a lot of markets that are going to be perfectly happy with this feature set. For those markets, the USW-Leaf is going to be a category changing product bringing 25GbE and 100GbE to markets currently being serviced by 10GbE/ 40GbE.
We think that the USW-Leaf is a great idea, but the concept needs some refinement to get the right balance. Perhaps, for example, it needs to be on a different software stack/ product line instead of being integrated with UniFi. The idea of low-cost top-of-rack networking is already in the market. Hyper-scale customers years ago decided they wanted to use merchant silicon and then use a NOS that they have more control over. Those two factors have pushed the open networking trend and lower margins in these product areas in the sacle out space.
One thing is for certain, after using the USW-Leaf, we are excited for subsequent iterations of the product line from Ubiquiti. This is a great direction, that simply needs some help. We wanted to post this overview with some feedback so Ubiquiti can get our feedback while at the same time letting potential buyers know more about the switch before spending $2000 on it. Many of the markets that find the $2000 price tag attractive are also the most sensitive. We hope this overview helps the STH community and the broader community as Ubiquiti refines the product.