Arista has become a leader in the development and production of switching technologies for cloud infrastructure. It is also known for being founded and staffed by ex-Cisco executives, including Arista CEO Jayshree Ullal, Chairman and Chief Development Officer Andy Bechtolsheim, and David Cheriton, who has left the company. Arista switches are generally targeted at the data center or large enterprise and telecom applications.
Arista, founded in 2004, grew rapidly in the years after its founding by designing a system of 10-, 40-, and 100-Gb/s switches specifically designed for data centers serving the cloud. The 40- and 100-Gb/s Arista switches are used for data center uplink, aggregation and other basic deployments. With their emergence, Arista offered multi-layer, software-driven network switches to large data centers and high-traffic business environments.
How Arista Switches Gained Share
Arista gained market share on competitors, including market leader Cisco, with a product targeted at virtualized environments. The rivalry between Arista and and Cisco is still fierce, with many of Arista’s executives having had a long history at Cisco. Cisco accused Arista of copyright infringement and filed a lawsuit against Arista, contending it infringed upon 14 patents.
Arista’s clients include cloud and service providers, Web 2.0 organizations, in addition to those in the financial sector. Their standard 7500 series of modular switches utilizes a seven rack unit (RU) (4-slot) and 11RU (8-slot) chassis design is designed for low-latency data centers. The company’s 7300 series, with 10/40/100 Gb/s options that also include a 16-slot chassis choice — is designed for building leaf-and-spine networks.
Arista Switch Success Highlighted by IPO
Arista is one of the most successful networking startups of the last 10 years. It went public in June of 2014 and had a positive initial offering with its stock popping 40 percent over its original listing price. The timing for its high-performance data center switches was good. With Arista’s growth in the market, they have been cutting into the industry’s leader, Cisco, by going from a 6.7 percent market share in 2013 to 9.3 percent in 2014, according to Crehan Resarch.
With the lawsuit, Cisco has been trying to fight Arista, painting it as an opportunistic copycat. The main lawsuit by Cisco asserts that Arista stole 500 command-line interfaces (CLIs) to be used in their operating software. Cisco also claims the user manuals produced by Arista were copied verbatim from those created by Cisco. While these claims have been around for a few years, it was not until Arista became a true threat to Cisco’s stranglehold on the switching market that the cases were filed.
Some experts believe the claims are without base and representation of a “patent troll” approach for Cisco to stall Arista’s development while also keeping its growth in the market at bay. But recently, several preliminary rulings have indicated the court sees the case as having merit. The lawsuit, filed in Federal District Court for the Northern District of California, is not expected to reach a judgment until 2016.
Whatever the outcome of the lawsuit, the race between Arista and Cisco has been one of the more interesting stories in network for quite some time, threatening Cisco’s dominance in the data center.
“Arista is poised to become the first company ever to pierce the 10% market share threshold against Cisco’s incumbency — we think they can ultimately drive to the 20%-40% vicinity,” recently wrote research analyst Alex Henderson of Needham & Company.