Four Critical Network Virtualization Trends for the Next Four Years

Soon, more than 4 million students will go to their first day of high school. By the time these young adults don their caps and gowns, networking technology will have also graduated to the next level.

Take Avaya, for example. At the center of a massive, industry-wide networking transformation, the company is thinking far beyond the now. So how is Avaya positioning itself four years down the road? Here’s how Avaya’s ready for the future of network virtualization…

#1: Mitigating Network Disruptions: The overly-complex, multi-layered protocols that go hand-in-hand with old-fashioned networks bog down companies. A recent Avaya survey showed that 80 percent of companies lose revenue when their network goes down, with companies losing, on average, $140,000 as a result of network outages.

Looking into the future, companies will move away from archaic networks employing idle links, to a fully active model for better recovery and utilization of resources.  When a service is configured across the network, the core switches remain untouched; it requires provisioning only at the edge.

Avaya-commissioned research found that, on average, IT waits 27 days to get a change window. Fabric Connect saves that wait time and minimizes human error. Not only does Fabric Connect route traffic intelligently, it allows customers to completely virtualize their networks, making the physical layout irrelevant, minimizing overhead and simplifying operations.

#2: The Migration to SDN: The Shortest Path Bridging (SPB)-based Avaya Fabric Connect should be the evolutionary foundation fabric for SDN. Avaya Fabric Connect is network virtualization technology that provides the best foundation for SDN around by leveraging a cloud-type infrastructure with a 20-millisecond recovery rate for minimal downtime.

“Today, all vendor switches run a handful of 25-year-old control plane protocols, and, over the last few decades, new functionality is added by adding another layer on top of these protocols. The problem is that the complexity is still there,” explained Jaime Weaver, senior manager, product marketing. “Most operators have just grown accustomed to it. But, with Fabric Connect, we’re telling them, ‘You can run without complexity.’

It’s something nobody really has considered, like telling people you don’t need to keep replacing your tires when they wear down–instead, we can fly your car on air.” Rather than build an SDN plane atop an already-complex infrastructure or wait for a cost-effective solution to implement the complexity onto white boxes, with Fabric Connect, Avaya is taking the first step toward SDN today in an accessible way.

#3: Security: As companies create leaner IT support orgs, network security becomes paramount. Small- and mid-size businesses need enterprise-level security to shield them from a range of threats, whether zero-hour attacks or data interception.

Trends like virtualization, mobility and cloud continue to increase the importance and complexity of security management. There is already an inherent, native ability to create isolated virtual service networks (stealth networks) with a Fabric Connect-based network. Avaya Fabric Connect allows customers to isolate and segment traffic, helping users sleep easy at night.

#4: Scalability: BYOD isn’t a buzzword of the past. As devices increase (the average household with two teenage children is predicted to own roughly 50 Internet-connected devices by 2022, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development), networks need to be scalable.

Avaya Fabric Connect is scalable up to 16 million unique services. Avaya’s network at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games, for instance, had to scale up from zero users to more than 40,000 in a single day. The network was about 3x that of the last Super Bowl, running back-to-back for 17 consecutive days instead of one.

As multicasting becomes high-priority for businesses, Fabric Connect ensures scalability. Fewer legacy protocols mean fewer limitations to multicasting and an easier run across the network.

With these four trends in mind, it looks like Avaya will graduate Valedictorian!

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Building a Network for the Brontobyte Era

If your company is running on a legacy network, this story will be all too familiar. From mid-June to mid-July of this year, hundreds of millions of people worldwide tuned in for the World Cup. Here in the U.S., many of the tournament’s 64 matches fell right in the middle of the American workday.

You would have seen it if you walked into any office that month—lots of employees wearing headphones, furtively watching live video streams of faraway soccer matches on tablets, smartphones, auxiliary monitors and in nested browsing tabs.

What most people didn’t know was that legacy networks across the country were groaning under the weight of that unexpected traffic.

I heard stories of executives trying to connect to HD video conferencing calls, and not being able to get onto their own network. Critical business functions—financial transactions, multimedia file transfers, customer service contact centers, and more—were either impacted, or crashed entirely.

Those failures weren’t in the applications. They were in the network.

Legacy networks were designed for a different era, with myriad boxes and switches that have to be manually configured and networked with one another.

Traffic hits bottlenecks in the system, leading to slower speeds, and in some cases, total outages. Getting the network back online is a physical job, run by technicians inside the data center. Upgrading equipment requires planned downtime.

