Speculation has grown around whether or not Salesforce plans to move off of Oracle databases. This may, or may not, be the case, according to two analysts.
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In 2013, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison held a joint phone call lauding the nine-year licensing agreement in which Salesforce would use Oracle’s database to host its core products. Many analysts were on the call, but no questions were allowed, according to John Rymer, a Forrester Research vice president and principal analyst who was on the call. Instead, the analysts were instant messaging among themselves, prophesizing what this partnership may mean for the coming years.
“A bunch of us were chatting in the background, saying Benioff hung up the phone, walked down the hall and said to his tech people, ‘You have nine years to get me off Oracle,'” Rymer recalled.
Salesforce has consistently needed to outsource its databases and infrastructure, providing its competitors — namely, Oracle — with a substantial licensing fee and a brand-name customer. In early January, CNBC reported that Salesforce and Amazon had made “significant progress” moving away from Oracle technology. While the report was poorly sourced and “mixes up things,” according to Rymer, he did agree with the sentiment that Salesforce is certainly working to rid itself of its reliance on one of its main competitors.
“[Salesforce] wants control of their own tech stack and to the extent they can get what they need from a lower-cost option or an open source option,” Rymer said. “I’m quite confident they’re working on that.”
Whether or not Salesforce is working on a proprietary relational database depends on who you ask. Founders of both Oracle and Salesforce have scoffed at the notion that Salesforce is leaving its database.
“Salesforce isn’t moving off of Oracle,” Ellison said during Oracle’s December earnings call. “Our competitors, who they have no reason to like us very much, continue to invest in and run their entire business on Oracle … Salesforce runs entirely on Oracle. I mean, go ahead. You tell me who’s moving off of Oracle.”
That earnings call was a little more than two weeks before the public reports trickled out about Salesforce and Amazon working to move off of Oracle. The reports stated that Amazon has been building its own infrastructure, called Redshift, since 2000, and Salesforce is building out infrastructure with the code name Sayonara — Japanese for “goodbye.”
Denis Pombriant, founder and managing principal at Beagle Research, said he believes it would be a waste of resources to build Salesforce databases and go against the current direction Salesforce is moving.
“The best investment is in a disruptive innovation, and building a database is not that,” Pombriant said. “A disruptive innovation is adding analytics, or building out a better mobile product or innovating around Trailhead — all things Salesforce has done and poured decent money into — and those will provide returns. But building a database to use internally and maybe try to sell in the marketplace does the opposite. It’s a drain of resources.”
Salesforce’s new partnerships
About speculation that Salesforce is working toward leaving Oracle, the company said only that “Salesforce does not comment on rumors.”
Regardless of Salesforce’s stance on Oracle, the San Francisco-based company has partnered with several other infrastructure leaders over the past year, with an Amazon Web Services (AWS) partnership stemming from 2017 and a newer partnership with Google Cloud announced at Dreamforce in November. That, combined with Salesforce’s influx of startup technology through its string of purchases in recent years, signals that Salesforce is hoping to modernize its infrastructure, according to Rymer.
“Startups tend to not base their technology on Oracle databases,” Rymer said. “Since 2013, Salesforce has made a bunch of acquisitions, launched a lot of products, and a lot of those newer products are running on AWS.”
Considerations with or without Oracle
Whether a potential switch to Salesforce databases affects its customers depends on how seamless the data migration is.
“If [building out Salesforce databases] impacts customers, then Salesforce has failed,” Rymer said. “Salesforce customers don’t see the Oracle database. So, any movement has to be seamless.”
Pombriant, however, who asked Salesforce co-founder Parker Harris if Salesforce is moving on from Oracle, said it is more likely Salesforce is building capabilities to work with Oracle’s database.
John Rymervice president and principal analyst, Forrester
“Parker Harris told me directly that won’t be [Salesforce’s] direction,” Pombriant said. He added that Harris said Salesforce is working on technologies that add capabilities around the edges — and it’s those projects that could be the Sayonara products to which the public reports refer. “It’s quite possible — I know that Oracle and Salesforce admit they have a relationship, and Oracle developers work with Salesforce to better understand what each is doing.”
Building out proprietary Salesforce databases — while possible — just doesn’t seem like a feasible option to Pombriant.
