VMware and Arista Networks have a longstanding partnership that has been very beneficial to both partners. Begun in 2010 to allow closer integration between VMware’s vCloud Director and Arista’s Extensible Operating System, this partnership was further expanded in 2012 with the companies’ collaboration on the VXLAN specification and interoperability across the physical/virtual network boundaries.
On August 11, 2014, VMware and Arista Networks announced an additional phase in their strategic partnership. This third phase will lead to greater interoperability between VMware’s NSX product set and Arista’s physical networking equipment as well as to the introduction of direct support for what appears to be management by vCenter of Arista devices and integration into Log Insight.
Both Jaysjree Ullal, President and CEO of Arista Networks, and Raghu Raghuram, VMware’s EVP of Cloud Infrastructure and Management, issued official statements, which, to be fair, do not go far past corporate speak for “We are just doing what we have always done.”
It is an interesting question as to who gets the most out of this relationship. Upon first look, you would likely say Arista, as it is the physical provider. However, consider this in the context of the war between VMware and Cisco over dominance of the next-generation network. VMware now has a stronger grip on a network vendor. Yes, Arista is not a dominant player, but its equipment is far from tardy; in fact, it is actually very good. It does not harm either partner to have this interoperability. VMware is the de facto leader in the virtualization market space. If those selling NSX to their customers recommend Arista for physical to virtual crossover, all is well and good for Arista, and the flip side is that Arista will recommend NSX to its own customer base.
Cicso is a good partner of VMware, especially with the Nexus 1000V Switch’s being the first third-party virtual switch, but the companies are drifting apart now that VMware has firmly stepped into its fiefdom. Cisco’s SDN offering in its Application Centric Infrastructure requires the deployment of the Nexus 9000, and VMware NSX is a software-only paradigm.
So, how does Arista and NSX integration work?
The Arista 7150S series and the 7500 effectively take the place of the NSX Edge VM at the top of rack level. This lends itself to allowing NSX to evolve into the network bubble or sphere of influence at the time.
By moving the Edge into the physical layer, you are removing the complexity of having a virtual edge switch on each host. Consolidating numerous NSX access switches into a more streamlined environment, this allows the NSX control layer to be even more efficient in its path-finding, as there are fewer exit points from the NSX network bubble into the physical world.
The fact is, software-defined networking (SDN) is not cheap, and customers have to make a choice. The trouble is, that choice has just become a little more difficult. SDN is all about flexibility and agility. Mirko Voltolini, VP of Technology and Architecture at Colt, summed it up perfectly in this quote from the press release:
“The excitement around SDN and network virtualization is that—for the first time—networking is becoming more software orientated [sic], so we’re able to dynamically orchestrate service modification and activation in real-time. Network connectivity can now keep up when virtual machines and associated compute and storage change or are moved within distributed data centers. This means that servers, storage and now the network are in synch so that we can meet the specific needs of our customers in a timescale they demand. As a result of deploying a new network architecture based on Arista and VMware networking technologies, the time for Colt to add, change or modify services now takes minutes rather than days, and enables Colt to onboard customers faster and expand its service portfolio quicker.”