This is going to be fun. Arista, the current wunderkind of networking technology in Silicon Valley, on Monday launched a series of high-powered data-center switches. It also drafted a roster of partners to form one of those fancy new “ecosystems.” There’s no doubt they have only one target in mind: Cisco Systems Inc. (CSCO)
Arista’s powerful 7000 x line of data-center switches look to one-up Cisco’s Nexus line as Arista gears up for an IPO next year. This comes at time when Cisco, the networking giant, is looking older and less spry by the month. Its code is more spaghetti-like than ever, surviving decades of patches and upgrades, and its data-center business is about to come under assault by the likes of Arista and its band of merry Cisco-bashers.
The Nexus, Cisco’s data-center product line, was first announced in 2008. Cisco even held an anniversary celebration. But in technology, do you really want to brag about the fact that a product line is five years old?
Despite this, Cisco’s still the data-center king, with 65%-70% share of the total Ethernet switching market, according to most estimates. And it knows its data-center lineup needs a refresh, just like the Rolling Stones now need the best sound guy on the planet. That’s why it’s funded a startup, Insieme Networks, whose product lines, architecture and general world view will all allegedly be announced tomorrow with Cisco, accompanied by Cisco CEO John Chambers.
As you can see, this is going to be an epic battle. Gartner puts the data-center Ethernet switching market at $8 billion, and it’s growing about 15% a year — so this is important. And it’s got it’s own product launch this week, the highly promoted Insieme, which is a “spin-in” startup funded by Cisco.
Back to Arista’s products. On Monday it announced the 7000 X series. These powerful bit-movers are built on a new switching architecture called “spline” that the company says will make deploying switches in the data center more efficient. Arista claims total throughput of 40Tbps (terabits per second) in one box. That is a lot of YouTube. They are more powerful than anything Cisco has to offer so far, though we’ll have to see what Cisco has coming this week.
Arista has been unique from the beginning because it is “self-funded” by its founders, rather than having gone the standard venture-capital route. This has given it unique focus without the distraction of Khaki-clad, latte-sipping VCS. And it’s been stacked from the beginning with some of the rock stars of Silicon Valley. Andy Bechtolsheim is a Co-Founder and the chief pocketbook of the company. Bechtolsheim was a Co-Founder and Chief Hardware Designer of Sun Microsystems. As if that weren’t enough, he was also an angel investor in Google in 1998. Guess he doesn’t need any cash.
But that’s not all. Bechtolsheim hired Jayshree Ullal, Cisco’s former Senior Vice President of Cisco’s data-center unit, to be the President and CEO of Arista. So Arista has had its eyes on Cisco’s data-center business from the very beginning. The founding management team is roudned out by David Cheriton, Founder and Chief Scientist; and Kenneth Duda, Founder and Chief Technology Officer.
All this means that Arista may be the biggest threat that Cisco has seen in years. After all, the data-center switching market is the engine behind all of those cloud services and social networking sites, so it’s a crucial market for Cisco and just about every networking company.
The networking punditry has been all over the technical ins and out of the box, so let’s recap some of what they had to say. SDNcentral’s Craig Matsumoto does a good job of explaining the architectural shift of Arista’s new box:
” … the spline is a smaller-scale alternative to the leaf/spine architecture, which was designed to let operators expand cloud networks by just attaching more server racks to the spine. Here, expansion comes by adding more line cards to a rack.”
Jim Duffy of Network World points out the fact that Arista’s band of allies is no rag-tag bunch. The partners that have signed on as part of the “ecosystem” include Aruba (ARUN), F5 (FFIV), Microsoft (MSFT), Riverbed (RVBD), Palo Alto Networks (PANW), SAP (SAP), Splunk (SPLK) and VMware (VMW).
“The moves are a not-so-subtle broadside to Cisco’s Insieme Networks launch this week,” writes Duffy.
Let’s face it, Arista is up to one thing and one thing only: Replacing Cisco gear. This harkens back to the day when Silicon Valley tried to stitch together an alliance of Cisco-beaters such as Juniper Networks, Extreme Networks, and Redback Networks (now owned by Alcatel-Lucent). They’re still trying. Can Arista do one more? It’s going to be a great show.