Q&A: Taking Software Defined Networking Outside the Data Center

Most of the time, we think of Software-Defined Networking as something that lives within the data center. But what happens when we take the theories behind SDN and apply them elsewhere?

Last week, I sat down with Avaya Vice President of Fabric and Infrastructure, Liam Kiely, to talk about networking, SDN and the future.

Mark Fletcher: Hey, it’s Fletch with the Avaya Podcast Network, and we’re here live at the Avaya Technology Forum 2014 in Orlando, Florida, sitting down with one of the very first guests we ever had on the Avaya Podcast Network, Liam Kiely, who’s the Vice President of Fabric and Infrastructure at Avaya. Welcome once again to the podcast.

Liam Kiely: Thank you. It’s great to be back, Fletch. I’m looking forward to our chat here this morning.

Mark Fletcher: What’s one area of networking that you think is not being talked about enough and why?

Liam Kiely: What’s been over-talked about is SDN, and in a way, the unfortunate consequence of that is SDN, as discussed in the industry today, is predominantly confined to the data center, with some discussion of public-service-provider applications outside of that. The discussion is missing the whole point being dominated as an entirely data-center-focused initiative. It really narrowly defines the concept.

Even some of the best industry analysts seem to miss this point that the communications and users and applications extend well beyond the data center, and if your concept of an SDN is confined to that space, you really are missing the big picture.

Related article: Top 10 Networking Myths

Mark Fletcher: I think of diversity right off the bat. Everybody wants to be geo-diverse –You’ve got to think outside the data center.

Liam Kiely: Absolutely. Some of our colleagues here at the show today are deploying thousands of cameras. People don’t seem to understand the complexities of these devices: there’s millions of lines of codes, all kinds of applications, embedded web servers, and communication facilities in the cameras. These are servers every bit as much as the applications.

You see virtualized or physical applications inside the data center. There are thousands and thousands of devices of enormous complexity attached elsewhere within the network infrastructure that are missed and outside of the concept that you typically are hearing about in SDN discussions in the trade press.

Mark Fletcher: You need a low-latency network that’s manageable and operable because, like you said, if you were to ask an average IT person, “Hey, what if I’m going to put 1,000 web servers in your network? What would you think about that?” They would look at you like you’re crazy.

Liam Kiely: Absolutely, and they’re doing it with wireless access points, cameras and all other kinds of devices.

We’re seeing Google enter into the residential appliance market in other areas with this proliferation and idea of the Internet of Devices, so that extended concept is missing in the current SDN discussion, which is too narrowly confined to the data center.

Google and Facebook and others are driving an agenda and missing the whole enterprise play around Software Defined Networking.

Fabric Connect technology is at the heart of that. We feel we can build software-controlled networks on a fabric infrastructure and cater to the full scope of real user needs.

Mark Fletcher: What’s the next big thing, as far as you’re concerned? Where do we go?

Liam Kiely: For us, the journey has been starting with virtualizing the core of the enterprise because that’s where the cost, risk and complexity has been greatest. From there, we’ve been moving out to the aggregation layer, to the top-of-rack.

Most recently it’s been with our new product announcement, into the campus wiring closet which is really phenomenal.
So really, we’re celebrating the success and maturity of all of that here at ATF today.

I think what you’re going to see next is a push of the fabric into the further reaches of the network, into the hypervisors within the data center and into the physical devices and other types of server and user devices at the far end, at the access user side of the network.

This is going to be the big news for the next couple of years, extending true SDN concept out to where the users and real devices live, outside of the data center, and even within the data center, extending the fabric reach into the hypervisors and virtual machines from a multi-vendor standpoint.

This needs to get a lot more coverage and discussion. Avaya is there – Our head is completely around this. We’re laying in the plans and partnerships. Some of them you can see at the show here today, Fletch, people who really get it and have a broader vision than the one we’re hearing spoken of in the trade media.

