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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Benefits of Deploying the Avaya Surge™ Solution for Any IP Network

The Avaya Surge™ Solution is designed to work in an SDN Fx fabric environment. But many companies don’t have the luxury of deploying a full Ethernet fabric before they deploy their IoT-based applications. Avaya Surge release 1.0.1 (November 2016) added support for non-fabric IP networks.

The Surge IoT Controller works essentially the same way as in the SDN Fx fabric deployment, except the Open vSwitch on the Open Networking Adapter can’t automate network provisioning. Therefore, the VLANs must be configured manually on the network. The solution still provides centralized inventory, white list profiles, flow filtering, and a single pane-of-glass status for all Open Networking Adapter-enabled IoT devices. Without the SDN Fx fabric infrastructure, segmentation is limited to VLANs that aren’t stealthy and mobility requires manual network service set-up and tear-down. For environments where devices are static, the IP-only version of Avaya Surge may suffice until a full fabric can be deployed.

The risk profile of IoT doesn’t lend itself to “good enough” solutions for long. When a company’s network and data are compromised, less than best practices will be criticized in the media, in the court room, and, as in the Yahoo case, impact executive pay. Avaya Surge Release 2.0, scheduled for the second quarter of 2017, adds IPSec encryption and tunneling to an IP-only deployment. (IPSec will be available for SDN Fx deployments as well.)

A HyperSec gateway is deployed to coordinate the IPSec functionality with the Open Networking Adapters. The HyperSec gateway terminates the IPSec connection from the Adapters and directs the data to the correct VLAN to reach the target application server. Return data is encrypted and sent to the appropriate Adapter, which terminates and forwards the data to the IoT device. The addition of the HyperSec gateway adds encryption to the data on the network, while adding mobility to the solution. The Adapter is able to dynamically create the IPSec tunnel to the HyperSec gateway, reducing manual network management.

The HyperSec gateway is deployed as an active/standby pair. Each Adapter will be set up with primary/secondary tunnels. If the primary is not available, the Adapter will communicate over the secondary tunnel to the HyperSec gateway. The HyperSec cluster is headless. Configuration information is maintained in the Surge IoT Controller. This greatly simplifies scale-out clustering of the HyperSec gateway.

I will blog more about the HyperSec solution closer to availability. Keep in mind that you can get started with Avaya Surge on an IP network today and add IPSec when it becomes available. Also, it is not an all-or-nothing solution. Critical IoT components and services go through the HyperSec gateway and less critical and stationary workloads are deployed with IP and VLANs. Furthermore, SDN Fx fabric can be incrementally added to portions of the IoT portfolio to gain the value of hyper-segmentation, native stealth, and automatic elasticity.

Look at all of this through a different lens. I was talking to a friend, an intellectual property rights attorney, about the exposure that companies face from data breaches. It was one of those conversations where he wanted to know more about the technology and I was curious about his perspective as someone who makes money from a company’s problems. He was especially interested because legal firms are getting $500K to $2.5M for a simple breach defense. When looking at these numbers, I think that even if a company isn’t found culpable in a data breach, they could spend a lot of money in defense. So, it’s probably best to invest in the infrastructure to deploy IoT projects in a safe and sane manner.

In my recent blogs about the IoT, I’ve looked at how the IoT enables Digital Transformation and examined a business-first approach to IoT technology adoption. Then I looked at how Avaya’s SDN FxTM provides a foundation for a safe and sane IoT deployment. Finally, I introduced the Avaya Surge™ Solution, which extends network fabric to IoT devices and provides centralized device management, protection, and flow filtering.

Avaya Surge™ Solution Makes Securing the IoT Easy for All Devices

Let’s explore how you can manage thousands of IoT devices while protecting your network and data from unnecessary risk. Often, we think newer devices will be more secure than older ones that were network-enabled before the current threat profile. However, Gartner predicts devices will remain unsecured for quite some time. The Avaya Surge™ Solution makes securing the IoT easy for all devices.

Avaya Surge, recently named a 2017 Gold Edison Award winner, consists of an IoT controller and an Open Networking Adapter, which is a proxy for IoT endpoints and provides the programmable security for insecure devices.

Key Attributes of Avaya Surge

  • Automated onboarding of IoT devices
  • Inventory reporting, including real-time status
  • MAC-based device security
  • Traffic flow filtering
  • Tight integration with Avaya SDN Fx (but works with any IP network)
  • IPSec encryption and tunneling in release 2.0 (coming in the second half of 2017)

How Avaya Surge Works

  1. An Open Networking Adapter is paired with an IoT device on the IoT controller by matching the serial number of Adapter (or QR code) to the MAC address of the IoT device. The IoT Controller sees the Adapter/IoT device as an inseparable pair and manages the IoT device through the Adapter.
  2. The IoT device is connected to the Adapter which is connected to the edge switch (plug RJ45 connectors together).
  3. The Adapter uses DHCP and DNS to locate the IoT Controller. The Adapter negotiates security keys with the IoT Controller and the onboarding process begins.
  4. The IoT Controller looks up the profile identified for the device type connected to the Adapter and down loads it to the Adapter. The profile contains network configuration, service requirements and allowable flows.
  5. The IoT device establishes connection to its application server and the Adapter begins monitoring network traffic.

