Cisco is enhancing its router operating system, while Arista adds router capabilities to its leaf and spine switches.

Mitch Wagner, Executive Editor, Light Reading

November 17, 2015

5 Min Read
Archrivals Cisco, Arista Beef Up Cloud Support

Like bridezillas scheduling weddings on the same day, arch-competitors Cisco and Arista separately announced competing product upgrades on Tuesday designed to help network operators make the transition to cloud architectures.

Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) upgraded its IOS XR router operating system to support cloud-scale networking by automating management of network devices using DevOps tools and skills.

Meanwhile, Arista Networks Inc. upgraded its leaf and spine switch hardware and software to support routing functions for connections between data centers.

The new version of Cisco's IOS XR router network operating system is designed to allow network operators to converge data center and WAN architectures, enhance network programmability and support IT configuration and management tools such as Chef, Puppet, Yang and OpenConfig. Cisco claims the new software can halve total cost of ownership over five years, compared with present operations, and double network efficiency and performance.

"We hear from our customers all the the time that they want faster speed, agility, openness and the ability to simplify operations," Sanjeev Mervana, director of service provider networking group for Cisco, tells Light Reading.

Cisco also added new telemetry features to IOS XR, to stream information about the state of the network. The streaming management information is an improvement on existing tools such as SNMP, which poll devices every few minutes to check for changes, Mervana says. Improved IOS X telemetry pushes network status information in real-time out from the device, allowing network operators to make rapid, policy-based changes to the network.

"This kind of information is like the bloodstream for the heart," Mervana says. "With telemetry you can dynamically configure the underlying infrastructure."

The new software lets network operators host third-party applications on networking devices. That's important because it helps improve network performance, Mervana says. "The information on the state of a packet at a particular second is critical. When you're analyzing a packet at another point, you cannot react in a microsecond." The added speed from hosting third-party apps on the router is useful for providers guaranteeing quality of service to enterprise customers, as well as security and Internet of Things applications where fast response time is necessary.

Cisco also introduced new router hardware: The NCS 5000 series, supporting up to four routed 100GE ports for MPLS routing, the NCS 5500 with up to 288 100 GE ports, and the NCS 1000, with support for 100/200/250GB wavelengths over distances exceeding 3,000 kilometers with existing fiber.

Hypercloud providers such as Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), Facebook and Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) have been leading the way in automating data center and network operations, as well as putting pressure on traditional service providers to cut costs and increase agility, as part of the drive to the New IP.

Centralized, automated tools are needed to deliver uptime in hypercloud environments, Jeff Mogul, Google's principal software engineer, said at the recent OPNFV Summit. There just aren't enough skilled network engineers available to manage hypercloud networks automatically, he said. (See Virtualization Challenge: Building Reliable Services From Unreliable Parts.)

Meanwhile, at Arista...
Also on Tuesday, Arista introduced competing technology, also designed to help network operators drive to the cloud. Arista's Cloud Connect Solutions are designed to simplify connections between data centers.

Arista is looking to help its customers bridge the gap between data center and the wide-area network, introducing upgrades to its leaf and spine switches to add router functionality. The device upgrades are designed to provide providers with solutions that have a higher density and consume less power than traditional network routers.

Arista added a DWDM module, for 100Gbit/s optical interface connections with built-in encryption for its 7500E switch. Traditionally, network operators have needed to install separate switch, encryption and DWDM devices, with separate management, service contracts and vendors; the new Arista solution puts them all in a single device.

"What this does is give customers flexibility in having a high performance solution with a high level of security and the flexibility to do it over long distance," Jeff Raymond, VP EOS product management and services, tells Light Reading. The DWDM module provides 100-terabit performance over 5,000 kilometers with 2565-bit MACsec encryption. Cloud storage provider is using the DWDM module in its network, Arista says.

Want to know more about SDN? Visit Light Reading's SDN technology content channel.

Arista is also adding support in all its switches for the VXLAN interconnection standard for encapsulating Ethernet frames in IP, connecting Ethernet networks between data centers. Equinix is making use of the VXLAN support, Arista says.

And the network vendor is adding support for selective route download in its EOS software, to allow its switches to be used as Internet-facing devices, at reduced cost, power consumption and increased density compared with conventional Internet routers. Netflix is taking advantage of the selective route download capabilities, Arista says.

The new features combine to expand the capabilities of leaf and spine switches into router territory, meeting the demands of cloud networks, Raymond says.

Arista launched EOS CloudVision, its own software for automating management of its switches, in June. (See Arista Launches Network-Wide Cloud Automation.)

Cisco and Arista have plenty of bad blood between them. Many of Cisco's key executives (including Raymond) are ex-Cisco. Cisco sued Arista in December, charging patent and copyright infringements from "repeated and pervasive copying of key inventions in Cisco products," including Cisco's implementation of the Command Line Interface. (See Cisco Slams Arista With Massive Patent & Copyright Suit and Cisco Hits Setback in Arista Suit.)

Cisco last week announced a wide-ranging partnership with Ericsson, combining Ericsson's mobile networking and professional services strengths with Cisco's power in packet-based networking and virtualization. (See Cisco + Ericsson: Friends With Benefits.)

— Mitch Wagner, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profileFollow me on Facebook, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading. Got a tip about SDN or NFV? Send it to [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Mitch Wagner

Executive Editor, Light Reading

San Diego-based Mitch Wagner is many things. As well as being "our guy" on the West Coast (of the US, not Scotland, or anywhere else with indifferent meteorological conditions), he's a husband (to his wife), dissatisfied Democrat, American (so he could be President some day), nonobservant Jew, and science fiction fan. Not necessarily in that order.

He's also one half of a special duo, along with Minnie, who is the co-habitor of the West Coast Bureau and Light Reading's primary chewer of sticks, though she is not the only one on the team who regularly munches on bark.

Wagner, whose previous positions include Editor-in-Chief at Internet Evolution and Executive Editor at InformationWeek, will be responsible for tracking and reporting on developments in Silicon Valley and other US West Coast hotspots of communications technology innovation.

Beats: Software-defined networking (SDN), network functions virtualization (NFV), IP networking, and colored foods (such as 'green rice').

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