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Arista, Brocade intro better spine, leaf switches for the data center

Arista and Brocade have introduced spine and leaf switches. Arista has focused on performance; Brocade has added network automation and visibility.

Arista Networks Inc. has introduced higher-performing spine and leaf switches, while rival Brocade Communications Systems Inc. has unveiled competing products that provide automation and network visibility in private clouds.

The switch makers launched the latest products this week. Arista introduced the 7160 Series of hardware with performance-enhancing software called AlgoMatch and Flexible Profiles. Brocade added models to its SLX line of switches and released applications that automate routine tasks.

Arista's AlgoMatch "comes down to performance and scale for doing lookups of access control lists," said Michael Fratto, an analyst at Current Analysis Inc., based in Sterling, Va. An access control list (ACL) is a common means for controlling access to and denial of network services. On switches, an ACL acts as a filter for host access, services and traffic.

"The people who are going to see the benefits [of AlgoMatch] are the very large enterprises that use a lot of access control lists and cloud providers," Fratto said. "They're going to get faster lookups and faster forwarding."

Flexible Profiles will affect more Arista customers, Fratto said. The technology lets companies optimize a switch for a particular workload by tuning the tables switches use to direct traffic flow.

"The only catch is it's not dynamic," Fratto said. "You have to apply the Flexible policy, and then reboot the switch."

Big data centers and cloud service providers will likely use the feature first, followed by "organizations with smaller data centers that need to tune their switching infrastructure," Fratto said.

Arista has embedded the new features in the 7160 Series, which include the vendor's first 25/100 GbE top-of-rack switches for leaf-spine architectures. The series comprises three models: one 10/100 GbE switch and two 25/100 GbE devices. Performance ranges from 2.16 Tbps to 6.4 Tbps.

Arista plans to ship the 7160 Series in the first quarter of next year. The vendor said pricing would be comparable to its 7050X and 7060X switches.

Brocade intros software, spine and leaf switches

Brocade has added three models to its SLX data center switching line: the 9140, 9240 and 9540. The 9140 is a top-of-rack leaf switch, with 48 25 GbE ports and six 100 GbE ports in a 1U fixed form factor. The 9240 spine switch has 32 100 GbE ports in the same form factor.

The spine and leaf switches use the programmable Cavium XPliant Ethernet chip, which lets Brocade deliver new capabilities via software. Brocade is leveraging the silicon to extend its Insight architecture, which helps users identify performance problems and maintain service levels. The new spine and leaf switches add the same visibility to network overlays, such as VXLAN.

"These technologies will be particularly relevant for next-generation data centers supporting private cloud and cloud-native applications, [such as containers and microservices]," said IDC analyst Brad Casemore.

The 9540 is a carrier-class switch packaged in a 1RU form factor optimized for data center interconnectivity and Internet Exchange Points. The switch has 48 10 GbE and six 100 GbE ports.

Brocade plans to make the three switches publicly available in April. The vendor did not disclose pricing.

Brocade also introduced three prepackaged software suites for its Workflow Composer network automation platform that runs on a server outside the company's switches.

One of the suites, called Network Essentials, provides common networking functions, such as provisioning a port or device. A second suite automates tasks associated with deploying Layer 2/3 fabrics, while the third helps carriers and colocation data center providers build interconnection services.

Brocade, along with rivals Cisco and Juniper Networks, is responding to customer demands for more network automation, Casemore said. "Effective automation is what will enable the data center network to get up to speed with other infrastructure."

Brocade plans to make the suites publicly available in February. The company did not release pricing.

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