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Arista brings cognitive networking to mid-range markets

New CUE solution provides advanced AI networking and security to smaller companies.
Written by Zeus Kerravala, Contributor

Arista Networks has announced the next phase of its cognitive-campus initiative with the introduction of its Cognitive Unified Edge (CUE) networking package. The concept of a cognitive campus has been to bring a smarter, more automated network to large enterprises and hyper-scalers, which has been Arista's core buying audience since the company was founded. The new CUE solution is targeted at commercial customers, that is, businesses up to 1,000 employees, which typically have small, lean IT teams. 

The new Arista product is a cloud-managed, edge service that consolidates Arista's network and security capabilities. Through the CloudVision management portal, customers will have access to automation capabilities, visibility of the wired and wireless networks, telemetry, security capabilities, zero-touch provisioning, and analytics across the end-to-end network. The dashboard also includes application quality of experience metrics where it tracks more than 250 apps, including many of the video collaboration services. 

CUE targets commercial customers 

The new service aligns well with trends in the commercial business segment. In companies of this size, IT pros tend to be jacks-of-all-trades versus the specialists found in larger companies. Prior to the pandemic, this group of engineers was often taxed to the point where keeping up with the demands of their company was challenging, if not impossible. Hybrid work, increased cloud adoption, shadow IT and other COVID-related changes have exacerbated this issue. 

CUE operates as a cloud service, greatly simplifying operations. Even though the offering is targeted at smaller companies, it deploys Arista's NetDL (network data lake), which gives customers access to the same rich features that large enterprises get, including AI-driven insights and problem resolution. CUE also offers integrated security such as Zero Trust, which is critical in today's network-centric world. 

For more than a decade, the convergence of networking and security has been predicted, with little movement in that direction. The pandemic accelerated the adoption of network-centric trends such as cloud and IoT, forcing the two domains to come together, particularly in the commercial segment where lean IT teams don't have the resources to manage each independently. 

New purpose-built hardware for the commercial segment 

In addition to CloudVision, CUE includes several new Arista network and security edge products purpose-built for this segment. The new Edge Threat Management Q Series is an edge firewall family that comes in six options and supports Power over Ethernet (PoE), 4G cellular connectivity, NVME storage, integrated Wi-Fi, SD-WAN and NVMe SSD storage. These types of fully integrated appliances are ideally suited to the commercial segment. Arista also revealed a new compact switch, the 710P Compact Switch Series, that comes in three flavors. All three have 12 ports of 10/100/1000Base-T, and there are options for uplinks and downlinks. 

CUE will be 100% channel driven 

The new CUE solution will also have a different sales model. Because Arista deals with large enterprises and hyper-scales, much of its business is direct, but that's hard to scale down the market. CUE will be 100% channel-driven and enable customers to purchase via Arista channel partners, paving the path for managed service offerings. 

More and more businesses are choosing to leverage a managed service for network and security operations. The rise of digital transformation has increased the value of the network but also has made networking and security significantly more complex. Managed services enable customers to evolve to an as-a-service model and offload operations to a third party with a higher level of technical acumen than what might be found at a small or medium company. This lets the IT staff spend more time on business-critical issues because they have offloaded many of the tactical, time-consuming day-to-day tasks. 

It will be interesting to see how this segment reacts to Arista. The company came to the market by addressing the needs of the cloud titans. Because of this, the company is widely regarded as the premier networking company. Other high-performance-focused companies have tried this with mixed success because smaller businesses might consider the products to be overkill for their needs. 

Arista makes excellent products and always has, so there should be no question that it can address the network and security needs of this segment. The key for the company will be getting channel partners in this segment to embrace a new vendor. The cloud front end is ideally suited for managed services and should be appealing to partners that are looking to augment their business with an as-a-service offering. 

Arista CUE will be available from Arista Channel Partners in Q2, 2022, with early availability in April 2022.

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