“I’m not skeptical that [Salesforce] can pull it off; I’m skeptical they intend to,” Pombriant said. “There’s the old joke that if you give a million monkeys typewriters, in a million years, someone will write a Shakespearian play — great. You can say the same thing about building databases. It’s a bad business move and doesn’t produce tangible, bankable results.”
Citrix plans to collapse five partner incentive programs into a single structure that the company said will simplify the way channel companies apply for incentives.
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The unified incentive program, dubbed Citrix Ultimate Rewards, was announced at this week’s Citrix Summit 2018 and will go live Feb. 10. Paul Fecteau, managing director of partner programs and operations at Citrix, said the move marks a “simplification of our partner program structure and the process involved.”
Prior to the restructuring, Citrix operated five program elements: Citrix Advisor Rewards (CAR), CAR Plus, CAR Bonus, Opportunity Registration and Net New Partner-Sourced (NNPS). Fecteau said the components, which have rolled out over the course of 18 years, have all served a purpose in Citrix’s partnering initiative, but added a level of complexity. Partners have to apply separately to each of the five programs, for example.
With the new system, partners can register a deal without having to apply for the individual incentives. Instead, partners provide information on the customers, and the systems’ built-in intelligence determines the discount elements for which a Citrix partner qualifies, according to Fecteau.
“They can register deals … without having to understand the intricacies,” he said.
Citrix joins Cisco and Microsoft as vendors that have moved to streamline their channel programs in recent months. At its 2017 Partner Summit, Cisco discussed the retooling of channel programs targeting its resale partners. The networking vendor said it is taking steps to simplify its specialization portfolio and deal registration efforts. And at its annual channel meetup in July 2017, Microsoft unveiled measures the company said will simplify partner engagement and go-to-market approaches.
Discount and rebate programs
Paul Fecteaumanaging director of partner programs and operations at Citrix
As part of the Citrix Ultimate Rewards revamp revealed at Citrix Summit 2018, partner incentives have been recast as two discount programs, Spark and Drive, and one rebate program, called Accelerate. Accelerate provides a quarterly aggregated rebate. Spark, which Fecteau said is akin to NNPS, rewards partners for identifying and registering new selling opportunities that Citrix didn’t already know about, Fecteau explained.
Drive, meanwhile, is similar to CAR in that it offers rewards to partners that pursue value-selling activities that result in a sale. Value-selling activities include delivering a solution design, scheduling a customer demo or proof of concept, and providing an implementation schedule.
Beyond program simplification, the Citrix partner program changes also aim to accelerate partners’ profit in the cloud, while still rewarding them for on-premises business, Fecteau said. In 2018, partners will earn rebates based on selling Citrix Cloud services and product sales growth.
Fecteau said the cloud-related rebate is the first time Citrix has established a rebate specifically for cloud sales. But any combination of cloud sales expansion and on-premises product revenue growth will earn partners a rebate, he added.
Also at Citrix Summit 2018
Partners attending at Citrix Summit 2018 will hear keynoters, including Citrix President and CEO David Henshall, talk about the company’s overall strategy.
Conference sessions are organized around a handful of tracks, including sales, technical, marketing and Citrix service provider.
The Citrix partner conference, held in Anaheim, Calif., concludes Jan. 9.
AT&T plans to introduce fifth-generation, or 5G, mobile services in a dozen markets by the end of the year, as it aims to become the first U.S. carrier to offer the high-speed wireless network.
The rollout of the AT&T 5G services was sped up by the recent completion of new standards, the company said. In December, international wireless standards body 3GPP finished the new radio specifications that define radio access to the network.
The completed standards provide the specs device and chipset manufacturers need to build 5G products capable of handling data speeds of up to 10 Gbps — 10 to 20 times faster than the current 4G networks. In a statement, AT&T said it’s “confident this latest standards milestone will allow us to bring 5G to market faster.”
Verizon plan differs from AT&T 5G strategy
AT&T rivals Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint also plan to offer 5G mobile services. However, the companies, including AT&T, haven’t described in detail the services they would provide.
While AT&T focuses on mobile, Verizon has aimed its initial 5G work at residential broadband services, which the company plans to launch in five markets this year. The higher-frequency range of 5G makes it possible for service providers to deliver high-speed internet to homes wirelessly.
