Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/10/21/arista_speed/

Bechtolsheim races Arista to zero latency

Every microsecond counts for Bechtolsheim's bolshy switches

By Chris Mellor

Posted in Data Networking, 21st October 2010 14:19 GMT

Arista Networks, Andy Bechtolsheim's creation, is in a race to zero network latency. That's the situation he presented at IP Expo in a keynote pitch today.

Andy Bechtolsheim is a heavyweight IT industry maverick who has consistently punched far above his weight. He was a co-founder of Sun, has been credited with inventing the workstation, and was also a major influencer behind the server-rich Thumper (X4500) array and then the ZFS-using 7000. He also co-founded networking company Granite Systems, which was later sold to Cisco.

After Granite, Bechtolsheim became involved with high-bandwidth ethernet switching. In 2005, he founded Arista Networks, where he is the chief development officer and chairman. There are just over 150 employees, more than 500 customers around the globe, and it is the number two in 10gigE fixed switch networking behind Cisco after just two years of selling kit.

Cisco has 75 per cent of the rack top 10gigE switching market with Arista having five per cent - a very, very long way behind but ahead of Dell, Extreme, Brocade, HP, BNT and Juniper.

Bechtolsheim puts this success down to using best-of-breed silicon plus system and switch operating system design. The hardware products include the 7048T 48-port gigE data centre switch, the 7100S 24/48-port low latency switch, the 7100T 1/10GBase-T switch and the monster, the 7500 384-port 10gigE modular chassis switch. Arista bills this as "the world's fastest, greenest and densest data centre switch".

Speed, glorious speed

Entering speeds and feeds nirvana, Bechtolsheim says it has a 10 Tbit/sec non-blocking fabric, 384 wire-speed 10G ports per chassis - and can process 5.7 billion packets per second with a 3.5 usec latency. Bechtolsheim claims this gives it 3.5 times more throughput than other products, and says it is well-suited for cloud computing requirements.

How so? He says it can support tens of thousands of servers with a low-latency network, delivering 1Gbit to each server, 10GBits to the core switch and 10 Tbits per cloud. There has to be load-sharing, redundancy and cloud-wide management. Arista technology can support a 10,000 server cloud with 10usec end-to-end latency using dual 384, 10Gbit port 7500 core switches.

Bechtolsheim is a speeds-and-feeds guy, and wants humungous numbers when talking about bandwidth and throughput and ports - and microscopic ones when talking about latency. He says Arista is in a race to zero latency. That is what's needed in high-frequency financial trading where "every micro-second counts", he says.

Eighty per cent of all stock trades are computer-initiated, says Bechtolsheim, and having computer trades that are faster than anyone else's requires the lowest latency network. Bechtolsheim reckons there are a minimum of four switch crossings in the average electronic trading flow, which involve the market data feed, the feed handlers, the algorithmic engines and the exchange gateways.

This is where he says low, low latency is a big advantage. The 7124 has substantially less latency than the 5-microsecond Nexus 5000, the 15-microsecond Nexus 7000 and the 20-plus microsecond latency of the Catalyst 6500. Cisco is the network behemoth Arista has to beat, and it aims to whip Cisco to death with superior speeds and feeds.

Bechtolsheim has a latency roadmap slide bearing a single arrow pointing downwards - no numbers or timescale though.

Virtualisation

Naturally, Arista has a virtualisation strategy. The idea is that administration should be unified at the vCenter level, with the network reacting in real time to the server farm virtualisation administrator's control inputs.

There is a VMware virtual machine instance of Arista's EOS operating system, vEOS, which provides topology discovery and virtualisation. There is also VMTracer which has direct integration with VMware APIs and provides control and data linkage with VMware - all versions of VMware.

Arista wants to plug into the heart of the virtualised data centre and out-perform everybody and provide the best cost/efficacy in the networking business. Today it is focusing on 10gigE, although: "Almost no server has 10 gig on the motherboard." The computer scientist continues: "That should go away a year from now. There will be a much more rapid conversion to 10 gig when that happens. By 2014, 90 per cent of servers should have 10 gig."

Forty gig is on its way. Bechtolsheim said: "We use merchant silicon and every vendor has 40 gig on their next chip, with 100 gig after that."

Bechtolsheim is a low-latency man in everything he does. He spent half his presentation slot talking at high speed about the slides, getting through a slide a minute in some sections of his pitch. He's done workstations, he's done storage, Arista is ready to be bought - well, it appears that way - and the mercurial Bechtolsheim is probably already involved in his next venture. ®