Arista Networks at Networking Field Day 16

Terry Slattery
Principal Architect

Arista presented at Networking Field Day 16 about higher speeds, embedded customer code, streaming analytics, and APIs. Arista introduced itself as focusing on IP storage and big data, using deep buffers end-to-end. But, as we’ve seen with some TCP stacks, deep buffers can cause problems. (Read about a buffer problem in the blog post: What a network speed check revealed about sluggish performance.)

Arista Founder, Chief Development Officer, and Chairman Andy Bechtolsheim talked about 400G Ethernet, explaining how the industry will get there. He predicted 50G links in 2018 as an interim step. A 100G-per-lambda specification is in development, to be available in 2020. Andy has always been an excellent hardware designer, and he shared with us that 100G for the electrical lanes is about as far as technology can go. I wonder about an implication that we’ll have to look to pure optical to go faster.

Founder and Chief Technology Officer Ken Duda spoke about the ability for customers to run their own software on Arista switches, using a stock Linux OS. This creates some interesting possibilities regarding high-speed access to the state of the switch. Customer code is decoupled from Arista code and a published database provides the interface between the two.

Ryan Madsen, software engineer, then told us about Arista’s streaming analytics and monitoring system. A customer question about this type of technology resulted in a recent blog post about the data-driven network. In Arista’s case, the data are sent to their analysis engine, CloudVision, which looks like a publish-subscribe (pub-sub) message queue system. A customer application and an API are available to allow customer access to the analysis results. The current GUI wasn’t particularly impressive, but this is a first version, and I expect them to get customer feedback and make improvements.

Like most vendors in the industry, Arista provides an API for control and monitoring. Its JSON interface corresponds to its CLI command set, with the caveat that some models may not be able to reflect exactly everything that the hardware is capable of doing. Like the streaming analytics, they are working toward using CloudVision to perform system-wide configuration versus box-by-box configuration.

I think it is interesting to see vendors starting to build mechanisms to export data from network devices. SNMP may be looking at its replacement. But we need a standard data export format before SNMP will be replaced. If you’re thinking JSON is the answer, remember that it is only an encoding mechanism that will need to be extended if it is going to replace SNMP. For more thoughts on these mechanisms, read my blog post, “Is the Data-Driven Network the Next Step in Networking?

Disclosure and caveat: While the NFD presenters indirectly paid for my travel and lodging to attend NFD16, I didn’t receive any compensation nor have the vendors been promised any favored treatment in articles or reviews. I’ve not used CloudVision myself, so my opinion on it is simply from the brief presentation at NFD16.

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Nick Kelly

Cybersecurity Engineer, Cisco

Nick has over 20 years of experience in Security Operations and Security Sales. He is an avid student of cybersecurity and regularly engages with the Infosec community at events like BSides, RVASec, Derbycon and more. The son of an FBI forensics director, Nick holds a B.S. in Criminal Justice and is one of Cisco’s Fire Jumper Elite members. When he’s not working, he writes cyberpunk and punches aliens on his Playstation.


Virgilio “BONG” dela Cruz Jr.

CCDP, CCNA V, CCNP, Cisco IPS Express Security for AM/EE
Field Solutions Architect, Tech Data

Virgilio “Bong” has sixteen years of professional experience in IT industry from academe, technical and customer support, pre-sales, post sales, project management, training and enablement. He has worked in Cisco Technical Assistance Center (TAC) as a member of the WAN and LAN Switching team. Bong now works for Tech Data as the Field Solutions Architect with a focus on Cisco Security and holds a few Cisco certifications including Fire Jumper Elite.


John Cavanaugh

CCIE #1066, CCDE #20070002, CCAr
Chief Technology Officer, Practice Lead Security Services, NetCraftsmen

John is our CTO and the practice lead for a talented team of consultants focused on designing and delivering scalable and secure infrastructure solutions to customers across multiple industry verticals and technologies. Previously he has held several positions including Executive Director/Chief Architect for Global Network Services at JPMorgan Chase. In that capacity, he led a team managing network architecture and services.  Prior to his role at JPMorgan Chase, John was a Distinguished Engineer at Cisco working across a number of verticals including Higher Education, Finance, Retail, Government, and Health Care.

He is an expert in working with groups to identify business needs, and align technology strategies to enable business strategies, building in agility and scalability to allow for future changes. John is experienced in the architecture and design of highly available, secure, network infrastructure and data centers, and has worked on projects worldwide. He has worked in both the business and regulatory environments for the design and deployment of complex IT infrastructures.