Adding new applications, such as HD video conferencing, can take weeks of step-by-step configuration and careful testing. After all that work, 80 percent of companies deploying a new application will fail on their first try, due to complex network configurations leading to unexpected problems.

Networking demands aren’t getting any easier—it’s estimated that global IP traffic will reach 131.6 exabytes per month by 2018. It’s difficult to wrap your brain around how much data that really is, but by one estimate, 5 exabytes is the equivalent of every word ever spoken by mankind [].

By 2018, the world’s networks will handle 5 exabytes of data every 28 hours. It won’t be long until we’re measuring network traffic in zettabytes, yottabytes and brontobytes.

Here at Avaya, we’re building future-ready, virtual networking software and appliances for the brontobyte era.

Avaya Fabric Connect is a virtualized, software-defined network designed to be flexible, scalable, and easy to set up and manage.

Using Fabric Connect, companies can give specific applications priority status on the network, making sure, for example, that critical business functions like HD video conferencing and financial transactions get a green light, while YouTube and Facebook take a back seat.

A related product called Avaya Fabric Attach makes it easy to automatically add new networking endpoints—everything from a new router or switch to an IP-enabled security camera. As new endpoints get connected to the network, Fabric Attach automatically identifies and provisions services for those endpoints.

Now, the network is a single entity, rather than a series of individually-programmed boxes.

Unlike many of our competitors, our network architecture was built from the ground up on open, IEEE standards. Avaya helped author those standards, and our engineers continue to contribute their intellectual capital to both the OpenStack consortium and the OpenDaylight project.

Fabric Connect and Fabric Attach got their biggest tests to date earlier this year, when Avaya built the network in Sochi, Russia that powered the 2014 Winter Olympics. Every live video broadcast out of Sochi flowed across Avaya’s network, as did every gigabyte of WiFi data from the 120,000+ mobile devices brought to the Games by athletes, fans, journalists and staff. The network ran with 99.999% uptime.

Network virtualization offers a path forward for companies struggling to keep up with growing data demands. Open, flexible, standards-based technology means the network will be able to handle the types of bandwidth-hungry devices and applications of the future that haven’t been invented yet.

Beyond Energy Efficiency: Doing MORE with LESS

One of the biggest tasks of today’s scientists is to come up with ways of doing more with less.

How do we make our factories more productive, our cars more efficient, and our lives more comfortable through the use of less energy?

It’s really a very simple notion, but one that will consume many of the world’s best minds for a long time to come.

It’s also the same issue we face in communications.

Related article: Virtualizing your UC Network Lets You Get More with Less

Enterprises have less capital to invest in “the telephone system.” They, like the rest of us, need to use less power. They want to be productive and profitable using fewer resources. They want fewer management interfaces that manage a large numbers of services. Note that I didn’t say servers. They want less of those.

Less Power

Unless you are communicating using tin cans and string, you need power.

Your power over Ethernet (POE) phones chew up power. The network between those phones and the communications system chews up power. The communications system with its myriad of application servers chews up power. Your cooling systems need lots of power to keep everything from overheating.

Thankfully, every one of those issues is being addressed.  More efficient phones, routers, and switches have been developed. 

Back in my Nortel days, we discovered that our network devices used up to 60% less power than their Cisco equivalents.  The enhanced versions of those more efficient products are now under the Avaya umbrella.  Additionally, the Avaya 9600 series of IP telephones use 40% to 60% less than the Cisco 7900 series IP phones. 

When you realize that 80% of a VoIP’s energy consumption comes from telephones, those percentages add up to huge savings.

Click here to see the Tolly Report on Avaya telephone power usage.

Also, as we move away from stationary desk telephones to mobile devices, we cut the POE chords and access enterprise communications from multifunctional devices. This leads to one less device to power.

Less Space

This is clearly where virtualization comes in.

Pulling services off dedicated servers and virtualizing them onto shared hardware is contributing to a significant reduction in the space required to house your communications system and adjunct processors.

The move towards SIP allows you to start ditching gateways and their cards.  

I worked with one company whose switch to SIP trunks allowed them to significantly shrink their communication system. It went from overflowing its allotted space to looking awfully lonely in a nearly empty room.

Let’s take this even further and move your communications system into the cloud.

You go from a room full of gateways, servers, and dedicated appliances to a couple of SBCs. You could even eliminate the SBCs by pushing your trunks into the cloud, too.

Fewer Resources

When I started in the world of communications, every component had its own unique management interface. To make matters worse, many of those interfaces ran on dedicated pieces of hardware.

The various interfaces didn’t look or act alike and often required specialized skillsets to use.

