How to Virtualize ALL of Avaya Aura on a Single Server

Paul Leatherman is the CTO at CRI (Communication Resources, Inc.), a major Avaya partner and systems integrator. I first interviewed Paul, an Avaya veteran, at the Avaya Technology Forum last year. I spoke to him again at the Avaya Evolutions San Francisco show last week. Below is a transcript of our conversation, which focuses on CRI’s flavor of Avaya virtualization, called Integrated Server Aura:

Paul Leatherman CTO of CRI

Photo by Andres Larranaga

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This Avaya CONNECTED Blog is also available as an MP3 Audio File

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Fletch: You’re doing something that’s really innovative called I.S. Aura, or Integrated Server. What’s that all about?

Leatherman: So the Integrated Server is kind of taking step one of virtualization and instead of having an application require its own physical server, we started consolidating it. In particular, we’ve been doing this Integrated Server for a number of years. We’ve done point solutions like conferencing or messaging. But this is the first time we’ve took the Avaya core infrastructure: Communications Manager, Session Manager, System Manager, AES Presence, the whole. When you look at the Aura core, this is everything is a single box.

Fletch: People wanted to go VMWare so they could virtualize your environment, but you didn’t want to have a whole stack of servers. You guys are using VMWare to bring all of this together on one piece of hardware.

Leatherman: That is correct. And then late last year when Avaya embraced the fact that they delivered the ability to not only install it but support it by Avaya, we took it that next step and said, “Let’s make it easy to consume.” So while we build this infrastructure, make it available to our direct partners. Do they want everything in that box? Do they want pieces of it? Do they want the systems integrations side of CRI to implement it? We’re very flexible on how we deliver the solution.

Fletch: So you can kind look back at what the whole solution needs to be for a specific customer and almost do a custom build.

Leatherman: We can. We position it as the foundation piece that can have everything included. Awhile back, Avaya delivered something called Mid-Size Enterprise, and that was based on the system platform scenario where they consolidated a lot of these applications. The challenge was it was a singular template where you got everything in it no matter what.

Fletch: Like it or not, it was all there.

Leatherman: Correct, no flexibility. Instead, we start out with a kind of reference architecture.  We can do the whole Aura core, but let’s say you don’t want Presence. It’s not applicable or you’re not ready for it yet. You don’t have to put that VM in, you don’t have to pay for that service, and you can customize it.

Fletch: That’s going to save on licensing fees alone by just not buying crap you don’t need. Not that it’s crap, but it’s just crap to you at that particular point in time because you don’t need that. It’s a great thing but it adds no value right now.

Leatherman: Correct, not relevant to your business at this point in time, so why have that virtual machine running or the expense of it being installed.

Fletch: But if you need it later, it’s a key code to add in.

Leatherman: Correct. Now what’s also nice with this “Keep the Flexibility” theme is let’s say you want the Aura core, and you like the fact that we consolidate it in a single server, but you have this other DevConnect partner that says, “Oh, well, my application can run on VMWare, too.” Well guess what? We just allocate the resources. We can put it on the same physical box, still that single server, but I’m also leveraging the third party app that brings in that capability. We can also start expanding into other Avaya applications, let’s say, CMS, right? So, you can add CMS into there if you’re a call center. So it’s not locked down into a single architecture. Think of it more of as a reference, a place to start, and we made it real simple to consume.

Fletch: You can build that environment and mold that environment and constantly mold it one way to the left or to the right, depending on how your business model changes. That’s really kind of cool. That’s going to let people to get into more technology than they’ve ever been to afford or handle before, and allow it to be flexible so it actually does something, because people don’t buy technology just to be cool. It has to have an ROI there.

Leatherman: Absolutely. Now let me ask you a question. Does it scare you a little bit that I put all of this stuff into a single server?

Fletch: I’m a little scared. What if that one box goes down? You have to have some resiliency there.

Leatherman: Yeah, the whole eggs in one basket scenario.

Fletch: Something tells me that you have a pretty cool answer for that.