Key Operational Benefits of Avaya Surge

  • The Adapter doesn’t retain profile information through a power cycle. If an Adapter is disconnected from the network or loses power, data in memory is lost. When power is returned, the Adapter must connect to the IoT controller to get its profile to function. Avaya Surge will indicate the Adapter/IoT device has lost network connectivity. Without a valid registration, the Adapter does nothing. Network or profile information can’t be learned from a stolen Adapter.
  • The Adapter is based on white list security. When the Adapter boots, it doesn’t allow traffic from the IoT device. The profile provides a white list of approved devices and flows. For instance, if the only IP addresses that an IoT device is supposed to contact are its application server and network services (DHCP, DNS, etc.), the Adapter will block all other traffic. This prevents a compromised device from infecting its peers.
  • The Adapter has a learning mode. A profile can be complex to create. Therefore, the Adapter can be set to accept all traffic and mirror it to the IoT controller. The IoT device operates normally with Avaya Surge cataloging the traffic. This allows the IoT device to operate normally under the supervision of IT staff. When adequate time has passed (dependent on device operation), the captured traffic is converted to a reusable profile that becomes the standard for all like devices. The Adapter is taken out of learning mode, updated with the new profile, and a new device has been added to the network—safely and sanely. Under normal circumstances, the IoT Controller receives reports only from the Adapter and isn’t in the data path.
  • The profile stops MAC spoofing. If all the Adapter did was lock down a MAC address, an antagonist could disconnect the IoT device and connect a computer with the same MAC address. Technically, the Adapter will allow this to happen. However, as soon at the antagonist tries to do something that the IoT device isn’t normally allowed to do, the Adapter will block the traffic and report an abnormal flow attempt to the IoT Controller. One of the issues with IoT is many devices can’t be physically secured and are susceptible to tampering. Avaya Surge addresses this challenge.
  • The inventory addresses all use cases. IoT devices will be deployed within an organization across many use cases and application stacks. For example, a facility may have point-of-sale terminals: CCTV cameras, HVAC sensors and controls, security key pads and door controllers, medical devices, robots, assembly stations, and more. Each of these is deployed with its own application servers with device status monitoring and inventory management. Avaya Surge provides network IT with a single pane status for all IoT devices that are secured with Adapters within the infrastructure.
  • Avaya Surge supports device mobility. Devices can be automatically moved from one network port to another. The Adapter contains OVS 2.4 code, including support for Auto-attach (IEEE 802.1Qcj). Auto-attach provides the ability for the Adapter to signal Avaya Fabric Attach to create the required services on the edge switch, such as VLAN and ISID mapping. If a device needs to be moved, a technician would simply unplug the Adapter from the switch, move the device and Adapter to the new location, and plug the Adapter into the new port. When the Adapter is unplugged, the Adapter loses its profile and the SDN Fx network disables the services to the old port. When the Adapter is reconnected, it contacts the IoT Controller to get its profile and the OVS requests the services be provisioned on the new port. Within a couple of minutes, the IoT device is functioning in its new location and the move has been done safely, sanely and without Networking IT involved. Note that networking IT would have been notified when the Adapter was disconnected and reconnected through the Avaya Surge dashboard.

In my recent blogs about the IoT, I’ve looked at how the IoT enables Digital Transformation and examined a business-first approach to IoT technology adoption. Then I looked at how Avaya’s SDN FxTM provides a foundation for a safe and sane IoT deployment. Next in this blog series, I’ll explore deploying Avaya Surge in a non-SDN Fx IP network.

Secure IoT Deployments with Avaya SDN Fx™ Architecture Solutions

Let’s look at how to deploy the IoT in a safe and sane manner—a top-of-mind business challenge. Before diving into the technology, let’s remember why secure IoT deployments are so important. The Yahoo breach is a lesson learned: Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer lost $12M in bonuses over the Yahoo data breach and Yahoo paid $16M to investigate the breach and cover legal expenses as of March 2, 1017. It’s clear that the cost of not building a safe infrastructure is much more than the cost to build one.

Software Defined Networking (SDN) is sometimes over-hyped. At a base level, separating the control plane from the data plane makes sense (if one understands the definitions of a data plane and control plane). In a practical sense, it means the network infrastructure doesn’t need to be managed on a node-by-node basis (i.e., logging into network devices on each end of the cable to make complementary changes to configure a network link). This is where SDN can be over-hyped. The SDN solution automates the process of making the changes to each end of the cable, making the network easier to manage. But, it doesn’t reduce the complexity, increase the resiliency (other than reduce outages due to typing errors), or make it easier to troubleshoot or expand.

