Arista heading off Cisco/Insieme at 100G SDNs?

New 7500E programmable switch features triple speed 10/40/100G ports

Arista is raising the ante in high-density programmable core switching and perhaps setting the stage for things to come.

A day after HP and Brocade pitched programmable switches with high density 10/40G, Arista reloaded its 3-year-old 7500 switch with the 7500E, which among other goodies features 10/40/100G Ethernet interfaces -- on the same port. Arista also took the 10G server access density far beyond what Juniper claimed for QFabric in 2011, and what HP quadrupled this week: 100,000 servers in a two-tier design vs. HP's 24,000, and QFabric's 6,000 in a single-tier.

Arista says the 7500E can support more than 1 million VMs and software-defined automation through the switch's Extensible Operating System (EOS).

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

A programmable, high-density 100G Ethernet switch ... Sounds like something expected from Cisco's Insieme spin-in, which some say might be spun in and rolled out in the third or fourth quarter of this year.

"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 next move with Insieme."

The 7500E is a 30Tbps, 14 billion packets/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 performance specifications were impressive across the board," Casemore says.

The most unique aspect of the 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.

Four new line cards with the 7500E include 48x10G; 49x10G, plus two 100G; 36x40G; and 12x100G on the triple speed interfaces. Arista says there's no change to the 7500 chassis and power supplies, line cards can be mixed together, and 7500E supervisors and fabrics are optional upgrades for 7500 users.

Packet buffers on the 7500E are 144 Gigabytes per switch. It consumes less than 4 watts per port and can operate in Layer 2, Layer 3 and VXLAN configurations.

The switch will take Arista into new markets beyond financial and high-frequency trading, company officials say. The switch is aimed at migrating existing infrastructures to cloud networks processing big data applications such as Hadoop, Web 2.0 and end-to-end VXLAN network virtualization.

"They've done well in (top-of-rack) switching, especially for low-latency applications, and this is a bid to bolster their strength in the spine," IDC's Casemore says. "They're aiming for wider market coverage with this offering, too, seeking to expand into the broader enterprise market."

Through the programmable EOS operating system, 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.

Jim Duffy has been covering technology for over 25 years, 21 at Network World. He also writes The Cisco Connection blog and can be reached on Twitter @Jim_Duffy.

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