Leatherman: We do, and it’s leveraging again a little bit of VMWare because what if I then added a second box, so physical server, I use VMWare to consolidate but now I start marrying that up with what Avaya brought to the table. So adding this next box, if I did have a disastrous box failure of physical hardware, well guess what, Avaya has protected me with its High Availability features, so I get the best of both worlds: consolidation from the VMWare, a second one for the HA, and away we go.

Fletch: It scares a lot of those people about what if the app goes down, but I think that something like this, utilizing this is really to where they have security blanket now.

Leatherman: Exactly, and but wait, there’s more.

Fletch: But wait, there’s more? (laughs) So if I order this second one right now, I get it and I just get shipping and handling?

Leatherman: (laughs) Something like that. Let’s go to the next level of redundancy or availability. What about backups? Traditionally applications come out and have their own backup scheme. This application does it this way. This one is on Windows. This one is on Linux. The way they accomplished it was application specific. In the VMWare world, I can now back up the entire set, so think of it as an entire appliance that has whatever applications on there can be backed up as a virtual machine to another location, another appliance, ready to go.

Fletch: That’s pretty cool.

Leatherman: And the other nice thing about it, let’s say I had a failure. You don’t go restore. You simply hit the start button, and the application runs out of the backup.

Fletch: Wow, that’s pretty cool.

Leatherman: So I can go build the redundancy. How far do you want to go with that comfort blanket, your SLA’s, or whatever you want to do.

Fletch: So where do you see this driving technology, Paul? Is there any one industry that’s really waking up that hasn’t in the past?

Leatherman: I think where this has a nice play is in two areas. One, we started out by making it a mid-market play. This is really nice, it scales up to about 5000 users. You have some gateways or something that you put on there for your phones and that kind of thing. But what we’ve also seen happen is there’s large enterprises who weren’t ready to change the world yet to go to the new technology, but they had the need for the remote work, or the Bring Your Own Device, and some of the new SIPP stuff. So we can use this as sort of a gateway to the new, communicating to the old, and it’s real easy for them to consume, and they’ll start moving it in that direction.

Fletch: So I think that a lot of people were afraid of the new technology. They were afraid of the unknowns of the new technology. I don’t want to do something that’s new that going to potentially take my business out of service. Resiliency, security, reliability, these are key things and until you start getting that you’re not going to get the big players to buy in. Until you get the big players to buy in, you’re not going to get that paradigm shift in the industry, I think.

Leatherman: You got it. They get to taste it a little bit. They get comfortable with it. And then they’re ready to make the big scale move.

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Avaya CS1000 Customers—We’ve Got Your Backs!

We live in the age of “Fake News” and “Alternative Facts.” Depending on where you live and where you stand on various issues, the daily coverage of events can range from annoying to farcical to deeply troubling. Not to be left out, one of our competitors recently published a blog that by any standard meets the “Fake News” criteria. The headline screams “Avaya End of Support for CS1000” and then (surprise, surprise) suggests the path to glory is to move to their solutions. It really is FUD at its best!

Get the Facts about Avaya CS1000

The Avaya Communication Server 1000 remains a fully supported and saleable product. We have been crystal clear with our customers and partners that Release 7.6 is the final feature release and only Service Packs will continue to be issued. As promised, Avaya continues with Service Packs and has done so on a regular basis over the past several years.

We continue to work with our material suppliers, customers and partners to determine the right date for the end of sale and, once the decision has been made, we will make a formal announcement of the EoS date in accordance with our normal polices. Once an EoS date is announced, per our standard Avaya support policies, we will provide support out to at least 2024. Specifically:

  • End of Sale would be followed by one year of Manufacturer Support for software (three years for hardware)
  • That in turn would be followed by five years of Extended Services Support for software (three for hardware)

So we will provide support for a full six years following an End of Sale announcement—which is why I say we will provide support to at least 2024. Note that this is the earliest possible date for the end of support.

