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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