Other companies differentiate by being first to market. Penguin Computing’s new Arctica switch became the first platform to support Cumulus Networks’ RMP Operating System. If you want to be the first one on the block, they’re ready to help you out.
Mainstream firms such as Cisco also use common network processors, but as I mentioned in a previous blog, software (OS, network stack) is key differentiator, as well as the classic support and service one expects.
So non-obvious differentiators such as designing custom form-factors and being agile in adopting new platforms augment the differences in software. The playbook is: “Make use of popular parts inside, with the customer-specific experience on the outside.”
A famous comedy TV show had an episode where we saw a soup shop owner who wanted all customers to order the same way. Otherwise, it was “No soup for you!” But instead, we have “Any soup for you?”