Arista Networks and SolarFlare in the CDN Ecosystem


The Content Delivery Network infrastructure is the most demanding environment of all enterprises. CDNs require mass storage, high performance routers, switches, servers, and so on. Many of the advertised high performance products being advertised in the market, break down in the CDN environment. CDNs only use hardware that can withstand a tremendous amount of volume and processing, whether its disk arrays, servers, networks switches, routers, load balancers and software. All CDNs are on a mission to squeeze every ounce of performance from the entire technology stack, whether it’s routers, switches, disk arrays, RAM or protocols. Every millisecond counts, especially since CDNs compete with each other in performance.  

For example, Brocade and Juniper are routers that best serve the routing needs of CDNs. The CDNs that have money to spend go Juniper, others that are starting off go Brocade. Isilon is another example. Isilon is a good fit for the CDN environment that is able to handle every type of file format, read/write requirement, and I/O performance metric required by the CDN. Data Direct Networks comes in second to Isilon. The technology vendors that break into new CDN accounts, and support their requirements are rewarded with lucrative purchase orders. When CDNs buy, they don’t buy for one location, but for 25 or more locations. It’s like selling to 25 enterprise customers.

 Arista Networks and SolarFlare in the CDN Ecosystem

Two established technology manufacturers that are having success in penetrating into the CDN ecosystem are SolarFlare Communications and Arista Networks. They provide high performance data center switches and hardware adapters for DDoS protection, respectively. They proved their worth and are now being rewarded. They are faster, better, and more cost effective than the competition. At least that’s what they say. Arista customers include Fastly, Facebook and Yahoo. SolarFlare customers include CloudFlare and IBM (reseller). SolarFlare conducted a SYN flood test, where they served 16 million packets per second, compared to the competition that served 9 million packets per second. In another test, SolarFlare served 120,000 connections/second beating a standard nginx web server by 8x. Below is a snapshot of each company.

SolarFlare Communications Background
  • Started: 2005
  • Raised: $169M in funding
  • LinkedIn Employee Count: 139
  • Executives: Russell Stern (CEO), Steve Pope (Co-founder) and Derek Roberts (Co-founder)
  • Product: High performance server adapters and software solutions, including a best-in-class adapter designed for DDoS protection
  • Value Prop: Best-in-class high performance server adapter able to withstand DDoS attacks. In SYN flood test, adapter processed 16 million packets per second. Test against nginx, their adapter processed 120,000 connections/second vs 15,000 connections/second for nginx
  • Customers: CloudFlare. Resellers include IBM, Dell and HP
Arista Networks Background
  • Started: 2004
  • Raised: $100M in funding
  • Going IPO: Analyst estimate it could be valued at $2.5B
  • LinkedIn Employee Count: 805
  • Executives: Kenneth Duda (Co-founder), Andy Bechtolsheim (Co-founder) and Jayshree Ullal (CEO)
  • Product: High performance network switches for the data center
  • Value Prop: SDN enabled switches, runs on open architecture, better price/performance compared to Cisco, stackable, and switches may run 3rd party software on it
  • Customers: Facebook, Yahoo, Comcast, Citigroup and Fastly
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