UPDATED 11:56 EDT / MARCH 21 2023


Arista moves into the wide-area network

High-performance network provider Arista Networks Inc. today announced new offerings that take it into the wide-area networking market.

The new offering, calledWAN Routing Systems, is actually a combination of several new networking offerings: an enterprise-class routing platform, carrier- and cloud-neutral internet transit capabilities and a new CloudVision service called Pathfinder to simplify and optimize enterprise WANs. As is the case with all Arista solutions, the WAN Routing System is based on Arista’s EOS operating system and CloudVision management portal.

Arista’s entry into the WAN should not be a surprise to any industry watchers. Late last year, at its financial analyst day, Arista Chief Financial Officer Ita Brennan alluded to the WAN being part of the company’s future although gave no details.  More importantly, the rise of digital transformation and an experience driven economy has made the network far more important than it has ever been.

If the network is to be a strategic asset for digital organizations, the operational model must evolve. It’s no longer sufficient to treat the Wi-Fi network as one network, the data center as another, the campus as a third and so on. Application experience is based on the end-to-end network, which is why every network has been trying to deliver “one network.” Arista started with hyperscale, added data center, then campus and Wi-Fi, and the WAN was an obvious missing component.

It’s important to understand how Arista is approaching the WAN. The momentum behind software-defined WAN coupled with work from home has given rise to a number of volume players that sell low-cost appliances to connect a location with a small number of people, sometimes a single person, to the corporate WAN using one or more broadband connections. This is what most of the SD-WAN deployments have been to date.

Arista has always been a performance-oriented vendor and it is approaching the WAN the same way. It’s less interested in the insurance office with two people in it and more focused on branch offices that are considered critical sites. Those can include hospitals, clinics, assembly lines, municipal sites, utilities and other locations. On a pre-briefing, Arista Vice President and General Manager of Software Doug Gourlay described its approach by saying, “We are targeting locations that matter – that if the site goes down, the organization would come to grinding halt. We felt that was a better starting point for us.”

Specifically, the components of Arista’s WAN solution include:

  • Hardware routers. When it comes to networking, hardware still matters, particularly in locations that push a lot of traffic either from bandwidth intensive apps or a large number of people. Arista’s 5500 WAN System is designed for aggregation and high-performance edge routing and can support up to 50 gigabits per second of encrypted traffic and is ideally suited for data centers, campus cores, high-performance edges and physical transit hubs. The 5300 WAN System offers performance up to 5 gigabits per second of encrypted traffic and is optimized for high-volume edge connectivity and transitioning WAN locations to multicarrier and high-speed internet connectivity, which can include 5G.
  • Virtual and cloud routers. Where dedicated hardware performance is not required, Arista is making its routing system deployable as a scalable virtual router for carrier-neutral transit hubs or for encryption termination. There is also a public cloud edge router, deployable though cloud marketplaces. CloudEOS is available on Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform and Equinix. Lastly, the company offers a CPE Micro Edge for connecting small sites to the WAN.
  • CloudVision Pathfinder service. This modernizes WAN management much the same way that CI Pipeline evolved data center operations. This service operates on a model where configuration and traffic engineering are automatically generated and tested before being committed to the production network. Pathfinder brings a number of SD-WAN capabilities into the network, including self-healing, path selection, automated provisioning, zero touch and more. It’s important to note that the Arista WAN Routing System can operate in either a traditional mode or as a modernized WAN.
  • Cloud- and carrier-neutral transit hubs. Arista has partnered with Equinix to deploy the WAN Routing System in Equinix International Business Exchange data centers enabling customers to access a distributed WAN core that leverages multicarrier and multicloud transition options. The concept is for customers to shift their WAN cores to where the cloud onramps and offramps are. Customers can use the Pathfinder service to provision and manage the WAN core.

During the call with Arista, we did discuss why the company had not previously announced a WAN product. Gourlay said that Arista would not deviate from the design principles its customers have come to expect. EOS, CloudVision, modern operating model, repeatable design patterns and network infrastructure as code all had to be part of the system.

The low-hanging fruit for Arista is to take its WAN to its existing customer base, which obviously likes the cloudlike operating model the company brings. Given that the company isn’t really set up, nor does it have the products, to go after the low end of the market, this is the right approach and gives the company about $2 billion to $4 billion in total available market to go after. While many tech companies have seen a slowdown in growth, Arista has continued its impressive run, and the addition of the WAN will keep the growth engine going.

Zeus Kerravala is a principal analyst at ZK Research, a division of Kerravala Consulting. He wrote this article for SiliconANGLE.

Photo: Arista

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