Scaling Networks the x86 Way: Vyatta/Intel vs Cisco
“At Intel, Moore’s Law is alive and thriving.”
– Paul Otellini, Intel CEO, Sept 22, 2009
Vyatta is the only networking vendor whose wagon is hitched to the x86 ecosystem. And that explains a lot about Vyatta adoption: Our hardware R&D dwarfs Cisco’s.
It’s an easy proof. Start with the fact that Intel and Cisco are roughly the same size (~$35B annual sales), and their R&D budgets are similar. Here’s the 2008 data:
Intel R&D: $5.7B Cisco R&D: $5.2B
Intel focuses theirs directly on improving price/performance of x86 and related components, while Cisco spreads theirs across a massively wide set of products. So say Cisco actually spends 10% of their R&D on their hardware for routing and security, and you get this focused investment annually:
Intel: $5.7B Cisco: $0.5B
That’s an 11X difference right there. Now factor in the pace of direct competition: AMD is always pushing Intel, forcing them to go as fast as possible. In fact AMD spent $1.9B last year in R&D doing just that. Added in, we have:
Intel & AMD: $7.6B Cisco: $0.5B
That brings us up to 15X R&D difference, in favor of x86. And we haven’t even discussed the massive R&D in the ecosystem surrounding x86 such as memory, LAN/WAN cards, & backplanes. And let’s not forget the server vendors, spending R&D to productize and optimize x86-based systems; HP, IBM and Dell take in nearly $300B a year collectively. They’re absolutely investing R&D to make their servers competitive.
So proclaiming a 20X advantage in R&D for x86 infrastructure is an easy argument. (In fact, it’s probably conservative.) That means that over the past five years x86 infrastructure received 100 times more R&D than Cisco invested on their CPU-based hardware. Vyatta customers understand this… and love us for it.
The compounding effect of R&D supremacy is obvious. Two and a half years ago Vyatta published a benchmark that pitted a Dell server against Cisco’s lowest-priced GigE router – and clobbered it, with a 4X better price/performance. But while x86 vendors kept pressing forward, Cisco STILL sells the same box today! Or how about this one: One and a half years ago Vyatta published another benchmark, this time using a $3K IBM quad-core machine against a $35K Cisco box. Again, x86-based hardware beat the proprietary gear like a rented mule.
And now there’s even more to love. Intel recently shattered records again with their latest Nehalem offering — and Vyatta runs beautifully on it. The next benchmarks are lining up: This time it will be in the 10Gig arena, and the results are going to flatten Cisco. Dell will sell you a Nehalem server today for $2K, and a dual-port 10Gig card for another $2K. So customers can spend $4K for 10Gig hardware in the Intel world… or they can go to Cisco and spend $60K for the base system and another $20K for a single-port 10Gig card.
The bottom line: x86 hardware keeps moving up the Cisco food chain, and Vyatta lets customers take advantage of these kind of price/performance advantages:
- 2007: 4X ($800 vs $3,300)
- 2008: 12X ($2,900 vs $35,000)
- 2009: 20X ($4,000 vs $80,000)
That’s scaling, the x86 way. It’s clear: Vyatta customers are on the smart side of the equation.
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