Avaya CEO Kevin Kennedy at Enterprise Connect 2014: How Fabric Connect Eliminates Network Suffering

Are networks complicated these days? You bet.

The demands have never been higher, as an explosion of applications over a multitude of devices call for ever-growing bandwidth. People want voice, video and apps, and they want them now.

That was certainly evident at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, where Avaya provided a 54-Terabit infrastructure upon which the crucial Olympic Family network rested—delivering 36 channels of live TV and Internet connectivity to athletes, officials and journalists.

“Sochi was a success in simplicity,” said Avaya President and CEO Kevin Kennedy, during his keynote address this week at Enterprise Connect. “We handled the equivalent of three Super Bowls-worth of traffic for 17 days.”

Analyst Zeus Zerravala agreed: “This is where the industry needs to put more focus.”

Each Olympics brings fresh networking challenges. At Sochi, tens of thousands of devices connected to the Olympic Family network each day. This time around, roughly 70 percent of all traffic was wireless. Just four years ago, at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, the ratio was flipped, with roughly 70 percent of network connections being fixed.

“Sochi was a bold set of choices, to cap the status quo and to move to an aggressive and application-friendly future,” Kennedy said. “Applications are what it’s about. That’s what people use, that’s where the velocity is, and that’s where the money is. That’s our user experience.”

Avaya CEO Kevin Kennedy at Enterprise Connect 2014

Networking has traditionally been monolithic, with legacy companies building the entire technology stack. That rigid networking design may have worked in the past—in a world with strict client-server computing—but they struggle to handle today’s dynamic, application-driven demands.

“From the communications layers, to the applications layers, today, we are be-riddled with a constellation of applications, each with their own administrative domains,” Kennedy said. As a result, “many of us find ourselves in an unsustainable operational IT cul-de-sac…one that stalls our ability to roll out applications. Our complexity, after three decades of client-server computing and walking into a world of publish-and-subscribe applications – is hitting an unsustainable moment in time.”

The monoliths of the past are being broken down, particularly as various slices of the networking stack become commoditized, making technology more affordable.

“It costs money to do these things and when you do an Olympics, you don’t have an unlimited amount of time,” Kennedy pointed out. “If you don’t meet the schedule or it doesn’t work, everybody knows. The choice was: Do we continue the status quo? And the status quo is one that we in the enterprise world are familiar with.”

The solution was Avaya Fabric Connect, which uses network virtualization and cloud computing to create an easily-scalable networking solution.

“It’s an edge-only configuration,” he explained. “Define your service. It’s built on a protocol called Shortest-Path Bridging, which starts with the belief that you have ubiquitous Ethernet; you have ubiquitous mobility. You have V-LANs that scale from 4,000 to over 16 million, and now I can establish a service layer, administer it once, and have that service roll out across my network. You remove the number of steps; you remove the number of errors.”

The result was a “a great and stunning performance: 100 percent uptime. Six 9s availability,
one 9 improvement over the prior Olympics. 3-to-1 peak average

So is there still room for innovation and growth?

“I think the industry is ready for yet one more wave of productivity,” Kennedy said. “That tends to be an infrastructure today not even managed by many of our CIO infrastructures. Every software piece of infrastructure today has to enable itself, as well as applications in multimode environments, whether it be cloud, hosted, or just virtualized.”

The IT infrastructure must be application-friendly to enable all of these.

“Our job is to make sure we create more oxygen, so that those applications have a friendly IT environment, so they can prosper and grow,” Kennedy said. “You should expect from Avaya that we will continue to give you the opportunity for simplification.

“Whether it’s acquisition costs, operating costs or total cost of ownership, the impact to you can be very, very significant in terms of savings over the status quo,” he continued. “These are the opportunities Avaya is trying to deliver to you each and every day.”