Fifth-generation is expected to support tens of millions of new broadband connections at 50 Mbps or more. The higher speeds on fixed and mobile 5G services can power virtual reality applications, driverless cars and 4K streaming video.
While preparing AT&T 5G services for consumers, the company plans to test the technology with businesses across industries. AT&T said the lower latency of 5G would make it useful in edge computing, an architecture designed for the internet of things.
Despite the ongoing 5G rollouts, carriers are not expected to deliver wide-scale services until at least 2020. Manufacturers will need time to build support in devices, and most service providers are content to wait until they reap the full return on 4G investments.
In September, we introduced a new vision for intelligent communications including plans to evolve Microsoft Teams into the primary client for calling and meetings in Office 365. As part of this, we are bringing comprehensive calling and meetings capabilities into Microsoft Teams, along with data and insights from the Microsoft Graph, and a strong roadmap of innovation to empower teams to achieve more.
Today we are releasing new calling capabilities in Teams, providing full featured dialing capabilities, complete with call history, hold/resume, speed dial, transfer, forwarding, caller ID masking, extension dialing, multi-call handling, simultaneous ringing, voicemail, and text telephone (TTY) support. You can expect this to roll out over the next few hours and should come soon to your tenant.
To add calling in Teams for your users, the first thing you need is Phone System (formerly Cloud PBX), which is included with Office 365 E5 and available as an add-on to other Office 365 plans. From there, you can subscribe to a Calling Plan (formerly known as PSTN Calling) for any number of users in your organization.
Together, a Calling Plan and Phone System in Office 365 create a phone system for your organization, giving each user a primary phone number and letting them make and receive phone calls to and from outside of your organization. This solution also allows your organization to shift away from expensive telephony hardware and simplifying by centralizing the management of your phone system.
With the addition of calling, Teams is an even more robust hub for teamwork — the single place for your content, contacts and communications including chat, meetings and calling in a modern, collaboration experience.
Getting started with calling in Teams
To get started with calling in Teams, please review our quick start guide. You can learn more about geographic availability of Calling Plans here. We also invite you to join us live December 18, at 9 AM PDT on Teams On Air to hear guest Marc Pottier, Principal Program Manager discuss and demo calling plans in Microsoft Teams in more detail.
Aerohive Networks, a cloud-controlled wireless LAN provider, plans to launch in January an SD-WAN product aimed at retail chains, healthcare providers and other organizations with a large number of small- to midsize branch offices.
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Aerohive, which announced its intentions this week, said it would combine the SD-WAN offering with its existing WLAN products. In a single Aerohive cloud-managed product, the union would deliver a Wi-Fi network, a Layer 3 VPN gateway and a router called the XR200P.
Aerohive needs the above combination to stay even with its largest competitor, Cisco. The latter’s Meraki brand, which competes head-to-head with Aerohive, is already used as a “low-end” SD-WAN, said John Burke, an analyst at Nemertes Research, based in Mokena, Ill. Service providers, such as Comcast, also offer SD-WAN with Wi-Fi.
“Adding SD-WAN functionality to the portfolio is a very good idea,” Burke said of Aerohive.
Aerohive’s SD-WAN features are similar to what’s already available from other vendors. Companies, for example, can choose the path traffic takes according to the originating application. Options include steering packets to the corporate VPN, to a whitelisted software as a service or to a cloud security gateway for further examination.
Aerohive cloud features
Other Aerohive cloud-provided features include the following:
- link-state monitoring and automated remediation when a connection fails;
- the ability to set security based on user group and the client OS, MAC address and location;
- automated provisioning of SD-WAN routers installed at locations; and
- network troubleshooting tools and reporting on links and connected network devices, VPN tunnel latency, throughput and uptime metrics.
Aerohive’s highest selling point is a single management console for SD-WAN and Wi-Fi, said Craig Mathias, an analyst for wireless advisory firm Farpoint Group, based in Ashland, Mass.
“The potential for cost savings is enhanced via improved visibility, reliability and operations-staff productivity,” he said.
Nevertheless, Aerohive will enter a market with more than three dozen competitors. Consolidation is underway, as large vendors add SD-WAN to their portfolios to tap into a fast-growing market. This year’s examples include Cisco acquiring Viptela and VMware announcing plans to swallow VeloCloud.
