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Interop 2014: News and trends from the Interop conference

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Affordable 100 GbE ports and VXLAN support on the Arista 7500E chassis

The Arista 7500E chassis gets affordable 100 GbE ports and an EOS upgrade with VXLAN, DANZ and SSU support.

Arista Networks introduced new line cards for its 7500E chassis that make 100 Gigabit Ethernet more affordable. It also added VXLAN support and other functions to the Arista 7500E that had previously only been available on the company's top-of-rack switches.

Today, regardless of vendor, a bundle of 10 parallel 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) ports is more affordable than a single 100 GbE port. Much of the cost comes from the external optical transceivers that engineers have to deploy with 100 GbE ports. Consequently, most network engineers consider bundles of 10 GbE ports more reasonably priced. Those who consider multiple 10 GbE ports unruly turn to 40 GbE links as a stopgap.

Enterprises are "not going with 100 Gb because it's new or cool," said Andrew Lerner, research director for network systems at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc. Although 100 GbE reduces the volume of cabling in a network, engineers don't want to pay a premium for what amounts to identical bandwidth, he said.

Arista will ship two new 100 GbE line cards. The Arista 7500E-6C2-LC card, generally available in the third quarter, is a six-port, long-distance optical interconnect card with CFP2 interfaces. At $6,600 per 100 GbE port, this line card is on par with the $6,250 users typically pay per 10 ports of 10 GbE on the Arista 7500E. In the final quarter of 2014, Arista will ship the Arista 7500E-12CQ-LC, a 12-port 100 GbE line card with QSFP-100G interfaces. Designed for data center spines and backbones, this second line card will cost just $5,400 per port to deploy.

Arista is likely absorbing a hit to its profit margins by offering 100 GbE ports at these prices, said Christian Renaud, senior analyst at New York-based 451 Research. Given that 100 GbE is so expensive, Arista sees this as an opportunity to grab market share before the industry as a whole drives down prices through increased sales volumes, he speculated. "People who have been looking at 40 GbE will now be thinking about 100 GbE."

The need for 100 GbE is still limited to the very largest of networks, such as cloud service providers and telecommunications providers, Lerner said. "Most mainstream enterprises do not really need 100 Gb at this point. Ten Gb and 40 Gb are typically more than good enough. The predominant use cases for 100 Gb are scalability for the really big networks and future-proofing of investments."

EOS upgrade adds VXLAN support, SSU and DANZ support to 7500E

Meanwhile, Arista upgraded its Extensible Operating System (EOS) to add new functionality to the 7500E chassis, which had only previously been available on the vendor's top-of-rack switches.

The update includes new 7500E support of virtual extensible LAN (VXLAN), the tunneling encapsulation protocol used by many network overlay technologies, including VMware NSX.

"With VXLAN termination, you get several benefits, including improved support for bare-metal devices that are attached to the switch, improved overall network scalability and better support for multi-tenancy," Lerner said.

By extending VXLAN support from top-of-rack switches to the 7500E spine switch, Arista will enable customers to build virtual networks across multiple data centers or between data centers and the public cloud, Renaud said. "That's going to kick open a bunch of other deployment models … [including] hybrid cloud environments where [Arista] can bridge data centers via VXLAN tunnels over Layer 3."

The EOS upgrade also brings Arista's Data Analyzer (DANZ) feature to the 7500E. With DANZ, engineers can turn the ports on a 7500E into network probes and the 7500E itself into a tap and SPAN port aggregator that can direct traffic flows to in-band and out-of-band network monitoring and security tools. Arista contends that this enables engineers to plug monitoring tools directly into a 100 GbE spine.

With 7500E DANZ support, engineers "can connect monitoring tools to a 100 Gb spine or splines and have tap aggregation put into a single 100 Gb uplink for monitoring," said Surbhi Paul, Arista's product manager for EOS. "We have the built-in capability to take the 100 Gb flow and spray it in 10 and 40 Gb flows."

"There aren't any 100 Gb monitoring tools today," Renaud said. "Most of the time people are just monitoring 10 Gb. It's good [Arista] has it, so customers don't have to do a forklift upgrade later."

Finally, Arista extended its Smart System Upgrade (SSU) function to the 7500E. Previously only available in its top-of-rack switches, SSU is an EOS application that allows engineers to remove a switch from the forwarding path of a leaf-and-spine network to perform maintenance or upgrades without disrupting service.

"It gives you open integration with all the application and infrastructure elements," Paul said. "If you have virtual machines [VMs] on a physical host and you decide to upgrade a node, those VMs can be vMotioned to servers [unaffected by the temporary topology change created by SSU]."

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Shamus McGillicuddy, news director or follow him on Twitter @ShamusTT

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Interop 2014: News and trends from the Interop conference

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