Arista Introduces New Switches to Support Campus Networks Initiative

Arista is bringing new switches and a cloud approach to campus networks in a move that will broaden its reach beyond the data center and increase its competition with Cisco.

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Arista Networks’ expansion of its networking portfolio from the data center out to the campus will give enterprises more options in what is becoming an increasingly important part of their infrastructures and open up a new front in the vendor’s ongoing competition with rival Cisco Systems.

 At the company’s analyst meeting this month, Arista officials unveiled their first products aimed at campus networks, including two new switches that are designed to reduce network complexity by collapsing what typically have been multiple networking tiers—including the leaf and spine—into a single layer that they refer to as the “spline.”

At the same time, the plan is to use its EOS network operating system and CloudVision management platform to drive the company’s Cognitive Cloud Networking approach, extending the principles of cloud computing—including automation, software-based control, open standards and simplification—to the campus.

The officials also pointed to partnerships with Aruba Networks and VMware to help drive their vision of the “cognitive campus.” Aruba, which is owned by Hewlett Packard Enterprise, is driving HPE’s edge computing efforts and will help Arista in that area as well.

Campus networks have become much more mission-critical given the rise of the internet of things (IoT) and the rapid growth in the number of connected endpoints, the cloud and the trend toward distributed and edge computing.

“The digitalization of everything is driving and disrupting legacy network architectures, creating an inflection point for reinvention of the architectural framework,” Arista CEO Jayshree Ullal wrote in a post on the company blog.

“In 2018-2020 we’ll witness the next wave of campus, defined by cognitive cloud networks. It’s the difference between dynamically shaping deep-network behaviors and merely driving intent. Once again, PINs, or “places in the networks” are changing to “Places in the Cloud” —PICs, to unify LANs, WANS, L2 and L3 switching across silos beyond the datacenter with Ethernet at different speeds.”

Ullal’s reference to “intent” was a subtle dig at Cisco and its intent-based networking strategy to bring greater automation and a more software-centric approach to networks, with the goal of creating networks that extend from the core to the campus and cloud while understanding the intent of the network administrator and automatically adapting accordingly. Other vendors, including Juniper Networks and Extreme Networks, also are pursuing intent-based network strategies.

Arista and Cisco have been intense competitors, not only in the data center but also in the courtroom through a series of lawsuits.

Foundational to Arista’s campus initiative are the 7300X3 and 7050X3 Spline switches for 10/25/40/50/100 Gigabit Ethernet platforms. They reduce complexity by collapsing the network into a single tier and offer customers greater visibility into their networks through the company’s Flow Tracer telemetry tool.

They also include automation and segmentation capabilities. The modular 7300X3 system scales to 50 Tb/s and offers a choice of line cards, while the 7050X3 fixed system delivers flexible options like 25GbE and 100GbE.

The aim is to bring the same performance, availability and simplicity that Arista offers in the data center through its Universal Cloud Network (UCN) to the campus.

The software Arista is using is designed to bring greater intelligence to the network infrastructure. The company’s Cognitive Management Plane (CMP) is an open management framework that collects data regarding the state of the network and then makes the full history of the network state available to customers. Machine learning techniques are then used to deliver insights into the network health and potential problems or threats.

Arista’s CloudVision federates the state across multiple networks, including the data center, campus and cloud sharing the data with others in the CMP framework. The data can be displayed by CloudVision using real-time and historical telemetry with myriad views available, including topology and device levels. Through automated provisioning, the Arista software enables users to detect and take action when problems are found.

“At the core of Cognitive Cloud Networking, the network discovers connected devices, applications and data. It can then assess profile-based parameters such as configlets, bandwidth, packet size, IPG, open ports, white lists, etc.” Ullal wrote in her blog post. “In combination with secure network segmentation methods, the Cognitive Campus network assures the mitigation and appropriate communication of devices.”

The move into the campus opens up a host of new possibilities for Arista, according to Brandon Butler, senior research analyst with IDC.

“They’re really saying that there’s no reason to manage your campus architecture differently than what you’re doing in the data center,” Butler told eWEEK.

Not all customers will gravitate toward such a unified approach to managing data center and campus networks, but those with heterogeneous campus environments and those looking to refresh their architectures could see benefits.

However, there will be challenges for Arista, the analyst said. The campus network market is fairly well-established, and it will take time for Arista to build up the salesforce and go-to-market strategy to make a significant run.

In addition, its partnership with Aruba could be complicated. Arista is addressing the core and aggregation layers, while working with Aruba to deliver the access layer. However, Aruba also has core and aggregation portfolios, which means the companies will compete in some areas while cooperating in another, Butler said.

The spline platforms along with the EOS and CloudVision capabilities are in trials and will be generally available in the third quarter.