Cisco fabric launch seeks to undermine Arista, IBM

No new products, but a commissioned test to crow about

In an effort to thwart the momentum of Arista Networks and IBM's BLADE Network Technologies business, Cisco this week announced what it claims is the first high-performance trading fabric optimized for the financial markets industry.

Cisco's High-Performance Trading Fabric includes existing switching products like the recently-announced Nexus 3064 and 5500 platforms. The company says it combines data center switching, storage and compute technologies into a single system to enhance performance.

Cisco also commissioned tests of the fabric, conducted by Miercom, that it claims show it outperforming Arista and BLADE switches in latency and jitter. Cisco also claims the Miercom tests highlight differences in software features, such as Layer 2/3 switching and routing, and management, required for high-performance trading, and that many of these features are only available on the Cisco fabric.

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As for Arista, its vice president, Douglas Gourlay, says in an e-mail: "Arista is the leader in low-latency switching for the financial services industry with 50% lower latency, and critical capabilities that the global financial industry depends on such as Latency Analyzer, a rich L3 feature set, and proven interoperability in the world's trading environments."

IBM was not available for immediate comment. But analysts say Arista's progress in financial markets has caught Cisco's attention.

"Cisco is worried about Arista in that market," says Zeus Kerravala of the Yankee Group. "But it's a little out of character for Cisco to respond like this," with the High-Performance Trading Fabric launch. "Cisco's always believed as goes Wall Street, so goes the rest of the world - it drives sales in other verticals. If you want to see where networks go, go to Wall Street."

Other features of the Cisco fabric are the ability to handle volatile periods of market activity without loss; no packet loss during bursts of traffic; partnerships with vendors specifically targeting low-latency market data delivery; and security features such as ingress VLAN Access Control Lists and Private VLANs.

Juniper, which is a key fabric switch vendor to the New York Stock Exchange, was not cited in the Cisco High-Performance Trading Fabric announcement. Also, Cisco watchers are still awaiting the company's "Jawbreaker" next-generation data center fabric launch.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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