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Comparing Arista vs Cisco Networking Hardware

Author: Chris Hill, President at BrightStar Systems – LinkedIn

Whether you’re a hosting company or service provider looking to upgrade existing equipment or a growing enterprise in need of more robust hardware, it’s important to consider every option.

Arista and Cisco are two of the best brands to consider, but you need to also look closely at some of the key differences between Arista vs Cisco hardware in order to figure out which manufacturer makes the right equipment for your needs.

Networking needs to change over time. For example, maybe you’re looking to consolidate your network by decommissioning some of the hardware required to operate it. Or, perhaps you require equipment that’s more versatile and easier to integrate with other hardware.

Regardless of what your needs are, we understand the strain that shopping for networking equipment can have, both financially and in terms of the resources it takes to make it happen.

Table of Contents

To help make things easier for you, we’ve put together this in-depth guide comparing the difference between Arista vs Cisco in terms of hardware. But, before getting into product details, it will help to have some background information on each company.

Arista Specializes in Reliable, Fast Switches

Arista’s been around since 2004, and all three of its founders, as well as the company’s existing CEO, previously worked at Cisco. Since then, the company, based in Santa Clara, California, has grown into a global supplier of networking hardware, primarily Ethernet switches.

Arista switches stand out for their user-friendly CLI, seamless automation capabilities through eAPI, and reliable performance in large-scale environments. Arista’s responsive TAC support and simplified licensing structure are highly regarded for ease of upscaling and implementation.

Cisco Offers a Comprehensive Selection of Hardware

Based in San Jose, California, in the heart of Silicon Valley, Cisco Systems is one of the largest and most experienced manufacturers of networking equipment in the world. Cisco’s comprehensive selection of hardware offers unparalleled versatility and integration capabilities, allowing organizations to build robust and scalable networks tailored to their specific needs. 

Their diverse range of routers, switches, and other networking devices ensures seamless connectivity and efficient data transfer, while Cisco’s commitment to innovation and industry standards provides long-term value through up-to-date technologies and future-proofing investments. Additionally, the unified ecosystem of Cisco hardware facilitates streamlined management, enabling businesses to optimize performance and enhance overall network security.

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The Differences Between Cisco vs Arista: Market Share and Networking Hardware

Although there are several differences between the products made by these two companies, comparing Arista vs Cisco hardware ultimately comes down to a few key factors.

The first and most obvious difference is the size and scale of Arista vs Cisco. Cisco’s been around since 1984 — almost 40 years — and is an established market titan. Comparatively, Arista’s only been around since 2004, and is roughly half the age of Cisco.

And, because Cisco’s such a large company, it also has a very large market share. That means Cisco has to supply products for a wide variety of networking needs; some products need to be designed for intensive networking applications, and others for less demanding networking environments.

Cisco’s large market share — 41% of the total enterprise network vendor market in 2022 (compared to Arista’s 19%),  also means there are more certified Cisco service engineers available. This is commonly regarded amongst users of Cisco’s networking equipment as a great benefit to their products, the fact that working with Cisco products makes it easier to find someone who’s able to assist with any issues that come up. In addition, Cisco has more troubleshooting resources online compared with Arista. Furthermore, with such a large market share, selling used Cisco equipment when it is time to upgrade your hardware allows you to reinvest capital locked up in your inventory.

Another key difference between Arista vs Cisco, is that the vast majority of Arista’s hardware offerings are Ethernet switches. In fact, the company’s emphasis on designing switches has earned it a reputation for manufacturing some of the fastest on the market.

Arista Switches vs Cisco

A lot of companies in the networking hardware industry supply a wide range of networking hardware, including routers, security devices and more. But in recent years, Arista has put a greater emphasis on software to supplement its Ethernet switches.

Arista switches and Cisco switches differ not only in their hardware features but also in their command-line interfaces (CLI). Comparing Arista vs Cisco commands — Arista switches boast a more modern and streamlined CLI, often favoring consistency and simplicity, which can be advantageous for quick and efficient configuration. 

