Arista has announced cEOS, a containerized version of its EOS network operating system. The cEOS version contains all of Arista’s switching and routing capabilities, but it’s been disaggregated from its underlying Linux kernel to run in a container. The upshot is that cEOS can be deployed on either Arista or third-party ToR switches.
The impetus for cEOS’s development came from several of Arista’s cloud-scale customers. These customers manage tens and hundreds of thousands of servers using container-based orchestration tools. They wanted to manage ToR switches the same way.
“We make the switch look like a server. It supports a continuous integration/continuous development (CI/CD) architecture,” said Jeff Raymond, VP, EOS Product Management and Services at Arista Networks.
Raymond cited one customer that has a management agent that runs on every server and integrates it into the customer’s cloud orchestration system. By containerizing EOS, that customer can now run the same management agent on Arista ToR switches, integrating those switches into the orchestration system as well.
“The agent would have to be adapted to fit the networking use case, but that’s driving the integration,” said Raymond.
Arista Hardware Or Third-Party Platforms
The cEOS software can run on Arista hardware, and Raymond believes customers want Arista’s metal. He said that supporting a CI/CD model was the real driver for cEOS, not making a whitebox version of Arista’s OS.
It just so happens that in supporting a software-driven infrastructure, disaggregation and whitebox are the by-products.
The traditional Arista EOS runs with an unmodified Fedora Linux kernel. Now, customers can load their own Linux distro onto whitebox hardware, and then run cEOS on top of that.
The cEOS distribution is targeted at single-chip, ToR switches. It is not designed for leaf-spine systems. It will support Trident, Tomahawk, and Helix chips. As mentioned, cEOS runs on Arista ToR switches, but Arista also plans to support cEOS on ODMs including Quanta and Edgecore.
“It’s still a switch OS,” said Raymond. “It’s just that the kernel is not part of the container package.”
However, testing and certification are required to ensure full operational compatibility if a customer chooses to run cEOS on a kernel other than the unmodified Fedora.
The cEOS release is initially targeted at cloud providers, but Arista anticipates that demand will eventually emerge in large enterprises.
Additional Chip Support?
New chip makers such as Barefoot Networks are emerging to challenge Broadcom in the switching silicon market. When asked if Arista had plans to support Barefoot, Raymond said the company is currently focusing on the merchant silicon that it uses in its own hardware.
“We don’t want to have to support every chipset under the sun,” he said.
However, he did say the company is pleased to see the innovation occurring in the silicon industry.
“I can’t comment on our hardware road map, but we’re pleased with the diversification in the merchant silicon market now. If there’s customer demand to support a chipset in cEOS, we’d support it.”
Arista’s cEOS is available now for limited customer trials. The software will be generally available in the second half of 2017.