We’ve entered the age where a management interface is a webpage and the tasks to manage a system have been combined. Instead of adding a new user to both a call processing server and a voicemail system, you add him or her one time using a single, integrated interface.

We’ve also grown past the point where if you had three of the same thing, you managed all three separately. We now have enterprise management systems that can manage hundreds of boxes at a time.

We’ve also implemented architectures such as “flatten,” “consolidate” and “extend” that combine several geographically separated communications systems into one logical platform.

All this consolidation leads to efficiencies in management which in turn leads to fewer people dedicated to keeping a large communications platform up and running.

An IT professional can learn one interface which will then allow him or her to manage many disparate services across the country or around the world.

Cloud communications also plays in this arena. Instead of your IT staff managing your communications system, why not turn the task over to your cloud provider? This allows you to focus your efforts on running your business and not on your telephone system.

Less is the New More

Doing more with less is certainly applicable to the world of communications. Are things perfect? No. Can we actually manage everything from a single interface? Not yet. Can we eliminate all those space consuming gateways? Not yet. Can we still lower our power usage? Absolutely.

The point of this article was to address the progress we have already made. However, we are far from done.

Thankfully, efficiency and reduction are on the minds of software developers and hardware designers everywhere. This year was better than the previous and next year will be even better than this one. There will always be new challenges, but we are clearly headed in the direction of “less is more.”

*  *  *

This article originally appeared on SIP Adventures and is reprinted with permission.

Q&A: Prasad Pammidimukkala on Integrated Network Management and Zero-Touch Provisioning

Zero-touch provisioning is finally happening, after years of discussion. With the power of Fabric Connect and Identity Engines, we’re able to help tackle the Bring Your Own Device trend and other needs easier than ever, while knocking out network downtime due to human error.

At ATF 2014, I sat down with Prasad Pammidimukkala, who heads up Product Management for Avaya stackable switches and wireless LAN and Identity Engines portfolios, to talk about what zero-touch provisioning is and how Fabric Connect makes it possible.

Mark: Prasad, you have over 20 years’ experience in the high tech industry including senior business development and product management and marketing roles at companies like Gridiron, Brocade and 3Com.

You had a presentation here called “The Introduction to Unified Access 2.0 with Avaya Fabric Connect.” What are some of the main trends that you see in BYOD in network access that are around that?

Prasad: Thanks, Mark, absolutely. If you think about the way we use our own devices, to get onto the network, you’ve got to connect the network.
Historically, that’s been done through a wired connection. However, if you just look around yourself, we see that network access technologies are becoming unified.

End users expect the same level of quality of access to their authorized resources regardless of whether they’re coming in wired or wireless.

Also, network administrators are demanding an integrated way of managing wired and wireless networks so that they can have a common set of policies for security, quality of service, etc., so much so that industry analysts such as Gartner and IDC stopped calling network access as wired and wireless separately.

They cover them in a unified way as unified access.

Mark: Has that affected the design of enterprise networks with these trends in wired and wireless access?

Prasad: Absolutely.

Let me just talk about a couple more trends in the access space.

We talked about network access becoming unified. There is one other trend around BYOD.

We all carry multiple devices. I have a smartphone, tablet, laptop and e-reader. These are all connected devices. I also have a wearable watch that measures how many steps I take and how I sleep. It analyzes my sleep patterns.

These, again, are connected devices and they’re coming to the BYOD realm.

We, as enterprises have moved past saying, “No,” to BYOD; it’s more a question of “yes” and how easy and seamless can you make the onboarding of BYOD devices, and more than anything else, securing your assets; corporate assets. Seamless onboarding and access to all your resources while protecting your corporate assets.

The last trend that we see is wireless LAN is becoming a primary access mechanism. Again, if you look at any tablets or smartphones, obviously, they don’t come with an Ethernet port and even MacBooks – the latest ones don’t have a built-in hardwired port.

Mark: Tell me about it. I had to buy a $39 bundle that I didn’t even know about.

Prasad: Exactly. Wireless truly is becoming a primary access mechanism. What does that translate to? What’s the implication of that?

Until now, we were using wired networks to connect and use our business-critical applications and mission-critical applications. Wired networks were delivering the service that they need.

Now with wireless becoming a primary access mechanism, wireless LAN automatically becomes mission critical. It needs to have and deliver the same level of performance, resiliency, availability, and manageability to be able to serve as the primary access mechanism.

Mark: The next generation of unified access is what we call “Avaya Fabric Connect” where we’re extending that Fabric out to the edge. Tell us a little bit about that.