On the other hand, Cisco switches, while offering a comprehensive set of commands, may have a steeper learning curve due to their extensive feature sets and a diverse range of supported protocols. The choice between Arista and Cisco extends beyond hardware capabilities to considerations of CLI preferences, with Arista emphasizing a user-friendly experience and Cisco providing a robust but potentially more intricate command structure.

The last major difference between Arista and Cisco is the available optical transceivers for their devices. Both companies support several form factors, but Cisco also has its own proprietary form factor. It’s called CPAK, and CPAK transceivers only work with Cisco hardware.

We Sell a Dozen of Arista’s Best Switch Series

Arista’s switches are — for the most part — high-end devices; they’re made for high-computing environments, such as large-scale enterprise, service provider and data center networks.

BrightStar Systems stocks 12 total lines of Arista switches, including the following:

The entry-level switches, such as the Arista 7010 Series switches, start at only 1 rack unit (RU) in size.

All 12 Arista switch series we stock are made with a fixed-configuration design, and, collectively, cover the full spectrum of Ethernet speeds, including 1G, 10g, 40g and 100G Ethernet.

Learn more about the used Arista products we sell, including some of the most popular switch series, as well as optical transceiver and cable offerings.

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Cisco Nexus 9000 Series Switch Specifications

At BrightStar Systems, we specialize in selling Cisco’s Nexus 9000 series, which is Cisco’s premier line of switches; they’re made primarily for intensive computing environments.

The series includes three subseries: the Nexus 9200, the Nexus 9300 and the Nexus 9500. Combined, the three subseries include a combination of modular and fixed switches.

The specifications for each subseries vary significantly. The Nexus 9500 subseries includes several modular chassis that are designed for core routing applications. The Nexus 9300 and 9200 subseries are fixed-configuration switches that are typically used at the access level.

In addition, Nexus 9500 switches support up to 100G Ethernet and are available in models made with 4, 8 and 16 line card slots. Nexus 9200 switches also support up to 100G Ethernet, whereas Nexus 9300 switches support up to only 40G Ethernet.

Nexus 9200 switches are available in models measuring 1 RU and 2 RUs, and Nexus 9300 switches are available in models that measure between 1 RU and 3 RUs.

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The Difference Between Arista vs Cisco Routing Platforms

Although Arista offers a routing solution in the form of a software-based system, it doesn’t offer routing hardware.  Cisco, on the other hand, offers a wide range of routing platforms, ranging from single RU devices made for branch offices to full-rack, modular devices.

Cisco’s ASR Series is one of its primary lines. Much like the Nexus series, the ASR Series is broken down into three subseries. There’s the ASR 900 series, which is made for less intensive applications. But we specialize in selling the higher end ASR 1000 and ASR 9000 series.

ASR 1000 Series routers are edge routers that range in size from 1 RU to 13 RUs. The ASR 9000 Series switches have core routing capabilities and are available in compact 1 RU models, as well as modular chassis measuring up to 40 RUs in size.

Arista’s virtual routing platform, the vEOS Router, is a cloud-based routing solution that offers accessibility and scalability. The vEOS Router has only been around since 2017; it’s essentially Arista’s answer to routing hardware that other manufacturers, like Cisco, offer.

If you’re interested in browsing all our routers, we also stock a wide variety of high-quality Juniper routers, which you can learn more about on our Cisco vs Juniper routers page.

Comparing Cisco vs Arista Optical Transceiver Form Factors and Interoperability

Because both Cisco and Arista hardware supports Ethernet speeds ranging from 1G to 100G, both support many of the same optical form factors. However, Cisco has its own proprietary optical transceiver form factor that’s compatible only with Cisco hardware.

It’s called CPAK, and in terms of design and specifications, CPAK optics share characteristics with some of the most advanced optical form factors, specifically QSFP28 and CFP2.

First off, CPAK optics support up to 100G Ethernet, but they’re also available with multi-channel configurations. Some models support up to four 25G Ethernet channels, similar to QSFP28 optics; others support up to ten 10G Ethernet channels, which is more like CFP optics.

