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The Arista 400 GbE 7060X4 takes on Cisco, Juniper

Arista has joined rivals Cisco and Juniper in the 400 GbE switching market. The company introduced this week the Arista 400 GbE 7060X4 Series for hyperscale data centers.

Arista has joined rivals Cisco and Juniper in introducing its first 400 Gbe switch. Like the other vendors, Arista is aiming its hardware at the hyperscale data centers of cloud and communications service providers.

The Arista 400 GbE 7060X4 Series, unveiled this week, provides the option of 100 GbE connectivity to servers and 400 GbE links in a leaf-spine fabric. The vendor is also offering two options for optical connectivity.

Vendors have moved quickly to introduce 400 GbE products following the finalization of the IEEE standard in December 2017. In July, Juniper Networks announced plans to roll out 400 GbE across its PTX and MX routers and QFX switches over the next 12 months. In the summer, Cisco said its 400 GbE Nexus switch was ready for use in customers' data centers.

Arista has to address the 400 GbE market quickly to satisfy its notable, longtime customers with hyperscale data centers -- Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft. "They have no option but to be among the early providers of 400 GbE data center switching," said Brad Casemore, an analyst at IDC.

With the 7060X4 Series, Arista has continued its dedication to merchant silicon, choosing the Broadcom 12.8 Tbps Tomahawk 3 chip to power the switches. The Arista hardware comprises 32 400G ports in a 1U chassis. Companies can split each port into four 100G links.

Arista 400 GbE features for hyperscalers

The new switches' capabilities are "well aligned with the needs of hyperscalers and other large cloud customers," Casemore said. Examples include adequate I/O capacity, large buffers and IPv4 and IPv6 capacity for large-scale equal-cost multi-path (ECMP) support. ECMP is a packet-forwarding process that selects the best path to a destination.

Arista 400 GbE switching offers a choice of separate modules for two types of optics: OSFP and QSFP-DD. OSFP, or Octal Small Form Factor Pluggable, is a device with eight high-speed electrical lanes supporting 400 Gbps. QSFP-DD, or Quad Small Form Factor Pluggable Double Density, is a 400 GbE electrical interface that allows servers and other networking devices to be connected to switches. The Multi Source Agreement (MSA) Group, which includes Cisco and Juniper, spearheaded the development of QSFP-DD.

"We do believe that OSFP is a technically superior option for a number of reasons, but the QSFP-DD seems to have broader systems availability, so we're doing both," said Martin Hull, Arista's area vice president for cloud and platform product management.

Overall, Arista has developed "solid" 400 GbE switches that can compete with the open hardware getting traction in some hyperscale data centers, Casemore said. The bare-metal white-box switches run open source network operating systems, such as Software for Open Networking in the Cloud (SONiC).

Arista plans to release the 7060PX4 switch, which will support OSFP, this quarter. In the first quarter of next year, Arista expects to ship the 7060DX4, which will support QSFP-DD. Pricing is $1,700 per 400 GbE port.

Service providers are migrating gradually to 400 GbE to support new applications, the growing number of internet users globally and the introduction of gigabit internet connections to the home.

Also, web access has become more complex. Today, every request internet users make to a website generates multiple requests to determine the other sites visited and to create ads based on the users' interests.

The demand for faster connections in data centers drove rapid adoption of 100 GbE, which reached 4 million port shipments in 2017 from less than 100,000 in 2015, according to Crehan Research, headquartered in San Francisco. Based on traffic trends, Crehan predicts 400 GbE will drive the majority of data center Ethernet switching by 2022.

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