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Andy Bechtolsheim’s Off Reinventing the World Again

Arista claims to have the first network product to bridge physical, virtual and cloud networks

Arista Networks, the so-called “cloud networking” start-up that began life by challenging Cisco with an ultra-fast network switch that cost a tenth the price of a Cisco switch, is closing in on the problem of redesigning the network to support large data centers and cloud computing that it was started by Andy Bechtolsheim to solve.

The company’s premise is that existing networks aren’t designed for virtual and mobile workloads.

See, along with virtualization has come an explosion of virtual machines over physical servers by a factor of 10x-20x creating in turn a proportional sprawl of virtual switches to connect the VMs in the physical servers.

Arista contends that this combination of multi-core CPUs, VMs and virtual switch infrastructure is making untenable demands on the underlying cloud network fabric. The traditional 64:1 oversubscribed network topologies don’t cut it.

Too much latency.

It says the industry needs seamless user-to-VM, VM-to-VM, VM-to-physical machine access and that the network needs to be redesigned for non-blocking any-to-any cloud networks, as well as peak bandwidth of terabit scale.

The situation, it says, calls for consistent physical, virtual and cloud networking. It also calls for consistent, holistic management across virtual and physical networks during VM migration.

Naturally, Arista’s got a fix.

It claims to have the first network product to bridge physical, virtual and cloud networks.

And naturally it involves its Ethernet switches.

Essentially its switching platform is now integrated with virtual machine management and cloud reach.

It says it can link physical, virtual and cloud networks using VMware, a close ally of Cisco and an early investment of Bechtolsheim, the man with the golden touch who co-founded Sun and was Google’s first investor.

Arista’s got a newfangled virtualized Extensible Operating System (vEOS) that’s supposed to bring hitless upgrades, network troubleshooting and configuration to VMware’s vSphere 4.

vEOS is an vSphere-linked implementation of Arista’s existing modular Extensible Operating System (EOS) that manages VMware’s distributed switches.

It auto-discovers all vSwitches and VMs in a vDS domain and provides an interface for network administrators to establish consistent policy and accounting.

Arista’s magic is supposed to be in its software, which it developed long before its silicon, and EOS separates state from different processes and stores all of the state of networking variables and inter-process communications in a transactional database.

Anyway, vEOS is supposed to move workloads from physical servers to virtual machines and to cloud infrastructures while maintaining segmentation, trust boundaries and policy control.

With VMware’s vConverter it moves network state from the physical port to the logical port and with vSphere it binds state to each mobile VM.

It integrates with VMware’s vCenter virtualization platform so there’s a familiar network interface and offers consistent policy and accounting for physical ports, virtual machines and cloud deployments.

Arista president Jayshee Ullal – a Cisco alum like Bechtolsheim, von Bechtolsheim actually, and other senior Arista folk – says that with vEOS, tricked out as a virtual appliance or an integrated EOS feature, Arista and VMware customers will be able to manage their growing converged networking infrastructure and move VMs around more easily.

The widgetry is meant to address the need to manage hybrid virtual and physical infrastructures with multiple network operating systems.

So it manages VMware’s vNetwork Distributed Switch and links physical and virtual machines to network policy and profiles.

Arista claims virtualization is creating a management gap between physical and virtual networks. vEOS is supposed to offer administrators a familiar, industry-standard network interface for configuration and monitoring without throwing a monkey wrench into the virtualized infrastructure.

vEOS is described as a single system image that runs on Arista’s 7000 family of cloud networking switches as well as a VMware virtual appliance.

Arista observes that with vSphere 4’s new capabilities such as Dynamic Resource Scheduler (DRS) and Fault Tolerance, VMs move from one host to another automatically. It reckons this demands an order-of-magnitude more capacity, lower latency and new network architectures.

vEOS, which supports third-party application development, is also supposed to bring monitoring and troubleshooting capabilities to virtualized environments including HP Openview support, standard SNMP monitoring and fully integrated access control while integrating with VMware Fault Tolerance to provide high availability for the vEOS virtual appliance.

Arista says it will be signing up customers for the open beta of vEOS starting in October or November. It won’t be available until the fourth quarter. Preliminary pricing suggest a 64-host network configuration license will run $5,000; 64 hosts per vEOS instance translates into 12,800 VMs.

Arista was founded on Andy and his partner Arista chief scientist David Cheriton’s nickel. With no one else funding it, Arista isn’t worried about meeting milestones or chasing more VC money. Its 10 gigE switches have been shipping for the last year.

See www.aristanetworks.com/veos/beta.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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