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Pioneers vs. Protectors in Cloud Networking Innovation

Jayshree Ullal
by Jayshree Ullal on Dec 9, 2014 2:56:05 PM

The innovation of hundreds of startup companies created the Internet, and the Internet has changed the world. Innovation continues to have a dramatic impact on networking in recent years. These new developments have changed the way applications, workloads and networks interact. Having been involved in this industry for more than three decades, I have witnessed and been part of these transformations from the 1980s to the 2015 era. Each phase of innovation has been characterized by new companies and entrants, as depicted below:

Epoch Vendors Network Technologies Trends
AT&T, Sun, 3Com, NET, Proteon,
ARPANET, Circuits, Hubs,
SNA, Ethernet, Token
Ring, Routers
Terminal-Mainframes and
Minis, Channel Attach
Cisco, Juniper, Nortel/Bay,
Alcatel, Lucent, Avaya
Switching, Multiprotocol
Routing, LAN-WAN,
PC, Client-Server, Web,
North-South traffic
Arista, VMware, Facebook, Microsoft,
Splunk, Red Hat, Palo Alto, Aruba,
many others
The SDN Era of Open,
DevOps meets NetOps,
Universal Cloud Networks
Mobile Virtual Workloads
and Workflows,
Big Data,
Hyperscale Web,
Virtual Machines /

Traits of a Pioneering Innovator vs. Protector

Dominant companies often fall by the wayside when they do not anticipate and react to clear market trends as technology evolves, and they consequently fail to invest in and develop next generation technology. They focus on maximizing earnings rather than growth and innovation. In the absence of innovation and the associated competitive products, these same companies often resort to tactics that do not benefit customers or expand markets as a means of defending their market position.

Arista pioneered a modern state-based OS that is years ahead of its time. This new approach to networking enabled a fundamental change in the way customers built cloud networks. The openness and extensibility of Arista EOS gave our customers the ability to innovate alongside us. That is the true spirit of Arista and it is one of the reasons we will work tirelessly to ensure that Arista EOS evolves with the needs of our customers.

The traits and characteristics of pioneers versus protectors are very predictable. Protectors defend old habits and remain strongly entrenched in following legacy technology trends. They try to enforce new buzzwords and dictate markets in ways that maintain their dominant position with customers. They are often in denial of new technologies and market disruptions until it’s too late. They deploy inappropriate tactics that serve to distract customers and partners from making the investments that will lead to competitive advantage.

Pioneers are trailblazers. They create and make technology and markets happen. They are not afraid to replace an older technology with a newer one. Pioneers anticipate trends and fulfill customer needs. Arista is maniacally focused on doing the right thing, the right way as we prioritize delivering high quality technology to our customers. We call this the “Arista way” and believe in this deeply for our employees, shareholders and executives.

Pioneers Protectors (Legacy Way)
- Set technology pace
- Anticipate market trends
- Innovate from a clean sheet of paper
- Deliver timely & continued innovation
- Tesla way: "All our patents belong to you"
- Mimic technology
- React late
- Attach buzzwords
- Deliver late
- Approach incrementally
- Exhibit patent troll behavior
- Market driven
- Disrupt via technology
- Are customer driven
- Create & fulfill markets
- Best of breed
- Open and standards-based
- Marketing driven
- Bundle non-competetive products with legacy products, support or price drops
- Defend market share with tactics
- Ignore new market trends
- Call markets and competitors "niche"
- Declare victory: "Game over"

Today, once again, Arista is proud to disrupt the status quo by introducing EOS+ as a platform for software driven cloud networking. We bring a range of technology partner solutions that provide customer value in concert with Arista from A10 Networks, Ansible, Aruba Networks, Cloudera, Microsoft, Nuage, Palo Alto Networks, Puppet Labs, Pure Storage, Red Hat, Splunk, VMTurbo, VMware and Zscaler. This platform allows for rapid deployment using DevOps models and network integration for reduced operational costs and deployment timeframes.

Trends in DevOps and NetOps Convergence

In the past, the networking, storage, compute, virtualization and applications worlds were built in silos. The innovative Arista EOS+ platform allows compute, storage and application teams to integrate with the network, leveraging the Linux and programmatic foundations of EOS. The EOS+ platform rollout includes:

  • EOS SDK – a development framework that allows native access to EOS for custom development and integration
  • vEOS - a virtual machine instance of EOS that includes the same control plane and management plane
  • EOS Applications – pre-built integration with technology partners and DevOps systems such as Puppet and Splunk
  • EOS Consulting Services – Professional services for development of customized solutions for network automation.

I have to say that I have never seen such a high fever in networking in my 3+ decades of involvement. The transformation from point products to platforms is being driven by new technologies, new types of traffic-patterns and universal workloads. We are in the midst of a massive shift to an ecosystem of openness and programmability. Arista and the industry continue to drive the pace of innovation for public clouds, big data, security and virtualization – evolving the IT industry to deliver “cloud” business agility. Welcome to the new era of Software Driven Cloud Networking. As always I welcome comments at


Opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the original authors, not of Arista Networks. The content is provided for informational purposes only and is not meant to be an endorsement or representation by Arista Networks or any other party.
Jayshree Ullal
Written by Jayshree Ullal
As President and CEO of Arista for a decade, Jayshree Ullal is responsible for Arista’s business and thought leadership in cloud networking. She led the company to a historic and successful IPO in June 2014 from zero to a multibillion dollar business. Formerly Jayshree was Senior Vice President at Cisco, responsible for a $10B business in datacenter, switching and services. With more than 30 years of networking experience, she is the recipient of numerous awards including E&Y’s “Entrepreneur of the Year” in 2015 and Barron’s “World’s Best CEOs” in 2018.

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