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The cloud's the limit for new Arista, Brocade and HP switches

Arista, HP and Brocade add scale, virtualization hooks to take platforms beyond the data center and raise the bar for forthcoming Cisco/ Insieme products.

By , Network World
May 06, 2013 06:06 AM ET

Network World - Cloud scaling will be all the switching rage at this week’s Interop. Three major vendors last week took their platforms deeper into and then beyond the data center, outdueling each other on server access density and software programmability, two key attributes needed for the virtualized goldmine called the cloud. And in so doing, they have raised the bar and perhaps set the stage for one of the more anticipated announcements in SDN switching from Cisco spin-in Insieme.

Arista Networks, HP and Brocade unleashed new switches, modules and software, including SDN tools, designed to scale their platforms and fabric architectures into the hundreds of thousands of 10G-attached servers. The SDN tools are intended to enable automated provisioning and management of those large-scale environments through industry-blessed interfaces like OpenFlow and OpenStack.

Arista’s announcement of the 7500E modular spine switch, in particular, is leading to speculation on what Cisco’s Insieme spin-in might have coming later this year. Arista reloaded its 3-year-old 7500 with the 7500E, which among other goodies features 10/40/100G Ethernet interfaces – on the same port.

[AHEAD OF THE CURVE: How Arista Networks got out in front of the SDN craze]

The 7500E scales to 96 100G ports in a single 11 RU chassis, but Arista also took the 10G server access density far beyond what Juniper claimed for QFabric in 2011, and what HP quadrupled last week: 100,000 servers in a two-tier design vs. HP’s 24,000, and QFabric’s 6,000 in a single-tier.

“I think it is intended as a pre-emptive move on Arista's part,” says Brad Casemore, data center networking analyst at IDC. “It will be interesting to see whether they've anticipated Cisco's next move with Insieme.”

Some expect Cisco to spin-in Insieme and roll out its product line in the third or fourth quarter. Insieme is also believed to be working on a controller for its switches so they can be programmed in a Cisco ONE environment.

The 7500E is a 30Tbps, 14 billion packet/sec non-blocking switch housed in the same 11 RU chassis as the 7500. Densities per chassis are 1,152 10G, 288 40G or 96 100G Ethernet.

The most unique aspect of the Arista switch is its triple speed interfaces. They come 12 a board , and with embedded optics are software configurable between 10, 40 and 100G. Arista says these integrated optics in the line card modules offer a 10x reduction in the cost of deploying 100G – down to $10,000 per port, with optics.

Arista says the 7500E can support over a million VMs and software-defined automation through the switch’s Extensible Operating System (EOS). Through EOS, the 7500E supports Arista’s DANZ data analysis application for traffic visibility and tap-aggregation; Rapid Automated Indicator of Link-Loss (RAIL), for rapid convergence in big data analytics and Hadoop applications; VM Tracer, for network wide workload mobility; and Health Tracer, for switch level diagnostics and traceability of key performance indicators.

The 7500E series switches and line cards are available now. List prices start at $99,995 for the switch and $10,000 per 100G port, $2,200 per 40G and under $600 per 10G port.

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