It’s fair to say the network today is more important than any time in history. Digital transformation is dominating the business world and companies are bringing in new technologies such as the cloud, IoT, WiFi6, 5G and artificial intelligence. All of these have exactly one thing in common: They are network-centric in nature, so the network plays a critical role in how they perform. One could make the argument that the network is the most strategic asset in the IT stack today, because nothing works without it.
Network complexity has grown as vendors have driven faster innovation. This has caused a flurry of vendor activity with new solutions designed for the various places in the network such as the data center, campus, WAN, edge and cloud. The problem is that these domains are typically managed independently. This has never been ideal but worked when network traffic was best effort in nature.
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In today’s highly competitive, customer experience-driven world, the end-to-end network needs to be managed versus the various components. If an application is performing poorly, each domain would do its own troubleshooting and the results manually correlated. This has never been that effective, making network operations modernization mandatory. What’s required is an end-to-end view of the network through the lens of the application to speed up troubleshooting and ensure things are always running optimally.
However, because of the fragmented nature of management tools, this is easier said than done.
Arista beefs up CloudVision
This week Arista Networks announced the latest release of its management software, CloudVision 2019, which has been beefed up with a number of new capabilities and integrations to help customers get a better handle on the end-to-end network. This will result in businesses being able to increase network agility, reduce risks and operational costs.
CloudVision brings management consistency to the end-to-end network
The best way to think about CloudVision is that it’s a consistent, cloud-based management plane that spans all of Arista’s products. Much of the value of software-defined infrastructure has revolved around cost, but the big benefit is decoupling the control plane from the underlying hardware.
Few vendors have been as masterful at this as Arista, and the way CloudVision 2019 works is an example of that. Every network vendor still needs to sell hardware and Arista is no different. However, the way the company builds products enables it to quickly take advantages of the latest silicon, so it’s often first or near first to market when new-merchant silicon is available.
One might think that would cause some customer problems, because a Cavium-based switch will have different features than a Broadcom Tomahawk 3, which will be different from a Tofino Barefoot switch. Arista’s value is in its operating system, EOS, which normalizes features across the products. CloudVision then sits on top of EOS and enables end-to-end, centralized management across any network device, regardless of where it is in the network. The CloudVision management plane provides analytics, centralized provisioning, end-to-end topology views, automation capabilities, APIs and streaming telemetry.
CloudVision 2019 focuses on simplifying network operations
The new features in CloudVision 2019 include:
- hitless change controls, including customizable workflows to orchestrate task scheduling, modal awareness, and live change control monitoring;
- data plane visibility, including the ability to consume flow-data from sFlow and IPFIX;
- Device Analyzer, providing endpoint inventory and behavioral analysis for all connected devices and helping to proactively identify security threat vectors;
- new topology overlay views, including network events and segmentation mappings;
- network-wide search, for tracking down key items across the historical time-series; and
- a customizable rules engine, for creating customer-specific network compliance rules and associated events.
Arista has also added open, third-party support to CloudVision. The management tool historically relied on its own API suite. CloudVision 2019 has been expanded to include native OpenConfig support for greater network visibility of third-party devices. CloudVision also now includes the ability to pull in SNMP data from devices such as firewalls, switches, routers and more. The net result is that CloudVision now shows a broader and more complete view of the network, including non Arista devices.
CloudVision is currently in customer trials and will be generally available in October. Arista’s use of cloud management is an example of how networks can operate fundamentally different when the innovation is driven through software.
Zeus Kerravala is an eWEEK regular contributor and the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. He spent 10 years at Yankee Group and prior to that held a number of corporate IT positions.