I finally had the chance to finish watching all of the Arista videos from Networking Field Day 10. They did quite a few presentations and if you haven’t watched them yet I would recommend you do…
While the bulk of the videos talked about Arista platforms or features, Ken Duda’s presentation (EOS Evolution and Quality) really struck a chord with me. Early in the presentation Ken summarizes the problem by saying “when the network ain’t working, ain’t nothing working”. The software powering your network just has to work and it has to work consistently. Ken then goes into where he thinks quality should come from breaking it into 3 pieces.
Culture – It’s obvious from Ken’s talk that Arista legitimately cares about software quality. While I don’t think this is unique to Arista, I think it’s something they’ve fully embraced because they can. Arista was born out of the commodity network era. When you are working with commodity chips, the real differentiator becomes software. This puts them at a unique position compared to other traditional vendors who have long focused on custom ASICs and other proprietary components. So while Arista is certainly a networking hardware vendor, they have their roots strongly planted in software. Ken makes it clear that the company culture makes software a focal point. And to that end, they don’t allow business pressures to influence the quality of their products.
Architecture – Arista believes, and I agree, that having a pure Linux foundation to their product is a major win. Rather than modify the kernel to their specific needs, they’ve embraced the Linux philosophy and community. What does this mean? That their switches can run native Linux applications. I’ll be careful to note here that this doesn’t imply that you can run whatever you want. Like any other Linux platform, certain applications depend on certain kernel functions. However, I have found that the Linux implementation on EOS has been VERY close to what I expect from a standard Linux distribution. Ken goes on to explain that they don’t mess with the kernel and that their code lives in user space processes. He also believes that the Arista approach to SysDB is a significant advantage to EOS.
Testing – It makes sense that Arista would have a large focus on software testing given their emphasis on software. However, I learned some interesting things about how Arista does testing. Ken claims that Arista doesn’t have a software QA team. While at first that seems crazy, Ken explains that this makes total sense. Arista pushes testing back on the software developers requiring developers to provide automated tests that prove that any new code works as it should. All of their testing is 100% automated. The testing runs every test, every case, for every feature, on every platform, for every release. Ken claims that this means that their software only gets better as you upgrade in a given software train.
Needless to say, I was impressed with their presentation. It seems that Arista has well defined values that they aren’t willing to compromise. With Arista’s focus on software, they will certainly be an interesting company to keep an eye on going forward.