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Switch-maker Arista containerizes its Extensible Operating System

Switching vendor Arista has containerized its Extensible Operating System. Container development is rising in the data centers of cloud providers -- the vendor's largest customer base.

Arista Networks Inc. has introduced a containerized version of its network operating system to stay relevant in the data center of cloud providers -- the vendor's largest customer base.

Arista launched the latest version of its Extensible Operating System this week, adding containers as a deployment option, along with virtual machines (VMs) and third-party merchant silicon-based switches. Arista also sells EOS-powered proprietary hardware.

The containerized Extensible Operating System (cEOS) is the same software image that runs on Arista's programmable switches. Therefore, cloud network operators using Arista hardware have single-image consistency across environments.

Cloud providers -- including Arista's largest customer, Microsoft -- use containers to run multiple applications on the same physical host. Containers share an operating system kernel, which means they are more lightweight than virtual machines. Each application-carrying VM has to run an operating system.

The reduced overhead makes it possible to run more containers than VMs on a physical server. Container security, however, is trickier. Sharing the same kernel means a hacker who penetrates one container can access the others.

Nevertheless, cloud providers are deploying containers to take advantage of the ease with which they can create them when moving workloads or tackling a sudden burst of user activity.

Containers in the enterprise

Container-focused development is expected to make its way into companies that are building applications to run in a public cloud, a private cloud or both. "Arista naturally wants to seize the opportunity of workload migration to the cloud, but it also wants to ensure that it supports a multicloud world that includes multiple public clouds and private clouds," said Brad Casemore, an analyst at IDC.

Arista's focus on cloud providers has paid off. In the quarter ended Dec. 31, revenue grew almost 34%, while rival Cisco, which is a bigger supplier to more mainstream enterprises, reported a 3% drop in its previous quarter.

By the end of this year, companies with cloud environments are expected to increase spending on servers, storage and switches by more than 18% to $44 billion, according to IDC. Companies buying noncloud IT infrastructure will spend 3% less.

Arista's long-term strategy for its Extensible Operating System is to have a competitive product for any high-performance data center, Casemore said. That goal is behind its partnership with Hewlett Packard Enterprise. In November, HPE started reselling Arista's switching products as a companion to its hyper-converged appliances.

The HPE relationship "gives Arista entrée to new accounts, while giving HPE a more capable option for data center networking," Casemore said.

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