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5 Things CIOs Must Do Immediately to Stay Relevant in Today's Environment

In most organizations today, CIOs are being asked to define in plain terms disruptive trends like IoT, Cloud, Big Data, analytics and others. CIOs are also expected to figure out what these trends mean to their organizations and go the last mile of transforming these inevitabilities into real business opportunities.

This is a new role for CIOs, who had previously just been in charge of managing IT and day-to-day operations. The CIO and his or her team are no longer the “back office.” Businesses assume a lot more from IT today, and the CIO is expected to add commercial value to their organization. In fact, the CIO is at the heart of this digital transformation.

When a CMO is being pressured by technology-empowered customers–whose knowledge of the company’s products might exceed their own–digital business engagement becomes the CMO’s main strategic imperative. If the company doesn’t adopt appropriate digital tools, chances are customers will leave. In this scenario, the CMO has a choice: turn to the CIO, or get external help.

Let’s look at the top 5 things today’s CIO must start doing immediately to continue being relevant to the modern organization:

#5: Accept and Own

The debate over whether today’s successful organization needs to have a solid digital strategy is gone, so accept it, own it, and drive it.

Who better than the CIO knows how to bridge the silos in their organization’s functional departments, create seamless digital touchpoints, and eventually, build an omnichannel experience that delivers a consistent, world-class customer engagement platform?

If you have a solid information and communication technology strategy that details how to efficiently use current technologies, go ahead and own the digital strategy. It starts and ends with the customer–how else can the enterprise experience top-line growth?

#4: Have an Open Mind

CIOs must take a hard look at how effective their business unit is. What is the CMO’s objectives? How do those objectives line up with Finance? It’s not all about cutting costs! The CFO will be convinced if sustainable growth and profitability patterns are proven.

The CIO’s job is more than pushing EDM campaigns, or requesting discounts for IT projects. The CIO must understand, align and drive the realization of the big picture in every strategic function of the organization. In a recent report, the Economist found just 37 percent of CIOs consider incorporating new technologies in their business a “high priority.” While being risk-adverse is not always bad, it can severely impact innovation.

#3: Create “Business Engineers”

CIOs must find advocates for change inside their organizations. That process begins inside the IT department, but if the CIO looks hard enough, they’ll no doubt find additional change agents across the business. For transformation to happen, the CIO must engage constituents across the company, changing the mindsets of not only their direct reports, but regional offices overseas. It’s time to create “business engineers,” who can help make that transformation a reality.

#2: Consider an Advisory Board

Gary Wimberly, the CIO of Express Scripts (the 20th-largest company on the Fortune 500) is a strong advocate for having trusted advisors who are capable of enhancing throughput and helping the CIO improve the rate of innovation. Wimberly believes his advisory board helped Express Scripts lower the cost of IT across the board.

CIOs must choose their trusted advisors carefully, and evaluate those relationships regularly. In research done by CIO magazine, 46 percent of CIOs said they considered their vendors truly strategic partners–defined as “an important vendor that has gone beyond effective delivery of systems and services to become a consistently transparent, responsive and trusted collaborator.” It’s important for CIOs to build an advisory board who they can rely on to support them in realizing their vision, while also re-electing when necessary.

So go ahead and elect your “advisory board” who you can always rely on to support you in realizing your vision, but re-elect when necessary.

#1: Believe in Yourself

Change is inevitable, and if not managed well, the results could be catastrophic. Who can understand and create value from a company’s IT investments if not the CIO? The company can talk about the digital transformation, and draw their customers’ digital journey all they want, but the only person capable of acting on the digital business and driving disruptive change is the CIO.

In his book “CIO Leading Change: in the digital economy,” Kapil Dev Singh believes only the CIO can “crystallize the perspectives, thoughts and practical frameworks related to the digital initiatives.”

In a white paper released by Earnst & Young, researchers say they believe CIOs are the most capable to handle digital change–and why not? IT sits at the heart of many business units, from marketing and HR to supply chain management, and is uniquely positioned to lead change inside the organization.

