ATF Q&A: Brett Shockley on Innovating for Relevance

If there’s one thing that’s true about being a technology company in the 21st century, it’s that if you’re not innovating, you’re stagnating.

With this in mind, I sat down at the Avaya Technology Forum with Brett Shockley, our Senior Vice President & Chief Technology Officer to talk about Avaya’s innovations in Cloud, virtualization, and other areas.

Mark: I really appreciate you stopping by and giving us all this great information. You’re talking about the trends that are shaping the industry: the mobility, mobile video, multichannel customer experience, so to speak. In the Cloud, what’s Avaya doing to respond to those trends?

Brett: It’s interesting that you mentioned the Cloud, because the reality is that with all the trends you really see things happening from the application and the user down, and the network and the infrastructure up. The cloud is at the intersection of the two.

In fact, it’s one of the places that the lines of business are taking charge of the budget and spending their own money on whatever it is they might want to do. Because for the first time, they can use their operating expense budget to go buy new capabilities and services in the Cloud.

On the other hand, what you’ll find is that you talk to a lot of CIO’s today, and they’ll say they’ve done the math and they’ve seen costs from a lot of those Cloud-based service providers, and it’s sometimes two to four times what they believe they can do for themselves.

There’s an interesting conflict shaping up. Everybody’s got the end user in mind, but what it tends to start to drive is people taking a look at why they’re looking at doing that. What are the needs that are driving it?

Complexity ends up being one of the key issues that people are running into as they build traditional data networks. They’ve ended up with them getting more and more complex as they layer on more and more protocols; more and more capabilities.

You take a look at some of the trends we see with video, and maybe I’ll talk about video cameras and surveillance for a minute. You run into this interesting issue where as people proliferate cameras faster than they proliferate employees – now they’re in a situation and they got to manage all that.

With Fabric Connect technology, we’re at the point where essentially all you have to do is configure the end nodes. You don’t have to do anything to the core data centers which is really important in being able to put something up that can go up quickly and reliably as well as something that you can manage. Something that is tolerant of anything going around in the network. Multicast protocol is native to the standard in Fabric Connect. Basically, you get less than 20 millisecond re-convergence if there are any issues out there.

Mark: Do you see that as where our customers are moving towards Fabric? I mean, they’re getting a lot of benefits out of that for their in-house applications?

Brett: It’s interesting, I was just in a CIO round table and it was a common theme amongst everybody in there that they’ve kind of been in this model for years where every time they add some new capability, they had to hire two new network engineers. It’s really getting to the point where it’s unsustainable, so they’re going the other direction and they are taking a look at these new technologies like the Fabric to basically simplify the implementation, configuration and management of the network.

What that does for the applications for the end user is that now it’s easier to add new applications. They have more agility; they can move faster, so when you start taking a look at a lot of the trends from the end user–trends like mobility and mobile video. Even more so, being able to have the right kind of capability to identify, authenticate, provide the right services to those people is critical.

What we did Sochi is a good example. Being able to give all 40,000 people that we provided Wi-Fi access to from the athletes to the press, to the volunteers, the judges, and etc., – it was a great capability for all of them to have, but we had everybody ringing the same network and we needed to do it in a way that was very simple.

We actually had seven different virtualized networks. One of those networks was providing the virtual network for timing and scoring, and they’ll generate up in the neighborhood of two hundred thousand metrics around a given gold medal event. If you think about all of that information, and the critical nature of it, obviously, they need low latency, they need very high quality of service, and they can’t get blocked on by anything else.

Traditionally, giving that to them would have been quite complex. In this case, we just set up a separate virtual service network and gave it the attributes that were required.

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

Mark: You’re saying that, it’s an example of how we’re really innovating for relevance?

Brett: It absolutely is. I mean, the reality of any kind of innovation that you do, any kind of invention is interesting, but technology by itself really doesn’t get to the point of being relevant, providing value until you innovate on it and you look at the different use cases and how you can use the technology to provide benefit to those use cases.

Mark: I think it’s a really exciting time at Avaya. I think we’re bringing a lot of products to market that are in fact relevant. We’re changing the game in a lot of areas. It’s got to be exciting to be the CTO in a company that’s doing that?

Brett: It’s a lot of fun. We’re doing all kinds of exciting things up and down the stack. Things we’re doing with the network player, with Fabric. The things we’re doing with Session Management and making Session Management easier for people to build applications on with Collaboration Environment. All the new things we’re doing from a client perspective with our client-enabled platform.

One of the reasons I was able to do a demo today on stage with Google Glass calling into a financial services contact center, was because I was able to leverage that whole infrastructure and the inauguration of that infrastructure to that application in Google Glass, literally was done in three days.

You could not do that with that kind of agility unless you have the proper infrastructure, the proper tools, development API’s and so on, to be able to make that easy to do. In the old days, there’s a lot of things we could do with things like complex CTI programming, but you could probably count on your fingers and toes how many people there are in the planet that are really good at doing that.

Whereas, what we’re doing with this new architecture, with these new capabilities, is we’re making it so that these kids that are graduating from college today, can take the skills they learned in their computer science courses, and they can put them immediately to work on creating applications that run on top of our infrastructure and provide really differentiated, unique, collaboration applications and contact center applications.

It’s critical, I mean, the speed is so important. If you take a look at what’s happening, you have customers that are basically telling companies how they’re going to communicate with them. You have employees telling companies what device they’re going to bring, and now telling them what application they’re going to bring.

It’s becoming more and more critical that the IT organization is agile. That they can support that. That they can figure out how to put a box around it where they need to, and to control it, secure it and scale their business and still have the same kind of high availability that the users have been expecting for years.

Mark: Yeah, and you’ve got brand new markets that are still emerging. Public safety being one with next generation 911, and that’s becoming a very data rich environment. Avaya has got a lot to offer in that space and it’s really exciting to see that unfolding so to speak.

Brett: Yeah, you mentioned the data, and data is one of the really interesting things that’s happening right now when you take a look at big data analytics. I’ll call that awareness really, because that’s kind of the practical outcome of it in our mind. You’re generating millions to billions of pieces of information in the typical customer journey, if you will, throughout contact centers and email, and everything else you’re doing to touch your customer.

Today, we throw most of that information away because we just haven’t had the systems to be able to deal with it. What we’re doing with all the new technology that we’re rolling out is we’re basically expecting that we’re going to have that big data available. We’re building the systems to be able to take advantage of it. Manipulate it in real time.

Big data is going from a month ago, historical to real-time decision-making. Real-time routing. Real-time coaching of agents. It’s just a very exciting time. We’re taking unstructured data speech and we’re converting infrastructure data so people can make decisions in real time based on what people are saying even.

Where this goes is really going to be interesting, and it’s very powerful. As we combine these capabilities with also the simplicity of the architecture and the simplicity of development in linking together these different types of capabilities. People are going to create applications we can only imagine.

Mark: Yeah I know. It’s definitely exciting stuff. Brett Shockley is the senior vice president and CTO of Avaya, and always a good friend of the Avaya Podcast Network. He always makes sure he stop by and say hi to us. We really appreciate it.

Brett: It’s great to be here Fletch. Thanks for the opportunity.

Want more technology, news and information from Avaya? Be sure to check out the Avaya Podcast Network landing page at 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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