Arista’s new solutions sets the standard for cloud scale

When it comes to the cloud's impact on the network, there are two things I hear over and over again that I disagree with. The first is that the cloud commoditizes the network. This actually dovetails into the second fallacy where some believe that merchant silicon based products offer no differentiation and “good enough” will become the norm where price is the only way to compete.  

I do believe the cloud will have a negative effect on many technologies, such as spinning disks (not flash) and rack mount servers, but the network does not fall into this category.

With the cloud, the network matters more than ever. In fact, the network will be one of the competitive differentiators for cloud providers and enterprises building out their own private or hybrid clouds. A good enough network means a good enough cloud experience, where a high quality, agile network enables greater cloud performance. Don’t get me wrong, the network needs to change from the monolithic, hardware centric solutions available today to something more agile with the ability to scale up and out at “cloud speed” but it’s more important than ever.

One company that has been wildly successful leveraging software innovation on merchant silicon is Arista Networks and this week it announced new hardware and software for its R series that set a new high water market for cloud scale. The latest products also support Arista’s AlgoMatch feature to bring greater flexibility to Arista switches.

As I pointed out in this post, AlgoMatch was first introduced on the Cavium based 7160 series. When that series was announced, it was clear that AlgoMatch was a feature based on Cavium’s flexible pipeline architecture but somehow Arista was able to replicate this feature on its Jericho+ based R series products. Since its inception, Arista has stated that its differentiation was in software and its ability to deliver something like AlgoMatch on Broadcom is a testament to that.

The newest member of the 7500R Universal Spine series is the 7516R, which is a beast of a switch. The product has 16 slots with a total capacity of over 150 TB and 576 100G ports. In addition to AlgoMatch, the 7516R supports FlexRoute, previously introduced with the 7280R. The feature enables IP forwarding capacity of over 1 million routes. The 7516R was beefed up and can now support over 2 million routes. Given a full internet routing table is a shade under 700 routes, the new switch provides enough headroom for years of growth. Alternatively, a service provider or other organization could create an entire copy of the routing table in memory to perform some kind of analytics or other function without disrupting current operations.

Additionally, Arista also announced a number of new line cards for the 7500R family. The following are the three configurations of line cards:

  • 36 100G QSFP MACsec ports
  • 36 100G QSFP ports
  • 48 10/25G-SFP + 2x100G ports

The new line cards support lossless architecture enabled by deep buffers with Virtual Output Queuing, FlexRoute with 1M and 2M options and AlgoMatch for telemetry.   The latest line cards provide existing 7500R series customer’s investment protection as they can take advantage of the new features without doing a forklift upgrade. This is another example of how software innovation is enabling Arista’s customers the ability to evolve the network quickly.

One more note on AlgoMatch. With the introduction of the feature on the 7500R series, Arista added a number of new capabilities including high-rate sFlow with flow state streaming designed for 100G.

Now to be outdone by the Universal Spine, the 7280R2 Universal Leaf platforms also got an upgrade. Arista announced a 2-RU product that has 60 100G QSFP ports, a 1-RU switch with 30 100G QSFP ports and 1-RU switch with 48 10/25G-SFP and 6 100G QSFP ports. Like it’s Spine counterpart, the new Leaf switches have deep buffer capabilities, FlexRoute with 1M and 2M options and AlgoMatch.

Put the new Universal Leaf and Spine products together and you have a spine/leaf network with a whopping 15 Petabit/sec of capacity across the spine that can support over 1M servers and over 10M VMs. The network can handle 3x the Internet routing table, 10x the number of ACLs and 100x the sFlow rate of previous generations. This is ideal for cloud providers, service providers and large enterprises that need the ability to scale up and out quickly.

The new products have some interesting implications for Arista’s network security capabilities. In no way do I believe Arista will take share from any of the leading security vendors but the new R series can be used for better DDoS protection through high rate sFlow, data protection with MACsec and the ability to spot an unauthorized network TAP with DANZ. I woudn’t call Arista a security vendor, rather a network vendor that can enable the network to be more secure. These capabilities can actually complement an organization's current security strategies.

All of the new products except the 7516 are available now with the new switch being generally available in the back half of 2017. Arista provided no pricing but did state that the price per port would be in line with current products.

Back to my original point, the network absolutely matters with the cloud and commoditization is a long way off. The new additions to the R series family from Arista prove that as they continue to show that software innovation on merchant silicon can provide significant differentiation.

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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