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Greg Ferro
Greg Ferro
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Arista Goes Down-Market with Cost-Effective Switches

Arista brings five new switches to the middle market and offers options for ECMP (Equal Cost Multi Path) data center designs.

Arista is targeting mid-market customers with new switches in an effort to expand beyond its current customer base, such as financial services and Web-scale data centers. The company's new 7300 series is aimed squarely at the data center market, where replacing Cisco's Catalyst 6500 is on the agenda.

Arista's new 7300X series provides a high-density Ethernet chassis for the mid-market. It is possible to oversubscribe the 7300 chassis with a maximum of 2,048 10GbE ports or even 512 40GbE ports. The 7300X chassis comes in three sizes: 4 line cards in an 8-rack-unit form factor, 8 line cards in a 12RU, and 16 line cards in a 21RU.

The interface buffers on the 7300 are up to 6MB per port, which is significantly smaller com-pared to 125MB per port on Arista's high-end 7500E. However, this won't be a concern for most enterprise customers, who are rarely able to generate significant traffic volumes, especially when the 7300s are deployed as end or mid-row switches. This makes the 7300 well suited to replace Catalyst 6500 switches.

[Arista says several of its new switches can be used in a "spline" deployment. Find out what that means in "Arista Unveils Single-Tier Ethernet Switches."]

Arista's chassis product strategy needs 1RU Top of Rack switches for L3 ECMP network archi-tectures , and Arista has announced three fixed-format switches to meet that need: the 7250QX–64 (64x40GbE), the 7050QX (32x40GbE), and the 7050SX(96x10GBbE+8x40GbE).

Investment protection is a serious matter for data center managers. In the past, investment protection meant keeping the same vendor chassis in the backbone and the same line cards for the longest possible time. The future is about scaling your network backbone sideways using L3 ECMP network designs, which is where Arista is putting its efforts.

40GbE Cabling Considerations

Arista encourages customers to move to single-mode fiber optic for 40GbE deployment. The company is trying to make the case that long-term investment protection needs single mode fiber, which will require new cabling. When you consider that a 40GbE interface needs eight fiber cores when using multimode, and that 40Gig attached servers are planned for early 2015, this is a serious consideration. A fiber optic plant has a lifecycle of at least ten years, although most companies should be considering cassette cabling system instead of a fixed fiber optic plant.

For those new to deploying 10GbE and 40GbE gear, the cabling and interface costs are very high; cabling and SFP interface adapters account for 30% to 40% of the total purchase price on the network. Cost control requires new methods of cabling and smart choices on interface types.

New Markets In Sight

Arista has successfully established itself by offering high-performance, low-latency switches for the upper end of the market. It seems clear that Arista is ready to grow by building physical switches that suit a larger audience.

With approximately $40 billion worth of aging Catalyst 6500s in production, Arista has a significant market opportunity as enterprises consider a replacement. Of course, Cisco has its own options in the form of Catalyst 6800s, the Nexus 6000, and the Nexus 7000 line.

In my opinion, the Catalyst 6800 is not a great choice and the Nexus 7000 family is power hungry and ever changing. Now current Cisco customers now have multiple options from Arista to choose from.

Arista says the 7300 series switches are in limited customer deployments today, and that volume shipments will start early in 2014. Pricing starts at $500 per port for 10GbE. The 7250QX-64 is shipping now with a list price of $1,500 per 40GbE port. My guess is that many enterprises will be taking a close look at these new products.

Greg has nearly 30 years of experience as an IT infrastructure engineer and has been focused on data networking for about 20, including 12 years as Cisco CCIE. He has worked in Asia and Europe as a network engineer and architect for a wide range of large and small firms in ... View Full Bio
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