Over the next four years, SD-WAN infrastructure and services revenues will grow 69.6% annually, reaching $8.05 billion in 2021, according to IDC.
VMware plans to acquire SD-WAN vendor VeloCloud Networks, a move that would turn the branch office into a battleground for the virtualization provider and Cisco.
The VeloCloud-VMware acquisition, announced this week, would be carried out in early February. With VeloCloud, VMware would go head-to-head against Cisco’s Viptela, IWAN and Meraki brands. SD-WAN, in general, intelligently routes branch traffic across multiple links, such as broadband, MPLS and LTE.
“This is the first time that Cisco and VMware will directly compete in the networking world,” said Shamus McGillicuddy, an analyst at Enterprise Management Associates, based in Boulder, Colo.
Before, the closest Cisco and VMware came to competing in networking was with their software-defined networking platforms ACI and NSX, respectively. The products, however, serve mostly different purposes in the data center. NSX provisions network services within VMware’s virtualized computing environments while ACI distributes application-centric policies to Cisco switches.
VMware SDN marches to the branch
The VeloCloud-VMware acquisition, however, marks the start of taking NSX to the branch, where Cisco is already offering ACI. Both vendors are also working on extending their respective SDN platforms to enterprise software running on public clouds.
In the branch, VMware plans to provide SD-WAN, security, routing and other services on an NSX-based network overlay that’s hardware agnostic. Rather than supply branch appliances for VeloCloud software, VMware wants customers to buy certified hardware from different vendors.
Shamus McGillicuddyanalyst, Enterprise Management Associates
“That is certainly our longer-term vision for this. That it will be a pure software play,” said Rajiv Ramaswami, COO of cloud services at VMware, during a conference call with reporters and analysts.
In the short term, VMware would support appliances sold by VeloCloud, Ramaswami said. VMware’s parent company, Dell EMC, also sells hardware for VeloCloud software.
While VMware shies away from hardware, Cisco has delivered centralized software that provisions network services to the branch through a new line of routers, called the Catalyst 9000s. In the future, Cisco could also provide a software-only option through the Enterprise Network Functions Virtualization platform (ENFV) the company introduced last year. ENFV would run on Cisco servers or third-party certified hardware.
“Cisco is making multiple bets in SD-WAN,” McGillicuddy said.
Cloud orchestration a key piece of VeloCloud-VMware acquisition
VMware is banking on VeloCloud’s cloud-based network orchestration tools to evolve into a significant differentiator from Cisco and other WAN infrastructure providers. VMware could eventually use the technology to orchestrate network services in the branch and the cloud, Ramaswami said.
VMware’s ambitions do not alter the fact that it has a difficult road ahead battling Cisco. The latter company dominates the networking market with more than 150,000 paying customers for its WAN products, according to Gartner. VMware is the largest supplier of data center virtualization, but is a newbie in networking.
VeloCloud’s roughly 1,000 customers include service providers, as well as enterprises. AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, Sprint, Vonage and Windstream are examples of carriers that offer the company’s SD-WAN product as a service.
VMware sells network virtualization software to service providers and expects VeloCloud to help grow that relatively small business. “VeloCloud and their deep relationship with the service provider community is a huge route to a market accelerator,” said Peder Ulander, a vice president of strategy at VMware.
VMware did not release financial details of the acquisition.
Early next year, Cisco plans to let a small group of enterprise customers test-drive a voice-powered assistant in Spark.
The virtual helper, announced this week at the Cisco Partner Summit in Dallas, needs practice before it can perform chores reliably in the company’s cloud-based team collaboration software. So, Cisco is asking for volunteers to let it gather enough employee user data to help ready the service for general availability within the Cisco Spark app.
“This technology will evolve as users use it,” said Jonathan Rosenberg, CTO for Cisco’s collaboration business. “It has to be trained constantly and improved based on real usage patterns.”
Initially, the Cisco Spark assistant will use people’s vocal cues to enter a person into a Spark or WebEx online meeting or call a person within the same organization. People can also command the digital aide to record or end sessions.