Mark Fletcher: Yeah, it’s not just about talking the talk. It’s walking the walk. When we did that over in Russia at Sochi, right, I mean, we did it from a networking perspective and a wireless perspective. It was just incredible.

Liam Kiely: That’s right, so we’ve needed these proof points, these very public proof points, so that this becomes more widely understood across the industry. Sochi was a tremendous platform for that.

We’ve had spectacular examples in particular verticals, in particular segments across the markets, but there’s nothing like Sochi to raise the awareness to the general public and to the industry at large.

Mark Fletcher: What do you think the clients and distributors that are attending ATF are seeing, what they’re really impressed with this year at ATF? What do you think is really tripping their trigger, so to speak?

Liam Kiely: Well, we’re attracting the people with vision and leadership, and they’re recognizing what we’re doing and seeing the value of it. In a way, they are the vanguard of a much larger body of people who’ll go in behind them, so these people are leading the charge to transform what networking means today.

I think we’re seeing the maturing of Fabric Connect technology, the maturing of fabric in all of its manifestations that we have here today, so that now we’re fitting into more and more applications and a broader, broader appeal to the industry.

But certainly we’ve had our champions and advocates in the customer partner base here and they’re watching and monitoring our progress, and I think they could be very pleased with some of the new announcements on the wireless and some of the new products that we’re announcing here this week.

Mark Fletcher: Yeah, and I think we’ve been showing a progression, too. Last year, Shortest Path Bridging was the big news. The top-of-rack coverage was the big news. Now, we’re extending it even further with the Fabric Connect. It’s just a continuous evolution of something that really does something from a technology perspective. It’s not just technology.

Liam Kiely: That’s right, and it’s not just available on the higher-end platforms or in particular areas of network. We have all the reach and the new products and the VSP family this year. We’re extending the scope of the portfolio to reach the midmarket, so we’re looking for this is not just something for large or complex networks or particular multi-tenant environments.

This is a technology that we believe can extend into the broader market, the midmarket. Everybody can benefit from taking it onboard. The next generation of our networks need to be designed for that.

Mark Fletcher: Yeah, and I think the proof point is that more people are here this year than there were last year, which is a steady increase in attendance, so that’s always a good sign.

Liam Kiely: And it’s active engagement. Everybody’s chatting and there’s engagement. Discussions are lively. There are great exchanges; great new ideas flowing through from the partners and customers about what they want to do. They’re seeing ways and applications that we missed and are defining the next generation of functionality we need to build into our products, so it’s a very exciting time.

Mark Fletcher: I’m talking to Liam Kiely, who is the Vice President of Fabric and Infrastructure at Avaya. Thanks so much for sitting down with us. Again, one of our inaugural interviewees from last year and back again a year later with a great story. Thanks very much.

Liam Kiely: Thank you, Fletch, a pleasure.

Want more technology, news and information from Avaya? Be sure to check out the Avaya Podcast Network landing page at http://avaya.com/APN. There, you will find additional podcasts from industry events, such as Avaya Evolutions and INTEROP, as well as other informative series by the APN staff.

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Thanks for stopping by and reading the Avaya Connected blog on E911. I value your opinions, so please feel free to comment below or, if you prefer, you can email me privately.

Public comments, suggestions, corrections and loose change is all graciously accepted 😉 Until next week. . . dial carefully.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @Fletch911


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World’s Largest Surveillance Camera Provider Awards Avaya Technology Partner of the Year

You need more than just sophisticated surveillance video cameras to catch it all. Although cameras are an important part of the equation, the quality of your surveillance video is only as good as the quality of the network infrastructure that it runs over.

Blurry video, lapses in video footage and delays in pulling up video footage: all of these major complications can result from a poor underlying network … and cause serious security lapses. According to a 2014 report from ZK Research, 70 percent of surveillance issues can be attributed to less than rock-solid network quality.

