Arista Networks Inc. is entering the market for network monitoring, adding some features to the 7150 to make it suitable as an aggregation switch.
That could give it a new foothold against Cisco Systems Inc. And it also turns Arista into a new competitor for the specialists such as Gigamon Systems LLC that have had that market to themselves.
The software is called the Arista Data Analyzer -- DANZ for short -- and Arista is announcing on Wednesday that it's available on the 7150.
Network monitoring isn't just a separate beast from Ethernet switching; it's a whole other network. As operators put probes or taps around their network, to monitor traffic, they might build a separate network to feed the collected data into test and measurement equipment or into servers running analytics software. Gigamon made its name by offering a switch that aggregates and directs this monitoring traffic.
Of course, competitors came in, such as VSS Monitoring Inc., or Simena Networks, which was acquired by NetScout Systems Inc. in 2011. But Ethernet switch vendors didn't seem to care much.
10X the value
Now Arista wants in, but why?
Part of the reason involves the pricing of ports. A 10Gbit/s Ethernet port on a tap aggregation switch can cost US$2,500 to $4,000, compared with the $350 to $400 that Arista would charge, according to Doug Gourlay, Arista's vice president of marketing.
"It actually upset me," he says tongue-in-cheekly. "People value the monitoring of what we do 10 times more than what we're doing."
The difference can partly be explained by Arista's volumes, which make it easier to get economies of scale from the off-the-shelf switch chips it uses. "It's difficult for the company that sells specialized equipment to beat Arista in cost and throughput," says Peter Christy, an analyst with 451 Research.
Another attraction for Arista is that Cisco doesn't participate in this market. Keep in mind that some network owners build a second network for monitoring. That separate network doesn't have to be built from the same equipment as the main network, so it could be a way for Arista to get a foot in the door.
Customers that do use Arista gear now have the option of using part of a 7150 as a tap aggregation switch. It's just a feature activation away. It's not as if they get it for free, though; DANZ is available only under Arista's Z license option, one of the company's most advanced, Gourlay says. Presumably, that means it's also relatively expensive.
DANZ meets LANZ
DANZ is more than just Arista throwing its switch at the tap aggregation job. Arista is also taking advantage of existing capabilities of EOS, the Arista operating system, to sharpen the 7150's network monitoring mojo.
For example, Arista touts its switches' ability to decide when information should be sent for analysis, based on user-set thresholds. If latency starts building up (something the 7150 watches through a different feature called LANZ), the tracking begins.
"What people want is application-aware network analyzers," Christy says. When something goes wrong, "they say, 'Gee, how can I ask the network to give me all the traffic associated with those circumstances? I'd like it peeled off.'"
Arista also says it's increased the accuracy of the 7150's monitoring capabilities, to 10 nanosecond intervals, and it backs that up with hardware-based timestamps based on the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) 1588 standard.
Other Ethernet switch vendors might not be so interested in the tap aggregation market, but they're all getting more interested in network visibility. (In fact, there's a Light Reading webinar about that topic at 1:00 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday, focusing on 40Gbit/s and 100Gbit/s networking.)
For instance, at SC12 in November, Extreme Networks Inc. demonstrated a switch running Big Switch's Big Tap monitoring application. The availability of those kinds of software-defined networking (SDN) tools, as well as the need to adhere to service delivery agreements, might keep network monitoring a high-priority topic among switch and router vendors.
â€” Craig Matsumoto, Managing Editor, Light Reading