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Sun founder Bechtolsheim and former Cisco exec Ullal lead Arista Networks

Many a company has set out to take down Cisco. But Arista Networks — fledgling maker of ultra high-speed Ethernet switches and data center infrastructure — is coming at that task with executive superpowers. The company announced Thursday it snagged former Cisco top executive of switching and data center Jayshree Ullal as CEO and Sun Microsystems co-founder Andreas Bechtolsheim as chairman and chief development officer.

Despite numerous reports that Bechtolsheim is abandoning Sun, the vendor says he will remain on board as a part timer in the Sun Systems group “helping to drive new product architectures, including X64 servers and storage servers” as well as other strategic initiatives.

It’s unclear how Bechtolsheim’s relationship with Sun will play in the future as Arista (formerly Arastra) grows — and that’s predicted to be quickly. The company was founded to deliver “cloud networking solutions for the large datacenter and computing environments,” according to its own press statements. That means it makes super-fast switches that beat Cisco in speed and physical size, as well as cost. That infrastructure is backed up by Arista’s Extensible Operation System, which enables nimble refresh and software updates across the network without interrupting data flow or other operations.

If anyone knows how to take on Cisco in the data center arena, it’s Ullal. She left Cisco earlier this year after 15 years and was one of the drivers behind that company’s Data Center 3.0 strategy. She was a proponent of 10 Gigabit Ethernet switching when others weren’t.

Bechtolsheim is credited with designing Sun’s first high-performance desktop computer known as a workstation. He left Sun for a stint to start two other companies, but returned four years ago to rework its product line.

Other companies with technology deemed superior to Cisco’s have barely made a dent in the networking market. Whether Arista’s combination of technology and heavy executive artillery will work is unclear. Arista says it’s targeting server-heavy companies that depend on high-performance networking, such as laboratories (or a Google for example) and will follow through on that vision.

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