While the capabilities are modest, Cisco plans to use data collected from people’s interactions with the service to make it smarter. In time, the company expects to automate other routine chores in the Cisco Spark app, such as planning and scheduling, taking down to-do items and crafting and sending meeting summaries. Cisco did not disclose a timetable for rolling out the more advanced capabilities.
The Spark Assistant is built on technology developed by MindMeld, an artificial intelligence vendor Cisco acquired this year. The company bought the startup because of its work in voice-activated personal assistants.
For now, Cisco will offer voice assistance to customers of its Spark Room Kit and Room Kit Plus video conferencing devices. The rectangular hardware that plugs into a third-party display includes speakers, microphone and cameras powerful enough for up to 15 people gathered in a conference room to take part in a Cisco Spark app meeting.
Microsoft Cortana in the lead
Today, Microsoft’s Cortana is the most widely deployed virtual assistant for business, according to Nemertes Research, based in Mokena, Ill. Corporate employees using Office 365 can order Cortana to update work calendars, set reminders, create lists and read emails. The vendor has integrated the application into Windows 10.
Microsoft’s lead in business does not mean rivals, such as Cisco, do not have time to catch up. Organizations are aware of voice-controlled software but have yet to deploy it in large numbers. Nevertheless, companies consider virtual assistants a necessary technology within products and business processes reworked for the current digital age, Nemertes said.
The success of UC and collaboration vendors embedding voice-powered features in products will depend, in part, on addressing two of businesses’ most significant concerns — security and privacy. Suppliers will have to address potential risks through access controls and encryption of conversations.
Adoption of secured voice-controlled applications is sure to increase in business as consumers use the technology in the home. Spending on virtual personal assistant-enabled wireless speakers, such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, will reach $3.5 billion by 2021 from $700 million in 2016, according to Gartner.
Microsoft plans to replace Skype for Business Online with the Teams collaboration service, a move likely to have the greatest effect on companies using the video conferencing software for on-premises or cloud-based telephony.
Microsoft will replace the Skype for Business user interface with the Teams UI, while continuing with the Skype communications infrastructure, which already powers audio and video communications in Teams. Microsoft announced the transition Monday at its Ignite developer conference in Orlando, Fla.
Microsoft did not provide a timetable for the change, saying it would occur “over time.” Analysts, however, expect Skype for Business Online to disappear by 2020.
The switch is significant because Teams will become the core communications client for Office 365, the company’s cloud-based business productivity suite with 60 million commercial customers.
What happens to Skype for Business Server?
The transition adds uncertainty to the long-term prospects of Skype for Business Server, the on-premises version of the cloud-based PBX that connects Skype for Business to the public telephone network. Analysts wonder how that product will be affected as Microsoft directs more of its resources to online communications.
“One doesn’t know the pace at which they will be making enhancements, since it’s no longer a part of their strategic product direction,” said Bern Elliot, an analyst at Gartner.
For now, Microsoft plans to conduct business as usual. In the second half of next year, the company will release an upgrade of Skype for Business Server, which provides voice and video conferencing along with PBX services unavailable in Skype for Business Online.
The switch to Teams also brings uncertainty to companies that have swapped their telephone system for the cloud-based version of Skype for Business. That’s because there is no commitment on the part of Microsoft to move all functionality over to Teams.
Bern Elliotanalyst at Gartner
“It’s not certain what will be available when — especially when it comes to some of the functions like telephony,” Elliot said. “Companies that had a plan to do [Skype for Business] telephony online should review their plans in light of the uncertainty.”
Meanwhile, Microsoft is beefing up telephony in Teams. At Ignite, the company is announcing the ability to make and receive calls on the public telephone network. Also, Teams users will have the option of placing calls on hold, transferring them to another party or sending them to voicemail.
Despite the telephony enhancements, swapping out Skype for Business Online could be painful for many enterprises that have to train employees to use Teams, analysts warned. However, AFR Furniture Rental, based in Pennsauken, N.J., believes the additional features in Teams will be worth the move for the company’s 500 Skype for Business users.
“I think it’s going to be a pretty easy integration for Microsoft to do,” said Steven Singer, manager of information systems for AFR. “I don’t see a real downside, outside of training, and training is temporary.”
The market trend that killed Skype for Business Online
Microsoft’s decision to fade out Skype for Business Online is a response to companies demanding more communication functionality in group messaging applications, which are growing in popularity among employees, analysts said. Microsoft’s biggest rival, Cisco, is similarly focused on its competing Spark product.
