Lippis Report 212: Arista Sets New Standard in Modular Data Center Switching with 7500E

The IT industry is at the beginning of two massively disruptive trends: cloud and mobile computing. Distributing computing tools or the ability for a small number of operational personnel to manage tens to hundreds of thousands of servers is one of the major scale forces driving cloud computing economics being leveraged by cloud providers and enterprise IT. In fact, the number of servers per rack has grown from 20 to 40 in 2010 to 60 to 80 in 2013; a trend that will only continue. Along with unparalleled server density increasing, application access via mobile devices is driving massive east-west and north-south data/traffic, thanks to content being distributed across many servers within cloud facilities. From a networking perspective, all this adds up to increased number of higher speed server connections into leaf or Top-of-Rack (ToR) switches and subsequent ToR-to-Core (spine) switch connections with the ability to support ever increasing “Brownian motion” type traffic patterns. High density and performance plus low latency demands are signaling the need for a new generation of 10/40/100 GbE modular switching in private and public cloud infrastructure plus high-end data centers. Enter Arista’s 7500E that’s designed to address the growing need for 10/40/100 GbE switching within demanding virtualized data center environments. In this Lippis Report Research Note, we dive into Arista’s 7500E as it’s a beacon of what’s to come from many other suppliers over the next 18 months.

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First Impressions

After reviewing the Arista 7500E and drawing from our experience testing/evaluating numerous switches from companies throughout the industry, Arista’s 7500E is positioned to solidly address the scale and density issues discussed above.  The 7500E’s performance, density and power consumption characteristics along with its economics and potential design options set it apart from other switches on the market today.  In terms of performance the 7500E boasts line rate throughput at 10/40/100GbE densities not available from other suppliers.   Arista’s motto seems to be ‘in standards we trust’ as its key two-tier architecture protocols are L2 Multi-Chassis Link Aggregation (MLAG) and L3 Equal Cost MultiPath (ECMP) with Virtual eXtensible LAN (VXLAN) for network virtualization support.  Its engineers designed the 7500E with the largest buffers in data center switches to manage congestion and deliver consistently low latency under load.  The 7500E has a revolutionary design utilizing integrated optics to cut cost per port down dramatically while tripling the port density of 100GbE connections.   At 4 watts per 10GbE port the 7500E consumes less power than a Christmas tree light bulb on a 10GbE/port basis.  Economically the 7500E boasts 10GbE ports being half of current prices with its 40/100GbE ports setting a new low cost standard.   With these huge improvements in performance, density, and economics Arista is enabling the data center industry with the power to create massively scalable networks ranging from 100s to 100,000s of wire-speed 10Gb+ interfaces that can run modern data center applications such as big data/Hadoop, mass virtualization, SDN, large-scale Web, and high performance trading.

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7500E Speed and Feeds

Arista claims the 7500E is the world’s fastest and highest density 10/40/100GbE switch.  According to Arista, the 7500E sports switching capacity of 30 Tb per second to support port densities of 1,152 10GbE ports, 288 40GbE ports or 96 100GbE ports.  The Arista 7500E has an impressive 256K IPv4 / IPv6 Host Routes as well as 256K MAC Addresses and 256K ARP tables, which are huge and can support highly virtualized environments.  As with the previous 7500 Series modular switch generation, the 7500E is a family of modular switches available in both 4-slot (7 RU) and 8-slot (11 RU) form factors, which are now able to support an unprecedented range of line card options.

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In terms of performance, Arista claims that the 7500E is engineered to support 3.84Tbs of switching capacity per slot with packet latency below 4 microseconds.  In addition the 7500E is said to deliver wirespeed throughput for all configurations utilizing its 10GbE, 40GbE and 100GbE line cards.  This would make the 7500E the fastest, highest performance and most dense data center switch on the market.