Arista switches support several optical transceiver form factors, including SFP, SFP+, QSFP, QSFP+ and QSFP28. In addition, these optics are interoperable with other commonly used form factors, including XFP, CFP, CFP2, as well as Cisco’s proprietary CPAK form factor.

Expanding on their optical transceiver versatility, Arista switches go beyond mere compatibility by incorporating auto-negotiation features and dynamic reconfiguration capabilities. This means that, in addition to supporting a wide array of form factors like SFP and QSFP, Arista switches possess the intelligence to adapt to the specific requirements of interconnected systems. 

In comparing Cisco vs Arista optical transceiver form factors adaptation, Cisco’s optical transceiver form factors ensure exclusive compatibility with Cisco hardware, ensuring seamless integration and optimized performance in a unified ecosystem. Arista’s diverse optical form factors provide versatility and interoperability with widely adopted standards, fostering flexibility in network configurations. 

While Cisco’s proprietary approach ensures seamless integration, it may lead to potential vendor lock-in, whereas Arista’s diverse compatibility enhances flexibility but may introduce complexity in managing various form factors.

Trust BrightStar Systems For All Your Cisco and Arista Hardware

Whether you’re looking to purchase Cisco or Arista Products, BrightStar Systems has you covered; we offer great prices on pre-owned routers, switches and optics from both manufacturers, and our global shipping network allows us to sell hardware anywhere in the world.

In addition to offering great prices, we make sure all our customers are 100 percent satisfied with their purchase once their order arrives. We do this in a few ways.

First, we test every single piece of used hardware we buy to ensure it’s in full operating condition. Second, every piece of equipment we sell includes BrightStar Systems’ 1-Year, In-house Warranty. That means no replacement or repair costs for at least a year.

And third, we offer excellent customer service. We’ve been reselling networking hardware for more than 20 years; it’s safe to say we’re industry experts. We’re here to help you as you gather information for an Arista vs Cisco comparison for your needs, as well as throughout the buying process in order to determine exactly which products will best fit your needs.

We manage to keep our prices down by buying in bulk from enterprises, network providers and liquidated data centers all over the world, but we also buy equipment from individuals.

If you’re interested in selling your used data center equipment, please contact us. We can even set up freight pickup for bulk purchases; all you have to do is pack everything up and have it ready to go.

Head to our individual manufacturer pages for Cisco and Arista to learn more about the used products we stock or contact us directly with any specific questions you have, and we’ll make sure to get you all the information you need to complete your purchase or sale.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Arista Networks is preferred for its reliable, fast switches, user-friendly CLI, seamless automation capabilities, and simplified licensing structure, making it well-suited for large-scale environments.

Cisco excels with a comprehensive selection of hardware, offering unparalleled versatility, integration capabilities, and long-term value through innovation. Its large market share (41%) and extensive troubleshooting resources contribute to its perceived superiority.

While both Arista and Cisco offer high-performance switches, Arista’s switches are known for a user-friendly CLI, seamless automation, and simplified licensing. Cisco, on the other hand, emphasizes a comprehensive hardware selection with unparalleled versatility and integration capabilities.

Cisco dominates the market with a 41% share, whereas Arista holds a 19% share. The vast difference in market presence contributes to variations in available resources, certified engineers, and overall industry impact.

The gist of a comparison of Arista vs Cisco includes the following pros and cons: 
Arista pros: Reliable, fast switches, user-friendly CLI, simplified licensing. Cons: Smaller market share.

Cisco pros: Comprehensive hardware, unparalleled versatility. Cons: Potentially steeper learning curve, proprietary approach.

The major cost considerations of Arista vs Cisco is that Arista may offer cost advantages with simplified licensing and potentially more affordable switches, while Cisco, with its extensive hardware selection, might have higher upfront costs but could provide long-term value.

Arista switches boast a modern and streamlined CLI, favoring consistency and simplicity. Cisco commands, though comprehensive, may have a steeper learning curve due to extensive features and supported protocols.