Axis Communications, the global leader in network video, recognizes the importance the network plays in delivering high-quality and secure surveillance. At its 10th annual Axis Connect & Converge Conference, Axis − the world’s No. 1 provider of surveillance cameras − named Avaya its 2015 Technology Partner of the Year.

Avaya offers a network optimized for video surveillance. Leveraging Fabric Connect, an Avaya network uses Shortest Path Bridging (SPB), which eliminates the need for multiple protocols and enables simple endpoint provisioning. This gives the network greater scalability, performance and simplicity than traditional IP network offerings, leading to more flexible and reliable support for Axis video surveillance cameras.

When a spotty network means spotty surveillance, customers look for reliability. An always-on network means safer hospitals, cities and even schools, such as in the case of joint Avaya and Axis customer Holland Hall. Due to increasing calls for safety for students and faculty, Holland Hall implemented a new video surveillance system with 50 Axis cameras and an Axis video management system (VMS), with the capacity to add more cameras as needed.

“We just dropped in our IP video surveillance system and it works without impacting our student network,” said Henry Finch, the school’s director of IT. “We can spin up whatever we need on the security side knowing we don’t need to wait until after school.”

To learn more about how video surveillance is made easy with Avaya, click here.

Building a Network for the Brontobyte Era

If your company is running on a legacy network, this story will be all too familiar. From mid-June to mid-July of this year, hundreds of millions of people worldwide tuned in for the World Cup. Here in the U.S., many of the tournament’s 64 matches fell right in the middle of the American workday.

You would have seen it if you walked into any office that month—lots of employees wearing headphones, furtively watching live video streams of faraway soccer matches on tablets, smartphones, auxiliary monitors and in nested browsing tabs.

What most people didn’t know was that legacy networks across the country were groaning under the weight of that unexpected traffic.

I heard stories of executives trying to connect to HD video conferencing calls, and not being able to get onto their own network. Critical business functions—financial transactions, multimedia file transfers, customer service contact centers, and more—were either impacted, or crashed entirely.

Those failures weren’t in the applications. They were in the network.

Legacy networks were designed for a different era, with myriad boxes and switches that have to be manually configured and networked with one another.

Traffic hits bottlenecks in the system, leading to slower speeds, and in some cases, total outages. Getting the network back online is a physical job, run by technicians inside the data center. Upgrading equipment requires planned downtime.

Adding new applications, such as HD video conferencing, can take weeks of step-by-step configuration and careful testing. After all that work, 80 percent of companies deploying a new application will fail on their first try, due to complex network configurations leading to unexpected problems.

Networking demands aren’t getting any easier—it’s estimated that global IP traffic will reach 131.6 exabytes per month by 2018. It’s difficult to wrap your brain around how much data that really is, but by one estimate, 5 exabytes is the equivalent of every word ever spoken by mankind [http://www.whatsabyte.com/].

By 2018, the world’s networks will handle 5 exabytes of data every 28 hours. It won’t be long until we’re measuring network traffic in zettabytes, yottabytes and brontobytes.

Here at Avaya, we’re building future-ready, virtual networking software and appliances for the brontobyte era.

Avaya Fabric Connect is a virtualized, software-defined network designed to be flexible, scalable, and easy to set up and manage.

Using Fabric Connect, companies can give specific applications priority status on the network, making sure, for example, that critical business functions like HD video conferencing and financial transactions get a green light, while YouTube and Facebook take a back seat.

A related product called Avaya Fabric Attach makes it easy to automatically add new networking endpoints—everything from a new router or switch to an IP-enabled security camera. As new endpoints get connected to the network, Fabric Attach automatically identifies and provisions services for those endpoints.

Now, the network is a single entity, rather than a series of individually-programmed boxes.

Unlike many of our competitors, our network architecture was built from the ground up on open, IEEE standards. Avaya helped author those standards, and our engineers continue to contribute their intellectual capital to both the OpenStack consortium and the OpenDaylight project.