Beyond supporting specific dates, Avaya has a number of programs and policies (like the Avaya Software Investment Protection Policy) that provide investment protection for CS1000 customers as they migrate to the Avaya Aura® platform or the Avaya IP Office™ platform. Avaya plans to expand these offers with additional announcements over the next few quarters—details will be widely communicated to our customers.

Feeling better? You should be. Avaya values our CS1000 customer—and all of our customers. It is our intention to remain your trusted partner and supplier of innovative communications and collaboration solutions for many years to come. A big part of that is our drive to provide a path forward for every customer. If you’d like to learn more, please contact your Avaya or partner representative and start a conversation about where Avaya’s latest solutions can take your business.

Avaya. Strong Now. Stronger in the Future.

A Look at the Radical New Desk Phone You Never Knew You Needed

Back in 2009, Gartner boldly stated that enterprise mobile phones would replace desk phones in the U.S. by 2011. Today, six years later, we can see that this statement never became reality. If you ask us, it never will.

It’s true that mobility has transformed communications. Nearly 80% of Americans now own a smartphone. Over 340 million minutes are spent each day using video calling apps like WhatsApp. Every minute, over 340,000 new apps are downloaded from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

Mobile capabilities like texting, video, and collaboration apps may have changed the game, but they haven’t killed the desk phone. In fact, 65% of workers still prefer using desk phones. This even includes millennials, who rank the desk phone as one of their top communication technologies. For many of these younger workers, the device represents stability in a dynamic, fast-paced environment.

If anything, the rise of mobility has ushered the desk phone into a new, digital era of seemingly limitless possibilities. One that combines the flexibility of mobile with the reliability of a traditional desk phone. That’s exactly why we at Avaya are so excited about our new multi-touch, customizable desktop device, the Avaya Vantage™ Device.

The Fundamentals

Avaya Vantage is available in two models—one with an integrated camera and one without, for privacy—that each offer a variety of essential functions:

  • 8-inch, portrait-oriented, 800×1280 color display with capacitive touch
  • All-glass screen (no mechanical buttons)
  • Enterprise grade security and audio excellence
  • Compatibility with both cordless Bluetooth handsets and corded handsets
  • Message Waiting Lamp for message notification and visual call alerting
  • Hinged stand for smooth, multi-angle positioning
  • Power over Ethernet Class 3 (802.3af)
  • Single Port RJ45 Ethernet Connector
  • Integrated Wi-Fi (can be deployed over the Wi-Fi network)
  • Optional power adapter when deployed over Wi-Fi or when PoE data networking switch is not available

Fusion of Mobile Simplicity

Avaya Vantage is ideal for a collaborative, on-demand work environment. The device is inherently designed to deliver next-gen security, ease-of-use, and seamless integration—three major challenges of mobile reported by businesses across virtually every sector. Consider utilities, where 79% of executives believe they are exposed to more risks than they can effectively handle. Or, consider how data integration challenges are costing healthcare organizations billions.

It’s clear that a better communications solution is needed. Avaya Vantage works to bridge these gaps with a simple yet sleek appearance, seamless yet secure multimedia collaboration, and flexible application integration, supported by Android Marshmallow OS. The device preserves those desk phone features that users have come to know and love, while enabling integrated business workflows that support custom user experiences. That means no unnatural breaks in business processes, no need to own multiple devices to engage, and no costs associated with BYOD or system migrations.

SDK for Communication-enabled, Contextual Experiences

Avaya Vantage is an application platform that can be customized to meet the needs of the business. Think of it as a single pane of glass into the Enterprise. Avaya Vantage comes with out-of-box support for the Avaya Equinox™ Experience and the Avaya Breeze™ Client SDK. Customers can use ready-made applications from Avaya, install existing apps from the Google Play™ store, or embed custom communication features into workflows to meet their exact user and vertical needs. Executives can rest assured with administrator control over which applications can be installed, and all users can enjoy the convenience of single-step login for both the device and all communication applications.