A survey of 700 companies found that nearly half had rolled out team chat apps enterprise-wide or were planning to do so, according to Nemertes Research, based in Mokena, Ill.
The trend toward group messaging services means software-based phones like Skype for Business, which also provide messaging and limited document sharing, are “dead,” said Art Schoeller, an analyst at Forrester Research. “All these separate client experiences are collapsing into a team messaging interface.”
Discontinuing Skype for Business Online will reduce Microsoft’s bloated portfolio of collaboration apps to three — Teams, Yammer and Office 365 Groups.
“The Teams interface is much better suited to group, persistent collaboration, and it provides clarity around what so far has been a confusing array of Microsoft collaboration tools,” said Irwin Lazar, an analyst at Nemertes Research.
Also at Ignite, Microsoft will announce that Teams will get tighter integration with SharePoint, which is the company’s document management and collaboration tool. Pages and communication sites people create in SharePoint will be accessible through Teams.
Yammer is also on tap to get tighter integration with SharePoint, as well as changes to data handling to meet the compliance requirements of many enterprises.
Arista Networks Inc. plans to release in the fourth quarter tools for building a consistent network fabric that spans public and private clouds — an approach that’s significantly different from archrival Cisco’s application-centric strategy to hybrid cloud management.
The new Arista technology includes a virtualized version of its EOS network operating system for Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure and Oracle Cloud, the company said Wednesday. At the same time, the company will launch an upgrade of Arista CloudVision, which will manage the cross-cloud switching fabric.
Companies can deploy the virtualized version of EOS, called vEOS, through the respective marketplaces of the cloud providers. Businesses running EOS in their data centers will be able to use the same set of tools for managing application traffic through vEOS.
The Arista CloudVision upgrade, which Arista will provide at no additional cost, will include a new set of tools, called Cloud Tracer, which delivers availability metrics for connections to public clouds and data centers. Tracer can also provide connection metrics for companies leasing data centers from colocation operator Equinix.
Arista CloudVision won’t be the only option for managing the Arista cloud fabric, said Shamus McGillicuddy, an analyst at Enterprise Management Associates, based in Boulder, Colo. “The Ansible playbooks you’ve built for your EOS-based private cloud will be extensible to the vEOS networks you deploy in AWS, Azure, etc.”
Cisco’s different approach with CloudCenter
Arista’s focus on managing the switching infrastructure below cloud-based applications is very different from Cisco’s focus on the application layer. Cisco’s cloud management software, called CloudCenter, abstracts the cloud platform’s APIs into a single pool of networking resources that companies can deploy through a self-service portal.
Cisco’s strategy is to help businesses move workloads and applications between their private clouds and the platforms of the public cloud providers. This strategy is heavily dependent on Cisco’s Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) software, which distributes and manages policies that govern network traffic.
Cisco has said it intends to make ACI available in public clouds, but hasn’t said when. That architecture, however, is likely to be less flexible than Arista’s strategy of providing a virtualized version of its OS, McGillicuddy said. “You need to be using ACI to derive value.”
And that value won’t be the same as in Arista, said Cliff Grossner, a senior research director at IHS Markit, based in London. “They’re very different offerings to solve different problems.”
Arista and Cisco have the same goals
Despite their technical differences, both vendors have the same goal, which is to provide a path for the increasing number of customers moving on-premises software to the cloud, said Brad Casemore, an analyst at IDC. For those customers, Arista and Cisco want to provide tools to extend the data center’s operational efficiencies, network automation and policies for security and compliance.
“This is a trend you’re going to see across the industry,” Casemore said. “For these vendors, there’s no ignoring the fact that their customers are going to want to use cloud services.”
Indeed, the latest IDC numbers show the rate at which companies are moving to the cloud. Spending on servers, storage and Ethernet switches in cloud environments will rise 15% this year, while the amount spent on traditional IT infrastructure will decline 5%.
Meanwhile, Arista continues to grab market share from its larger rival. In the second quarter, Arista’s share of the Ethernet switching market grew from 3.9% to 5.5% year over year, while Cisco’s fell from 56.8% to 54.7%, according to IDC.