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Software-Defined Cloud Networking on the 7500E

The 7500E runs on Arista’s Extensible Operating System (EOS) a foundational element of Arista’s Software Defined Cloud Networking (SDCN) unifying the network infrastructure enabling it to interact with the other applications in the data center. Ubiquitous workload mobility and visibility are the hallmark of Arista’s unified data center design taking a collection of devices and powerful programmable operating system; creating a truly cohesive data center architecture.  Leveraging open standards Arista can deliver support for 100,000+ host in a segmented Layer 2 topology leveraging multi-chassis link aggregation and ECMP at Layer 3.

Arista Networks EOS provides a differentiated feature set that allows for dynamic zero touch provisioning / replacement (ZTP/ZTR) and real-time steaming network telemetry (LANZ+ / sFlow). In addition an onboard database tracks all changes to the forwarding state of the system and powerful aggregation tools that allow easy connectivity of analytic tools.  Arista enables network-wide virtualization through VXLAN, offers a fully programmable JSON based API, and integrates natively with VMware vSphere, Microsoft OMI, OpenStack, OpenFlow, and other leading provisioning, orchestration, and automation platforms to streamline IT operations.

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The Arista eAPI, a system that leverages industry standard protocols to send requests and get structured data in return which enables integration of EOS with leading orchestration and provisioning tools and applications.  Lastly the 7500E supports the ability to integrate tightly with backend management systems and the other elements of the data center architecture with its smart system upgrade functionality.

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The Arista 7500E is equipped with the full suite of Arista monitoring tools including Latency Analyzer (LANZ), a technology that tracks sources of congestion and latency with real time reporting in nanoseconds, aiding congestion management and capacity planning.  Rapid Automated Indication of LinkLoss (RAIL) another Arista technology used for accelerated convergence in Big Data analytics and Hadoop applications.  Lastly Data AnalyZer (DANZ) provides an innovative solution to the tap aggregation market solving monitoring and visibility challenges at 10/40Gb and 100Gb per second with impressive price-performance and precision.

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Software Advantage

The 7500E supports the same high reliable single software image, running Arista’s EOS, that has been powering the 7500 since 2010. EOS provides a suite of powerful services such as:

  • Integrated Network Virtualization simplifying SDN solutions and enabling multi-tenancy overlay networks.
  • Cloud-Scale networking that achieves over 100k nodes and 1 million VMs’s in a simple 2-tier design.
  • Software configured physical ports that allow for seamless migration from 10G to 100G with no re-cabling when using the 12x100Gb linecard.
  • QoS for Cloud Applications provides lossless performance for drop sensitive applications.
  • Precise Advanced Monitoring offers granular control in data center networks, and Distributed System Health Monitoring allows for real time advanced diagnostics that ensures system availability.

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Line Card Flexibility

The Arista 7500E provides the most flexible 1/10/40/100GbE platform available.  The line cards come in four dense and powerful variations:

  • The 12 MXP (10/40/100G) line card utilizes cost effective on-board integrated SR10 optics in addition to offering a triple speed 10/40/100GbE architecture.
  • The 36 QSFP+ (10/40G) line card provides a high-density non-blocking 40GbE card with flexible 10/40GbE architecture using modular optics.
  • The 48 SFP 1/10G + 2 MXP 10/40/100G line card allows for middle of row 40/100GbE uplinks and dense 10GbE wire speed switching.
  • Lastly the 48 SFP+ 1/10G line card now includes increased L2/L3 tables and advanced SDN features, staying up to date with changing data center density requirements.

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Investment Protection

The Arista 7500E is the second generation of the 7500 series and delivers seamless upgrades ensuring investment protection of first generation fabrics, linecards, supervisors, and common equipment.  Upgrading to the E Series does not require a chassis or power supply change, rather there are optional upgrades for the supervisors, fabric and mixed mode support for linecards.  Arista borrowed a page from Cisco’s Catalyst engineering team when it comes to forward and backward migration, a well-proven strategy.