Consider how Avaya Vantage can be strategically used across several industries. In hospitality, for example, the device can be leveraged to offer customers in-room help or recommendations, with the option to initiate and/or escalate to chat, video and voice. In healthcare, an application can be integrated with a hospital’s database to show a real-time view of patient and doctor schedule information.

The Bottom Line

The desk phone isn’t extinct—it’s evolving. Engineered for acoustic excellence, enterprise deployment and security, Avaya Vantage offers mobile simplicity with the necessary enterprise software tools to enable personalized, vertical-specific user experiences. The future of the communications experience is now, and Avaya Vantage is at the heart of it.

Avaya Aura® Platform—The Original Pragmatic Hybrid Cloud

In a recent InfoWorld post David Linthicum wrote of “an organic movement driven by rank-and-file enterprise IT people who simply want to solve their issues using the best technology and approach.” Linthicum called this the “pragmatic hybrid cloud.” Reading this from the perspective of someone with decades of experience in the enterprise communications market, my immediate reactions was, “Aha, he’s talking about the Avaya Aura® Platform.” He isn’t, but here I’ll explain why this thought struck me.

Linthicum writes, “What this movement has discovered is that you can combine the public cloud and modernize some of your legacy systems to be more cloudlike.” That is exactly what Avaya customers have been achieving in an evolutionary process spanning almost two decades. Long before the term cloud came into vogue, Avaya customers have been able to gain the benefits of the cloud paradigm while avoiding the need to comprehensively lift workloads to a public cloud provider and the need to wholesale forklift and abandon existing investments.

Today, many Avaya customers—including a large swath of the globe’s most notable organizations in industries ranging from financial services, to healthcare, to government, and many small and medium businesses—process their mission-critical workloads using a combination of premise-based solutions and both public and private cloud-served applications. It is a “pragmatic hybrid” approach that since the mid-2000s has provided these Avaya customers with unparalleled reliability, cost savings, and business agility.

The Avaya Aura Platform is the reason why. Avaya Aura had its genesis in a time tested methodology for allowing geographically distributed organizations to link islands of resources to gain economies of scale. Back in the day, to create either a contact center that followed the sun or a single enterprise communications solution that served the needs of a worldwide workface, expensive dedicated circuits were required. As IP Telephony evolved, companies began to use packet-switched technologies to more cost-effectively link together distant resources into single holistic systems. Rather than centralized in isolated locations, communications applications could now be seamlessly and cost-effectively shared across distances. This made new ways to organize communication assets and the work that depended upon those resources possible.

Avaya’s great insight was to take advantage of the session initiation protocol (SIP). Over time Avaya’s customers have “pragmatically” converted the networking connections of their existing standalone investments to create fabrics of SIP internetworked appliances. The Avaya Aura® Session Manager lets companies treat their owned assets as part of a private cloud and combine those resources with public cloud capabilities both from Avaya and from a growing ecosystem of additional providers. It is a strategy that has resulted in significant cost savings while unleashing new innovation.

Today the Avaya Aura Platform has moved far beyond simply a “pragmatic hybrid” for sharing resources. It has become a strategic tool for many organizations. It gives companies a flexibility and agility to adapt and reconfigure at the speed of business. Avaya Aura has also opened the doors to both internal Avaya inventions and new external development.

Avaya Breeze™ Platform is but the latest application development platform that takes advantage of Avaya Aura. Avaya, Avaya’s customers, and an industry of third-party companies are leveraging Breeze with their own creativity for solving business problems. Breeze allows the creation of unique ways to leverage the inherent capabilities of Avaya products in combination with cloud and third-party capabilities. Whether those assets reside in a private data center, on premises-based servers, or in public clouds, because of the Avaya Aura Platform, the only barriers to progress are the limits of human ingenuity.

Linthicum concluded that, the “pragmatic approach is very sensible. It makes the most of what you have, reducing the need for new resources and letting you transition to the cloud at a pace you can handle, both in terms of cost and time.” Your Path, Your Pace, Your Choice, where have I heard that before? Avaya circa 2004 maybe? Nice to see the industry finally following Avaya’s lead.