Arista plans its own take on all-seeing network software

Its system for streaming state information from devices will soon get easier to deploy

It’s been a good year for IT administrators who want more information, more often, about what’s happening on their networks.

In April, startups Veriflow and Nyansa introduced new ways to determine whether a network is doing what it should. In June, Cisco Systems unveiled its Tetration Analytics appliance to collect and analyze information about all parts of a data center in real time.

Virtualization, mobility and cloud computing are raising the stakes for network monitoring. While infrastructure grows more complex, users’ performance demands are getting more strict.

Network equipment maker Arista says periodically polling switches and other devices about their current state isn’t enough to answer all the questions administrators have to answer now. The company’s developed a way to constantly stream state information into a repository where it can automatically be interpreted. Right now, enterprises have to set up that repository themselves, but Arista is about to build “state streaming” into its CloudVision software. It's coming later this year.

The aim is to change something that's required a lot of in-house tinkering into a turnkey solution, said Jeff Raymond, Arista’s vice president of Extensible Operating System products and services. CloudVision currently handles things like orchestration, provisioning and change management. It will now gain telemetry capability as well.

Arista wants to help customers advance beyond a network monitoring approach that dates back to the 1990s. The time-honored SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) generates current data about each device every few minutes, and MIBs (management information bases) organize various types of information about those devices. But some important knowledge can fall between the cracks, Raymond said.

For example, during a peak activity event like a server starting up, one port on a switch might get overloaded and drop some packets. But if the incident only lasted a few milliseconds, SNMP polling data averaged over a period of time might show the port’s performance was fine, overlooking the packet loss. With streaming state information, everything that happens is visible for real-time and historical analysis.

Also, if an administrator needed a certain bit of information to troubleshoot a problem but the MIB wasn’t written to capture that data, then the administrator would just have to make an educated guess, Raymond said.

Arista's state-streaming technology, called NetDB, will become available as part of CloudVision beginning in the fourth quarter. Customers with a subscription to CloudVision will be able to get the new capabilities free of charge. No special hardware is required.

Arista is working with partners, including Hewlett Packard Enterprise, VMware, SAP and VeriFlow, to allow their polling-based monitoring platforms to take advantage of the streaming updates. That way, customers who use those platforms will be able to hold on to their investments. Network management applications that enterprises develop on their own can also use that stream of state information.

The company is also working with OpenConfig, an effort to define vendor-agnostic data models for streaming state information. As more network equipment makers use these data models, Arista will be able to collect information from their devices in its repository, Raymond said.

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Stephen Lawson

IDG News Service
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