How Arista Networks got out in front of the SDN craze

Arista CEO Jayshree Ullal says 'cloud networking leader' complements Cisco

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Using merchant silicon versus custom ASICs, is there a limit to where that can take you?

I think custom ASICs have fallen behind by several years, and unless a vendor can build and compete against merchant silicon, there's no point in doing custom ASICs. It's something that the established vendors have to come to terms with, just like the server community did. There was a time when SPARC was sparkling for Sun, and then everybody had to embrace the x86 Intel world. A similar phenomenon and revolution is happening in networking.

But does it limit the speed at which you can develop your product?

No, actually, it's better. We were most scared when we were only beholden to one vendor. The way our software architecture works, 90% of our engineering is all software. Then there's a driver layer. The driver layer is where we customize to the silicon. Today we operate with Intel drivers, with Falcon drivers, with Broadcom drivers, we used to have a company called Dune that got acquired by Broadcom, you know, Marvel. The more drivers, the more we have the roadmap and the R&D of all the silicon vendors, because remember there are always risks. The biggest risk with the silicon vendors is if they miss a cycle. They don't miss it by one or two weeks. They often miss by one or two years, whether they work for you inside the company or outside. We like the fact that we have drivers and have developed drivers over time for all these chip vendors.

What's ahead for Arista in 2013?

Expect to see more capacity, more software, more of everything, and the replacement of our older products. Second, expect us to continue to be application focused, because that's where we think we get appreciated. If it's a straight, traditional network, where nobody gets fired for buying IBM or Cisco, that's not where Arista shines. Arista will continue to provide thought leadership, like we did with high-frequency trading, and like we do now with big data and network virtualization. We're very excited when we think of the number of things we have to do in the software and application world, and prioritizing them, there's so much ahead of us.

Last question: the classic elevator situation. You've got 15 floors with a CIO. You tell them what about Arista?

We're the best-of-breed data center and cloud networking alternative in the market. We're not a cost center, we are an enabler of applications. There are people in high-frequency trading who have told us: "We make $2 million a day on your boxes." In a nutshell, that's what I would say. We are the thought leader in cloud networking, we enable the applications and we save you CAPEX and OPEX.


Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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