Arista Has Cisco In Its Crosshairs With New CloudVision Networkwide Automation Software

Arista Networks unveiled a cloud networking automated turnkey software solution Tuesday that it says is drastically different from rival Cisco Systems' software-defined networking approach.

Dubbed CloudVision, the solution is a networkwide approach to workload orchestration and workflow automation that allows network operators to aggregate Arista switches and manage them as one. The software can work on SDN controllers from, among other partners, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, VMware, Red Hat and the open source OpenStack cloud controller. The software also works on SDN controllers from Dell, as part of a new partnership revealed Tuesday.

"We're basically opening up cloudlike automation to the mainstream with an open approach via a set of partners and through turnkey solutions to get them there," said Jeff Raymond, vice president of extensible operating system (EOS) software and services at Arista, in an interview with CRN.

[Related: Pica8 CEO: Cisco's 'Primitive' ACI Poses Greater Security Risk Than Open Linux-Based White-Box Switches]

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CloudVision is drastically different from Cisco's SDN approach with its Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI), according to Raymond.

"Cisco has provided the entire stack from a proprietary perspective -- you have to use their controller, you have to use their particular switch in their offering," said Raymond. "We're basically integrating with the best-of-breed [partners] [and] use [an] open-standards-based protocol so we can work with someone like a VMware. We call it a 'controller-agnostic view' to overlay networking."

Cisco is tying itself tightly to applications and its ACI value proposition is focused on defining policies that match application architectures, Raymond said.

"We don't think that's really a problem that needs to be solved because application architectures are evolving on their own, [at] their own pace. And so if you spend a lot of time defining an application policy, from a networking level, how do you know the application team isn't going to change that in six, 12 months? Then your whole architecture is very locked down," he said.

With Arista's best-of-breed partners across the physical and virtual worlds, customers are going to have a combination of hosts, according to Raymond. CloudVision connects to partner software using APIs or is managed through a GUI or command-line interface, he added.

"So whether [you're] using a KVM approach, VMware approach, a Microsoft Hyper-V, etc., you can use whatever controller you want to manage the physical and virtual and we will integrate with that through our CloudVision set of open APIs," said Raymond. "Where[as] on the ACI side, really the only control is tightly linked to the Nexus [1000V virtual switch], solution, which really limits them in visibility on that virtual edge."

Cisco, San Jose, Calif., did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

Tension between Arista and Cisco is nothing new. In December, Cisco filed two lawsuits against the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company, alleging Arista infringed on several of its patents and stole Cisco copyrighted material. Those lawsuits are still pending.

And, earlier this month, Arista unveiled a partnership with HP to deliver more choices for an open converged infrastructure. The companies will combine Arista's networking equipment with HP's 3Par server technology, storage equipment and networking management software OneView.

For channel partners, Raymond said CloudVision is an "open" tool to help partners aid their customers in getting "cloud-ready" and is an easy transition to cloud networking.

Chris Becerra, president and CEO of Terrapin Systems, a San Jose-based solution provider and Arista partner, said CloudVision would attract customers who are seeking more flexible solutions.

"Customers want more openness, they want more visibility and they want more flexibility. I don't see [customers] having any interest in propriety protocols or locked-in infrastructures; certainly that's the Cisco way. [Arista] doesn't like that route," said Becerra. "I would say they're the leader in the SDN space."

Research firm Gartner said Arista is "by far" the fastest-growing vendor in the data center networking space, referring to Arista as one of only two companies, alongside Cisco, as "Leaders" in the market. The company's leadership position is due to its flexible EOS software and tight integration with a wide range of software orchestration and SDN solutions, giving customers freedom of choice that's cost-effective, according to Gartner.

CloudVision is built on top of Arista's EOS with programmable interfaces, resilient fault containment and self-healing attributes, according to Raymond. The software extends the same architectural approach across the network for state, topology, monitoring and visibility, enabling enterprises to move to "cloud-class" automation without the need for significant internal development.

For its part, Dell, Round Rock, Texas, said the partnership with Arista brings "future-ready agility" to customers.

"Our solutions development partnership with Arista and our initial joint solutions deliver the speed, simplicity and TCO needed in a unique software-defined manner," said Jim Ganthier, vice president and general manager of engineered solutions and cloud at Dell, in a release. "CloudVision and EOS coupled with Dell’' infrastructure offering and [Active System Manager] delivers the future-ready agility our customers require."

Mark Robinson, president of CentraComm, a Findlay, Ohio-based solution provider and Arista partner, said he believes Arista is underdistributed in the marketplace due to its smaller size. By partnering with a large company such as Dell, it can gain the needed distribution footprint.

"The biggest partners that they can partner with, the better. [Making CloudVision] part of its cloud/open ecosystem where you have quite a lot of partners -- that's going to be a good thing," said CentraComm's Robinson. "Arista doesn't have an end-to-end switching solution, they're focused more on the data center. And I think somebody like Dell can provide a little bit more robust [offering], give them additional air cover or additional marketing resources."

CloudVision is now available as a software subscription at a starting price of $295 per month.