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Arista aims new leaf switch beyond usual enterprise data center tasks

Arista's latest leaf switch adds the missing piece of a leaf-and-spine architecture suitable for IP storage, edge routing, general computing and digital media.

Arista Networks Inc. has finished the refresh of its leaf-and-spine switches, bringing together hardware and software that's poised to take the vendor beyond its roots as a data center switching provider.

Arista introduced this week the 7280R Series Universal Leaf switch, which arrived a month after the vendor launched the 7500R Series Universal Spine. The term universal is meant to imply the latest products can handle tasks other than the traffic-routing chores of the typical spine-leaf data center topology.

Arista is promoting the products as a networking option for general computing, IP storage, edge routing and digital media. The foundation for handling those tasks is the Broadcom Jericho chipset, which is "optimized for the routing, deep buffers and 100 GbE that's optimal for Arista's targeted applications," said Jim Duffy, an analyst at 451 Research.

"Jericho, along with Arista's EOS [Extensible Operating System], FlexRoute and CloudVision software, helps transform Arista from a data center switching vendor to more of an IT networking vendor," Duffy said.

CloudVision manages networkwide workload orchestration and workflow automation. FlexRoute provides support for the full internet routing table. The software makes it possible for the Jericho ASIC to forward more than 1 million IPv4 and IPv6 route prefixes, which the chipset couldn't do on its own, according to Arista.

The 7280R Series leaf switch comprises four models, with up to 48 ports that network administrators can configure for speeds of 10/25/40/50 and 100 GbE. The switches have up to a 32 GB buffer and a maximum throughput of 10.24 Tbps.

Arista switches for IP storage, routing, digital media

The deep buffer of the 7280R leaf switch creates a "lossless architecture that will find a good fit across many IP storage environments, as well as industry segments, such as media and entertainment," said Rohit Mehra, an analyst at IDC. Also, Arista's updated leaf-spine architecture is capable of handling networking within the cloud-based data centers of large service providers and telecommunication companies.

Content providers will find the Arista architecture useful for hyper-convergence systems in which software-defined storage is part of an IT fabric and digital media infrastructure, Duffy said.

The routing capabilities in the Arista architecture places the vendor in direct competition with Juniper Networks Inc.'s MX Series routers, Duffy said. "Juniper and Cisco have long, deep heritages in routing with custom ASICs and software specifically optimized for that task."

Arista's challenge will be in proving that Broadcom's off-the-shelf silicon can meet all routing requirements, Duffy said.

The 7280R leaf switch is sold for roughly a 10% premium over Arista devices designed for a specific task, according to Jeffrey Raymond, a vice president of product and services at Arista. The vendor justifies the additional cost by the new switch's flexibility.

"What we're proposing is that the operation of onboarding fewer platforms -- i.e., one that is applicable across use cases -- more than makes up for the premium of the platform itself," Raymond said.

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