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The Arista 7500E offers compelling economics, for the 10G SFP+ the total system price per port per 10Gb of throughout is $920, its optics price per port is $450 and the total price per 10Gb is $1370.  The 40G QSFP+ total system price per port per 10Gb of throughout is $750, its optics price per port is $500 and the total price per 10Gb is $1250.  Lastly the 100G AOM total system price per port is $12,200, the optics price per port is $0 (embedded) and the total price per 10Gb is $1220.  The economics of the 7500E sets a new standard in part thanks to its efficient system design and integrated optics.  Arista’s linecard design should reduce latency and clearly cost, two major wins in engineering product development.

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New Data Center Designs Enabled by the 7500E

To demonstrate the 7500E scale within cloud networking, Arista showcased three design options.  When used in conjunction with Arista 7050 or 7150 10G leaf switches connecting to a pair of 7500E via MLAG this network design can support up to 6,000 10G non-blocking server connections via a leaf-spine active/active L2 network topology.  Utilizing Arista 10GbE leaf switches connecting to eight 7500E spine switches that are interconnected via ECMP can support over 25,000 10GbE non-blocking server connections – and addresses over 95% of the North American data center market.  The third topology features 16 Arista 7500E spine switches interconnected via ECMP will scale to support over 100,000 10GbE server connections – for the largest hyper-scale deployments in the world.

Simple and Exponential Cloud Scaling

The Arista 7500E provides new levels of scalability enabling up to 32-way connectivity between 7500E switches.  For example, according to Arista, a 2-way configuration supports 6,912 10GbE host ports, 69,000 VMs, approximately 50,000 tenants and MAC Addresses all with under 5-microsecond latency.  An 8-way configuration supports 27,648 10GbE host/server ports, 270,000 VMs, approximately 250,000 tenants and MAC Addresses with under 5-microsecond latency.  Lastly a 32-way configuration supports 110,952 10GbE host/server ports, 1,100,000 VMs, over one million tenants and MAC addresses again with under 5-microsecond latency.

The Arista 7500E has the performance, cost-effectiveness, and scalability attributes needed to create what Arista calls a Universal Cloud Network that can support multiple high performance applications with a single consistent two-tier network.  With a spine that scales from 2-to-32 way which allows leafs to connect at up to 320Gbs and hosts to connect at 10GbE+.  For example an 8-way scale out provides 250 Tb per second of total spine capacity distributed via the 160Gbs leaf connection and providing 10GbE connections to hosts – this design supports 15-30Mw data center facilities with a model that enables complete workload portability, the ability to place and server or resource anywhere in the data center, and consistent and deterministic performance.

Network Architectures

The Arista 7500E can enhance performance of various data center applications.  In a Big Data network architecture scenario, with 8-7500E spines to 125 leaf switches the 7500E can support a Hadoop deployment with up to 6,000 nodes storing some 90 PetaBytes of Big Data.  The 7500E can support a wide variety of interoperable storage partners and architectures with solutions from Coraid, Isilon, Nutanix, NetApp, EMC, Panassas, SolidFire, DAS, NAS, ISCSI, Lustre etc.  From a public/private cloud network architecture standpoint, the 7500E can support VMware and OpenStack integrated provisioning and automation all on the same network.  For VM farm and Web2.0 network architecture the 7500E provides easy integration with load balancers/security and simple scale-out.  Finally in Data Center network architecture, the 7500E allows for existing data center servers and services to easily map into the network and addresses application scale-out with address portability – no longer is scale constrained to the size of a rack or pod in an existing data center.

The Arista 7500E was designed to enable a Universal Cloud Network that’s software provisioned and supports any application, any where in the network.  The 7500E boasts advanced traffic control and monitoring with high density and scalable network resources.  It’s built for highly virtualized environments thanks to its integrated Wire-Speed network virtualization support and is power efficient with rich software resources and is engineered with deep buffers to mitigate congestion and increase reliability.

The Arista 7500E was undergoing pilots in quarter 1 of 2013 and became generally available in quarter 2 of 2013.  With pricing of 10GbE at $550 per port, 40GbE at $2,200 per port and 100GbE at $10,000 per port including optics the 7500E sets the new standard for high-density modular switch performance and economics.

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