Avaya SDN FxTM Architecture is based on fabric, not network technology. The architecture was designed to be managed as an entity of subcomponents and not a bunch of nodes that are interconnected to create a larger entity. In other words, it’s like designing something to manage a forest, as opposed to managing the trees. Would you really want to manage a forest one tree at a time?

How SDN Fx Architecture Benefits the IoT

Although the SDN Fx network architecture wasn’t specifically designed for the IoT, it works well for providing a solid foundation to deploy IoT solutions. These are the key components of the SDN Fx Architecture that benefit the IoT:

Avaya Fabric Connect is Avaya’s implementation of Shortest Path Bridging (SPB/IEEE 802.1aq). SPB replaces the traditional network stack, greatly simplifying network configuration, management and security. Three key benefits of Fabric Connect apply directly to IoT deployment use case:

  • Hyper-Segmentation: SPB supports 16 million+ network segments. In theory, every IoT device on a network could have its own segment. More realistically, every device type can have its own segment. For instance, HVAC could be one network, security cameras could be on another, employees on a third, guests on a fourth, etc. It’s worth noting that the NSA sees segmenting IoT networks as a key to limiting exposure of IoT deployments. (In my next blog, I’ll examine how Avaya solutions provide security between devices on the same segment.)
  • Automatic Elasticity: Services in SPB are provisioned at the edge without touching the core of the network. This makes it very straightforward to provision network services for the hundreds or thousands of IoT devices that the business wants up and running yesterday. Plus, edge provisioning makes moving devices simple. When a device is disconnected from the network, the network service to that port is disabled and eliminates open holes in the network security. When the device is connected to the same or different port, the device is authenticated and services are automatically configured for the port.
  • Native Stealth: SPB operates at the Ethernet, not the IP layer. For example, if a would-be hacker gains access to one segment of a traditional network, they can go IP-snooping to discover the network architecture. A traditional network is only as secure as the least secure segment/component. With Fabric Connect, if a security loophole is overlooked in a less important network project, there isn’t a back door to access the rest of the network and the corporate data.

Avaya Fabric Extend provides the ability to extend an SPB fabric across a non-fabric network, such as IP core, between campuses over Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), or out to the cloud over WAN. IoT deployments enable the phased adoption of SDN Fx so that IoT projects can gain the values above, without ripping and replacing significant network infrastructure or affecting non-IoT workloads.

Avaya Fabric Attach automates the elasticity of the SPB fabric for IoT devices and other devices supporting Automatic Attachment (IEEE 802.1Qcj). Fabric Attach allows the device to signal the network that it needs in order to connect to a service. If the device is authorized, the service is automatically provisioned. When the device is disconnected, the service is terminated. If the device is moved to a different network port, the service will be provisioned automatically to the new port. This makes deploying and moving Fabric Attach-enabled devices very simple. For a real-world example, see how Axis Communications is starting to deploy Fabric Attach in their IoT devices.

Avaya Open Networking Adapters—an Open Network Adapter is a small device that sits in-line with an IoT device to provide programmable security for IoT devices that lack adequate network security. One component of the solution is Fabric Attach, which provides automated service provisioning and mobility to devices that don’t have the auto-attach capability. (I’ll explore more about the power of Open Networking Adapters in an upcoming blog.)

The Avaya Identity Engines Portfolio provides powerful tools for managing user and device access to a network, commonly referred to as Authentication, Authorization, and Accounting. In the IoT use case, Identity Engines authenticate a device by MAC address or MAC address group and use predefined policies for the device type to dynamically configure services. For instance, a camera could be assigned to Video VLAN 30 and provisioned for multicast, while a phone would be authenticated, assigned to VLAN 20, and configured for SIP communications. This provides security for unauthorized devices joining the network and provides automatic segmentation based on device type and service requirements.

I’m not sure if there ever was a time when network design and implementation was static, but there was a time when the devices connected to the network could be predicted: servers, printers, storage, PCs, etc. With IoT, IT is being asked to design networks for devices that haven’t been thought of yet. The old network technologies were designed for mobility by work order, and IT was able to list the number of device types that wouldn’t work on the network. SDN Fx provides a true software-defined network and not software-defined automation on old network constructs. A fabric network has the intrinsic flexibility and security required for tomorrow’s IoT projects, today.

In my recent blogs about the IoT, I’ve looked at how the IoT enables Digital Transformation and examined a business-first approach to IoT technology adoption. Next in this blog series, I’ll explore the newest component of the SDN Fx solution for the IoT, the Avaya Surge™ Solution.