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Cisco slaps Arista Networks with patent infringement suit

Jim Duffy | Dec. 8, 2014
Cisco today filed two lawsuits against data center switch competitor Arista Networks for allegedly violating its intellectual property.

The Chandler blog goes on to say that "Arista incorporates features knowing that Cisco holds intellectual property rights related to those features, all of which are Cisco proprietary and none of which are industry standards," and that "Arista intentionally markets those features to its customers as a basis for buying the products" and to "convince investors to finance the company."

The infringement claim includes Arista's EOS "secret sauce" — the central database, or SysDB, that maintains system state — which Cisco says violates a Cisco patent issued in early 2007.

Other patents Cisco claims Arista violated pertain to key features across Arista's entire switching portfolio, including in-service software upgrades, zero touch provisioning, access control lists, multi-link aggregation and private VLANs.

Copyright

Cisco first noticed the alleged violations last winter when Arista started making claims about the appeal of the EOS command line interface to those trained on Cisco gear, one source says. Cisco claims that, of Arista's 1,200 multi-word CLI commands, 500 are exact copies of Cisco commands, the source says.

"No competitors have more than 100" commands in common with the Cisco CLI, the source says. "Even Juniper has only 28 (in common) and Extreme 30."

Many of the statements that triggered Cisco's suspicion came from Arista President and CEO Jayshree Ullal and CTO Kenneth Duda, both former Cisco employees.

According to the Chandler blog, which cites published articles in periodicals including Network World, Ullal said:

* "Since I helped build the enterprise [at Cisco], I would never compete with Cisco directly in the enterprise in a conventional way. It makes no sense. It would take me 15 years and 15,000 engineers, and that's not a recipe for success."

* "[A] Cisco CCIE expert would be able to use Arista right away, because we have a similar command-line interface and operational look and feel. Where we don't have to invent, we don't."

* "The secret-sauce of Arista's EOS is a multi-process state-sharing architecture. EOS defines its state using central database (Sysdb) that holds and validates all system state and propagates updates to the agents. . ."

And CTO Duda is alleged to have said: Arista has learned to "[p]rovide familiar interfaces to ease adoption" including a "standard CLI that ... retains familiar management commands" so much so that "80% [of Arista customers] tell us they appreciate the way they can leverage their deep [Cisco] IOS experience... Familiar management interfaces, standard CLI ... It's been very helpful for our customers to be able to rapidly adopt our products and integrate them into their environments ... that our switches provide a familiar management interface so their existing tools and processes, screen scraping, automation, continue to work just as they did before."

 

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