The story in data center networking has always been about low latency. But the increasing importance of software-defined networks (SDN) and network virtualization is adding a new element to the narrative: flexibility.


That was driven home in the launch of the Arista 7150S* switch series, which is powered by the Intel® Ethernet Switch FM6000 family.  Network World* said that Arista “…lowered the latency and upped the software programmability of its switches with the introduction of the Arista 7150S series.”


Part of the reason for its increased programmability is the Intel® FlexPipe™ frame processing technology that is a key innovation in the FM6000 series.  FlexPipe has the performance to keep up with the new protocols used in SDN and is programmable to continue to evolve with network standards.


According Arista’s press release, the 7150S is a new series of first next-generation top-of-rack data center switches for SDN networks. The series features up to 64 10GE ports while also supporting 40GE ports, 1.28Tb/second of throughput and can switch 960 million packets per second with 350 ns of latency. In addition to OpenFlow, the switch includes API hooks to other third-party SDN and virtualization controllers from Arista partners.


The nature of data center traffic demands low latency, but the nature of SDN is where programmability becomes important.  SDN moves the control plane from the switch to an SDN controller using open communication standards such as OpenFlow, that can better see data traffic and shape that traffic across the switches to respond to congestion problems. 


OpenFlow makes the job of the switch much simpler as it only needs to examine the characteristics of the incoming packets and switch them into an SDN-defined flow. It no longer needs to maintain the state of the entire network using earlier protocols such as spanning tree or TRILL. FlexPipe supports both SDN protocols and IP switching simultaneously.  Its performance and programmability mean that the switch is agile in both supporting today’s traffic and changes to SDN standards over time.  Arista’s Martin Hull, a senior product manager, summed up this benefit in a news report:


“The real issue, says Hull, is that it takes too long for new protocols to be implemented because they are often tied very tightly to specific custom chips (ASICs) in the switches. So what Arista has created is a switch dog that can be taught new tricks as it gets old.”

Performance for today’s networks, and flexibility for tomorrow’s networks.  That’s a great way to summarize the benefits of the FlexPipe architecture.