Fabric Connect and Fabric Attach got their biggest tests to date earlier this year, when Avaya built the network in Sochi, Russia that powered the 2014 Winter Olympics. Every live video broadcast out of Sochi flowed across Avaya’s network, as did every gigabyte of WiFi data from the 120,000+ mobile devices brought to the Games by athletes, fans, journalists and staff. The network ran with 99.999% uptime.

Network virtualization offers a path forward for companies struggling to keep up with growing data demands. Open, flexible, standards-based technology means the network will be able to handle the types of bandwidth-hungry devices and applications of the future that haven’t been invented yet.

Why Today's Avaya Collaboration Pod News is a Big Deal

Have you ever used a Swiss Army Knife?

It’s full of everything you could conceivably need in a pocket-sized tool: knives, files, a magnifying glass and even a toothpick and corkscrew. It’s pretty useful, but you still have to pull out the specific piece for the corresponding function.

What if that Swiss Army Knife retained all its functionality, while being as easy to use as a spoon?

Take that concept and apply it to turnkey cloud-based enterprise solutions, and you have the Avaya Collaboration Pod.

UCaaS and CCaas Right Out of the Box

Avaya today announced two new Collaboration Pod models specifically for Cloud Service Providers, enabling them to offer Unified Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS) and Contact Center-as-a-Service (CCaaS) to end customers. These virtualized products come set up right out of the box and customized to the customer’s specific needs, simplifying the Data Center environment through integrated management and support.

This streamlining has been shown to decrease Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) over 5 years by more than 50%, with increased IT efficiency  due to Avaya Fabric Connect capabilities.

Related article: Avaya’s New Wireless LAN 9100 Mutes the Sucking Sound of Network Downtime

A standards-based network virtualization technology, Fabric Connect improves the network performance of real-time applications and provides simplified virtual machine mobility, greater agility and faster time to service via end point provisioning.

Faster than a Speeding Bullet

“The ability to turn up applications at breakneck speed in a way that reduces complexity and cost is a competitive differentiator to us and to our customers, said David Raftery, a managing partner with Integration Partners. “We see the Avaya Collaboration Pod as a fundamentally unique path to achieve the technical and financial benefits of cloud based applications.”

For enterprises, advanced Customer Experience Management functionality has been added to the existing Collaboration Pod model, enabling a broader range of Avaya virtualized applications for deployment.

The model can now support multichannel interactions through Avaya Elite Multichannel, self-service via the Avaya Experience Portal and management through the Avaya Call Management System, in addition to its full Unified Communications capabilities.

Cloud Service Providers Connex and ROI Networks will be utilizing the Avaya Collaboration Pod as part of their UCaaS offers for their customers.

“The Avaya Collaboration Pod enables us to offer powerful unified communications and video solutions to our customers regardless of whether they are looking for premise-based or cloud- based or any permutation in between,” said Jeff Heibert, CEO of ROI Networks. “The integrated full stack, ready-to-deploy solution provides us with a platform that is easier to manage, provision, support and troubleshoot.”

All Collaboration Pod components receive integrated support, simplifying software upgrades and eliminating the need for support coverage from multiple vendors and reduce the time to deploy virtualized real-time applications from months to weeks.

Flexible, Scalable, and Coming Soon

A key value of the Collaboration Pod is in its flexibility.

Unlike some of the rigid, fixed configuration systems that exist in the market today,  the infrastructure components are scalable based on what applications the customer selects to deploy and how many users they are supporting on the system.

“We understand that companies want to take advantage of advanced communications capabilities but may not have the resources or desire to manage the operation,” said Sayan Navaratna, CEO of Connex. “The Connex Cloud enables us to offer our customers multiple delivery options as part of a managed service, including per user/per month, cloud-based UC service.”

The new Avaya Collaboration Pods will be generally available in the third calendar quarter.

For more information, click here.