This week network vendor Arista Networks announced a major update to its network management and automation suite, CloudVision. While the company is best known for its high-performance network infrastructure, its enterprise strategy has revolved around CloudVision. Historically, the company marketed a bunch of geeky stuff like deep buffers, elephant flows, programmability and its operating system EOS. While those things still matter to webscale companies, they matter a lot less to your typical enterprise that is using the network to deliver mission critical enterprise apps.
A few years ago, investors would ask me if Arista would ever be a serious enterprise vendor, and I was skeptical. It is a best-of-breed network vendor, but that doesn’t always appeal to corporate buyers. Over the past several years, Arista has loaded CloudVision up with things enterprise network operators would require such as automation, telemetry and analytics. It’s also made the product available as an on-premises solution or as a SaaS based service to broaden the appeal of it.
One important aspect of CloudVision is that Arista built it for multi-domain management. Historically, the different parts of an enterprise network, data center, wired campus, wireless network, branch, cloud, etc. are managed independently. In the past couple of years, I’ve noticed an attitude change from network professionals where they want to treat the network as “one network” as app performance requires end to end observability. CloudVision was built with this in mind.
This latest release, CloudVision 2021, has a number of new features that increase its value to enterprise buyers. These include CloudVision Studios and deeper observability.
This was the most significant part of the 2021 release. At one time, management of Arista equipment was done like everyone else – with flat configuration files that are applied on a box-by-box basis. CloudVision introduced GUIs and network-wide automation through the use of “configlets” or templates that are created once and applied network wide. These could be reused as well for future use. Studios takes the concept up a notch through the use of automated configuration workflows that can be tuned for specific business needs. This is ideally suited for the concept of multi-domain management where a new service would require configuration changes across all the domains.
In a pre-brief, Arista told me that’s where the “Studio” name came from as it’s a workspace concept where businesses can create and define customized workflows. Also, the workflows address the needs of the different constituents that operate the network including help desk, DevOps practitioner, high level network engineer and security operations. CloudVision Studios can be created or customized for any feature set as opposed to the inflexible wizard interfaces found in many network management systems.
Studios abstracts the operations of the network through network-wide data models enabling businesses to fully automate their day-to-day deployment, configuration and operations tasks through a flexible interface by translating business outcomes into network configurations, which leads to improved application experience.
Arista’s products stream real-time telemetry information to enable rich observability. Many products still rely on SNMP, which often misses events because SNMP polls periodically. Arista telemetry is continually streamed for real-time access to network state, analytics, baseline information and traffic recording and playback.
Over the past couple of years, Arista has been developing cognitive capabilities through the use of artificial intelligence (AI). Once the models have been trained and baselines set, CloudVision alerts network operations of application performance issues with automated remediation. Arista initially used these capabilities for Wi-Fi management but has expanded it across its entire product line. Cloud 2021 includes a number of new cognitive features, including:
- Network latency and path selection dashboards. CloudVision uses the telemetry information to spot congestion hotspots which can be routed around. The data also helps quickly identify the root cause of issues leading to faster troubleshooting.
- Quality of Experience (QoE) dashboard updates. The initial release of the QoE dashboard was to monitor video collaboration tools, such as Zoom. CloudVision now supports 25 more apps including Office 365, Google Workspace, Workday, Salesforce and other standard enterprise app suites.
- Performance dashboard. This provides network operations with client specific views of end user experience by monitoring and analyzing network information such as app flows, radio frequency interference, DNS and DHCP state and other metrics. The data is analyzed, and a view of end user experience is provided with recommended remedial actions to improve performance.
- Radio Frequency Explorer. This new feature shows live and historical views across the entire Wi-Fi RF spectrum. This data can be used for Wi-Fi monitoring and troubleshooting. As people return to work, businesses will be deploying more IoT devices, such as temperature scanners and environmental sensors, which will put more demands on the Wi-Fi network making this type of feature a critical tool.
The changes by Arista are a good indicator that the company does understand the needs of all enterprise buyers and not just the ones that want to run like a cloud titan. It cut its teeth on helping some of the biggest companies with the most demanding needs build their networks. Now it’s taking that engineering skill and focusing it on helping businesses build a network that’s smarter and more automated.
Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. He provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long-term strategic advice. Kerravala provides research and advice to end-user IT and network managers, vendors of IT hardware, software and services and the financial community looking to invest in the companies that he covers. He can be reached at [email protected], and follow him @zkerravala and on YouTube.
Industry Voices are opinion columns written by outside contributors—often industry experts or analysts—who are invited to the conversation by Fierce staff. They do not represent the opinions of Fierce.