At the 2015 Gartner Symposium/ITxpo Middle East on May 19-21 in Dubai, CIOs will learn how to transform and adapt to the changing world around them and how to remain not only relevant, but an essential asset to their organization. I and a number of my peers have built a track record in helping CIOs and organizations transform. Drop by and have a chat with the Avaya team.

Enterprise Connect 2014: Avaya Cloud UC Triumphs in the 'Game of CIOs'

At Enterprise Connect 2014 last week, a mock Request for Proposal (RFP) was held. This is a simulation of the large contracts that companies and governmental agencies will put out for bidding by vendors, who compete on providing the best technology architecture, features and total cost of ownership (TCO, typically over a 3-5 year period).

iron throne Pat Loika Flickr

Pat Loika/Flickr

I called it ‘The Game of CIOs,’ in homage to a favorite TV show, when I wrote about the RFP competition last year. Avaya did well then, winning one of the three RFPs, deploying an all-new on-premises UC system for 2,000 employees, and scoring among the top in the other two competitions, including beating Cisco in the crucial RFP for deploying UC on top of an existing PBX.

Rob McMaher, chief architect and consultant in the Office of the CTO at Avaya, oversaw Avaya’s entry last year and this year. This year, Avaya placed second in the competition overseen by UC consultant David Stein for the on-premises UC RFP, again, beating out Cisco, he said. More impressively, Avaya took first in the RFP for cloud-based UC for 2,000 employees, beating out Alcatel-Lucent, Shoretel and Thinking Phone Networks.

Avaya Cloud RFP Competition 2014 Enterprise Connect

McMaher said Avaya won on technical grounds because of its reliability (better than five 9s uptime), elegant design and all-inclusive stack of products down to the networking gear and session border controllers, while our suite licensing helped us win on TCO.

Avaya Cloud RFP Competition 2014 Enterprise Connect 2

As a cloud solution, it was assumed that some portions such as the telephones would be purchased, while most of the external data center-based services would be leased.

If you’d like to learn more about our cloud offerings, download the entire deck here from SlideShare. And look for the Cloud guidebook to be published by Avaya next month.

Enterprise Connect: To Do UC Right, Plan for Constant Change

cartoon need for change

On Wednesday, I had the pleasure of participating on the panel for Marty Parker’s session at Enterprise Connect “UC Options: the Many Ways to Do UC?”   After each of the vendors had an opportunity to discuss the value they deliver and the choices they provide, Marty asked the panelists to take 30 seconds to provide advice to the audience at hand.

My advice … plan for change.

I’ve always believed that UC is about bringing the right people together at the right time to drive better and faster decisions, to accelerate workflow, and to remove latency from business processes. All vendors will be able to show sexy capabilities that support these efforts. Clearly, there is a need to find a solution that addresses the business requirement, but how do you know that you’ve identified what that is?

Related article: Three Obstacles to Using Skype or Google Hangouts for Business Meetings

As an enterprise applies UC solutions more deeply and more broadly to their business, they will discover new or iterative use case needs driven by both functional and technical requirements. The enterprise will always be in pursuit of better customer experience:  what is considered customer excellence today will become the base line tomorrow. Customers and employees are constantly becoming smarter, more mobile, more social, and more empowered.

When considering technology, the enterprise needs to evolve from their current asset inventory of infrastructure and applications to whatever will address the current business requirement.  Then, they will have to evolve to the future for whatever that entails.  In recent years we’ve been dealing with the commercialization of IT, BYOD, and who could have imagined the impact that the iPad would have on our business?  What does WebRTC hold for the future of UC?

Given that we are in a state of constant change, no one can afford to go through a rip and replace scenario at each stage of change.  Likewise, maintaining a siloed approach to bringing new capability to the enterprise, it’s users, and its customers is untenable.

When considering a UC solution, look for an enterprise grade platform that is architected to have the agility and extensibility to evolve as the business does, and look for services to help you plan, implement, and manage your solution over the short and long term.

Plan for change.