Prasad: We’ve been getting tremendous response from customers on the benefits of Fabric connect. If you pause for a second and think about what Fabric connect gives you, it gives you automation in the core of your network so you’re essentially coming up with a hands-off core where you deploy once and then you don’t touch it again. All your provisioning of new services you do around the edge of that core.

Now, that reduces the number of configuration errors that will happen on a daily basis and bring down networks. People lose jobs when their networks go down due to somebody’s human error.

By automating the core, you’re getting that benefit of zero configuration errors due to human error. By extending it out closer to the edge, you’re extending that automation all the way to the edge. You no longer have to touch the core. You don’t have to touch the distribution layer. Now, all your provisioning gets done at the wiring closet.

What we’ve done is we’ve said, “Okay, Fabric is such a great thing and it’s giving us so many benefits from an integration perspective, automation perspective, performance and availability. Why not extend it even further? Why stop in the wiring closet?”

We’re extending it into the wireless access points as well as to the endpoints. These are third-party switches that may not be Fabric-capable and also endpoints like laptops and tablets when they connect the switch infrastructure.

Essentially, it recognizes them, authenticates and authorizes them automatically and provides them access to the services they’re entitled to. All of this is happening with zero touch from a configuration perspective. That’s why we’re calling it “the automated campus” or “automated edge” where you get zero-touch provisioning.

Mark: We’ve been talking about zero-touch provisioning for years and years and years. That was something that Jean Turgeon always was striving for: zero touch, just make it work. Make it work.

I think it’s always been a challenge because, at some point or another, you’ve got to put some intelligence in here. This is allowing that intelligence to come right from the device.

Prasad: That’s right. Fabric provides you that intelligence.

Now, when we talk about zero-touch provisioning, it is truly, literally zero-touch provisioning. You can take a switch that comes default out of the factory, open up the cardboard box, power it up and connect it to an uplink port into the northbound switch which is a Fabric-capable switch. This brand new vanilla switch can discover that it’s connected to a Fabric Connect network and downloads its configuration and automatically provisions itself.

When we talk about zero-touch provisioning, it’s truly zero-touch provisioning. Having said that, some amount of configuration has to happen prior to the switch getting plugged into the network.

That happens in a centralized place through our Identity Engines or it’s managed by skilled personnel as part of the design and deployment of the network.

You’re not relying on either not-so-skilled administrators that are in the branch offices and in locations where high skills are not easily found, thus reducing the chance of errors propagating through a network.

Mark: There’s got to be an ROI there because you’re certainly making best use of labor dollars where you need that skilled set.

Prasad: Yeah. One other thing, if you talk about remote offices again, where you’re deploying access point for wireless access, in traditional environments, you typically have to go pay someone to climb up on a ladder and put the access point there.

Now, that labor is not that expensive. However, where the expensive labor comes in is when you have to have a networking expert go out there, configure IP information, configure VLAN’s, configure access policies, etc. with Fabric being extended all the way to the access point.

You literally have someone attach the access point to the ceiling and then they take an Ethernet cable, plug it into a port on a switch and from then on all the configuration happens automatically.

You’re essentially onboarding access points with zero touch and then any endpoints like tablets or smartphones or laptops that connect to that access point will also get automatically provisioned into the right virtual services networks through Fabric Attach and Fabric Connect.

Mark: Now I think that’s a revolutionary behavioral change in network design and network deployment and it just opens up a whole host of things that can now happen automatically because all of that is happening.

Not only do you have the money and savings and resources and deployment, but you’ve just got the intelligence that’s there. It’s got to simplify your trouble shooting as well.

Prasad: It does. If you look at traditional architectures again, you have different pieces of the network being cobbled together in a way using gateways or some translation protocols in between. When you have a single end-to-end Fabric that’s running a single protocol, you’re troubleshooting becomes all that much simpler.

An analogy that I’ve seen being used, let’s say you have a plumbing situation, if you have a single pipe end-to-end, you can see from one end to the other really clearly. If there’s a blockage, it’s very obvious. Whereas if you have a lot of joints and things are going through different paths, it’s not that easy anymore to troubleshoot. It’s a very simplistic example, but that’s essentially how this equates to.

Mark: Plumbing is an excellent example of how to explain networks to people because it’s something they can see and visualize. It’s just got the exact similar characteristics in almost everything I’ve seen. It always comes back to plumbing.

Thanks very much for sitting down and talking to us today. Very interesting stuff and some real-world applications of all this great technology we’re dealing with.

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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