Q&A: Randy Cross, Avaya's Director of PLM for Fabric and Infrastructure, on How Fabric Connect Makes Networking "Super Simple"

Reducing network complexity remains a major theme this year for Avaya’s networking product team. The bloated, legacy model of network design simply doesn’t work for enterprises interested in service agility inside the data center. Ultimately, unnecessary network complexity means lost revenue.

I recently sat down with Randy Cross, Avaya’s Director of PLM for Fabric and Infrastructure products to talk software-defined networking and Avaya Fabric Connect.

Fletch: Hey, it’s Fletch with the Avaya Podcast Network and we’re here in Orlando, Florida at the Avaya Technology Forum 2014. We’re talking with Randy Cross, the Director of PLM for Fabric and Infrastructure products. Welcome to the podcast, Randy.

Randy Cross: Thanks Fletch. Good morning.

Fletch: Randy, one of the sessions that you have here at ATF is around optimizing application performance, within the data center and beyond.

Now, there’s a lot of options for handling flows between the application server and the user. While much of that service chain is focused on expecting the payloads to make the decisions on packet handling, there are other elements such as ABCs and WAN Op controllers that accelerate and optimize that delivery of application data. How do those elements work with the Fabric?

Randy Cross: If you look at most implementations of Fabric, traditionally, what happens is those service chain elements are pretty much independent of the Fabric. They don’t touch it at all. You’re in the Fabric for the network, you bounce out to go to a service element, and then you come back in. It’s a very disparate end-to-end service at that point.

From our perspective, we’ve introduced a new technology. We’ll talk about it more–especially next week at Interop, where it’s actually one of the Best of Interop finalists for networking called Fabric Attach–where we actually signal and work with these service chain elements to bring them into the Fabric and make them a part of it, extending the value of Fabric Connect all the way out to these elements.

Related article: What is Avaya’s Strategy Around SDN? A Q&A with Avaya Networking’s Chief Architect, Paul Unbehagen

Fletch: What are some of the other benefits that customers will see with the Fabric?

Randy Cross: It’s fast, flexible and secure. You have dynamic service creation, you have amazing service agility and the ability to turn services up immediately, and it’s always secure, so you can isolate those tenants.

That means as you’re pulling in the service chain, you can literally isolate the applications as they flow through that service chain to exactly where they need to be on those elements wherever they are in the network.

Fletch: Yeah. I think that’s an important piece, because as networks get more complex, services get more complex and managing that backbone in the middle, so to speak. What are some of the specific implementations? I know video is one.

Randy Cross: You have video, you obviously have compliance, so things like HIPPA, PCI. These are all great things. Multitenancy when you get into the data center. It may be that you have a provider data center, it may be you’re at a government-type environment where you have multiple entities, or it could just be the regular enterprise, where you want to create tenancy with individual applications or between departments.

Fletch: Where do you see the big value then for the Fabric? Do you see it at the customer level? Do you see it at the distributor level? Offering a managed implementation of that, or is it at the service provider? Or all of the above?

Randy Cross: It’s all of the above, absolutely. I’ll take them in reverse order from which you had them. At the service provider level, you’re constantly turning up new tenants, you’ve got multiple tenants, the whole multitenancy argument I made.

Service agility is key, because they don’t get paid until they get the service turned up. So, the faster they get it turned up, the sooner they can start the revenue. Fabric’s a huge, powerful tool for this, where as previously what they’ve used is MPLS, which is okay, but while it has the power, it’s very complex. It adds time to it, it adds additional cost in resources and expertise.

Going now back to the partner distributor level, again, I’m going to go back to the service agility piece. One of the things for partners is that they’re selling services. They’re trying to get out there and address as many customers as possible.

By taking a Fabric, which is far less complex in all those traditional protocols, or going with MPLS or anything like that, they can now do more customers in parallel and get quicker time to close on those customers, so that in a month’s period, or a year’s period, or however you want to measure it, they can do far more customer deployments. Obviously, then getting far more services revenues.

Fletch: Our average time to repair now becomes average time to revenue.

Randy Cross: Exactly.

Fletch: I’m going to coin that, by the way.

Randy Cross: Hey, works for me, man. Works for me.

Then the last one going back to the customers that you talked about. At the end of the day, that’s where it all comes down to. While you may have a partner come in and do the design and the implementation, most of the costs associated with networks, day two and beyond.

I’ve got a couple CCIE’s on my resume somewhere, I’ve done lots of networks over time. Paul Unbehagen makes fun of me constantly for my weird love affair with BGP Confederations.

I know for a fact you can design anything with the protocols that exist, but customers will continue to call you years after you’ve left wherever you are, trying to figure out how to fix what you’ve done.

With things like the Fabric, it’s super simple. A flying monkey could do it for that matter. These guys can make this stuff happen. It’s easy to operate, they can do it with small staff and low budgets. They can focus on what really matters to their business, whether it’s selling t-shirts or fried chicken.

Fletch: Yeah, I think that’s really changing the game. We showed that over in Sochi and we showed it at Interop last year. Interop is coming up next week. I imagine you’re probably going to stop by, right?

Randy Cross: Yeah. Hopefully I get to stop and breathe at least while I’m there. It’s going to be a busy week, but it’s great. We have tons of awesome announcements coming out next week. I get to spend most of my time with analysts and press, talking about what we’re going to do there and hopefully getting the Avaya message out.

Fletch: Fantastic. We’re talking with Randy Cross, the Director of PLM for Fabric and Infrastructure products. Thanks very much for joining us on the podcast.

Randy Cross: Absolutely. Thanks a lot, Fletch.

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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