Is Your Approach to SDN Putting Lipstick on Your Networking Pig?

Your network is ugly. I know you agree, even if you don’t want to publicly admit it. If it looks like any of the organizations I’ve visited recently, your network is an aging hodgepodge of hardware and software, stitched together with antiquated protocols. Racks here. Wires there.

And, it’s breaking. Unfortunately for you, it’s breaking at the worst possible time.

Every day, the business puts more pressure on the network–new applications to run, more devices to attach, more bandwidth to provision and an endless stream of users to connect. Cloud-Mobile-Analytics-Social has forever transformed the speed of business, but also created a yawning agility gap between the speed of the business and the capability of the network.

Software-defined networking (SDN) is supposed to solve this challenge; however, while it does promise a simpler, more agile architectural approach, many prevailing models are incomplete.

Most effort has been focused on the data center. Many approaches advocate for the introduction of new hardware or software overlays to enable SDN, but the paradox is that these attempts to deliver greater simplicity have resulted in additional complexity.

Is transitioning from CLI scripting to open-source programming the answer? How many programmers will you need to get going? How much training will be required to ramp up and be able to maintain this new environment? The foundation is cracked, and it’s just lipstick on a pig unless it’s addressed.

Let’s look at some of the real-life woes I’m seeing and hearing:

Hospitals are being blanketed by mobile devices, in addition to highly-mobile, and often remote, care teams. Diagnostic equipment like X-ray machines come to the patient, producing results immediately accessible by a specialist four cities away, who consults with the radiologist to recommend an immediate course of treatment to the attending physician.

Compliance regulations require security of the information as it traverses the network. Distribution requires bandwidth, speed and flexibility. Securely connecting everyone and everything could be a nightmare all its own, but there’s the added concern of protecting the rest of the network from increased risk that more users and devices can introduce.

Further, care teams exemplify the mobile workforce trend, which brings rising costs for connecting and provisioning services–even while there’s pressure to cut IT costs.

Boosted by the Internet of Things, this scenario is playing out in multiple industries: manufacturing, retail, financial services and governments developing Smart Cities.

All this means that the issues around service configuration, identified as the number one pain highlighted by IT professionals in a recent Avaya survey, are unlikely to decrease.

That is, unless there’s a new approach to close the gap.

Avaya SDN Fx takes that unique approach to specifically deliver simplicity beyond the data center. We think networks should simply be a dynamic series of plug-in points, so when IT personnel connect anything to the network, the network automatically handles traditionally manual network functions.

Avaya’s fabric-based SDN approach extends from the data center to the edge, to automate much of the networking functionality through software–making it easier for devices to connect securely to the enterprise network.

Avaya SDN Fx helps companies avoid the vendor lock-in that ultimately ossifies many networks. The open ecosystem that underpins Avaya SDN Fx includes standard protocols, open interfaces and open-source customization tools that provide the flexibility and agility to meet the current and future use cases arising from the Internet of Things.

The bottom line: When your network is already breaking, going with a networking vendor for SDN simply because they’re already in the closet is like putting lipstick on a pig.

Companies need to take a step back and find a trusted partner who will help build SDN strategies around actual use cases, their challenges and what they want to achieve. It’s only then that an SDN strategy will reap true benefits.

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The Forgotten Factor in IP Video Surveillance Deployments

Tens of thousands of people will stream into ISC West in Las Vegas this week in search of the latest and greatest security offering.

Few areas in the security space are as hot as video surveillance–hailed as critical in deterring crimes, increasing safety, and reducing losses.

In reality, IP video surveillance deployments–especially large deployments–pose a number of challenges. A huge amount of high-quality video footage must be streamed, secured, archived and be easily accessible. This is not easy, which is why customers are increasingly looking for validated, end-to-end solutions.

‘Surveillance at Scale’ is the answer: A validated, next-generation IP video surveillance system brought to you by a number of best-of-breed vendors: EMC, AXIS, Genetec and–wait for it–Avaya!

If you paused when you read the last name, you’re likely not alone. You’re probably thinking, “Avaya is not in the video surveillance business”–and you’re correct. Avaya does not sell surveillance cameras, video management software or storage (and, for the record, has no plans to). So what exactly does Avaya offer?

Before answering that question, let me digress. A number of years ago, Kellogg’s ran TV ads where they asked people what they thought Kellogg’s Rice Krispies were made from. A simple enough question, with an utterly obvious answer, but something very few people had ever considered.

What do Kellogg’s Rice Krispies and IP video surveillance have in common? Consider this question: What do you think IP video surveillance runs over?

Again, the answer is obvious, and yet little attention is directed toward the IP network.

That’s shocking, given the IP network is the foundational infrastructure that all video surveillance components run over. The most sophisticated surveillance system can be rendered useless if the network is not running right. Analysts predict up to 70 percent of surveillance issues (blurry images, lost footage etc.) may be attributed to the network.

That brings me back to Avaya and the ‘Surveillance at Scale’ solution.

Avaya offers a network optimized for video surveillance. Leveraging Fabric Connect (an enhanced implementation of shortest-path bridging), Avaya offers greater scalability, performance and simplicity than traditional IP network offerings.

Avaya provides a network that can scale to support tens of thousands of video streams simultaneously and ensures that video is always available (sub-second failover). We produce a set-it-and-forget-it network–install it, and never worry about the network that your IP video surveillance system runs on ever again.

For those attending ISC West, drop by the Avaya/EMC booth at the Axis Partner Pavilion (booth #14059) to learn more about ‘Surveillance at Scale.’

How Addison Lee’s IT Helps it Go the Extra Mile

British taxi company Addison Lee transports 10 million people a year in London alone. It attributes its success to combining the latest technology with traditional values of customer engagement. I got insight into how the company’s mission statement really shapes their business at a recent conference where Addison Lee CTO Peter Ingram was presenting.

“We recently won a tender with a 3-month rollout plan,” Ingram said. “That changed to a 48-hour rollout plan when the incumbent supplier got into financial difficulties. We literally had hours to deploy an end-to-end solution for 20,000 employees across the UK, including a new website and booking portal.”

Peter said setting up a brand new service overnight was possible due to Addison Lee’s commitment to investing in ‘great technology and great people.’

The company’s investment in Avaya Fabric Connect massively reduced the amount of manual configuration required to deploy new applications and services. As a result, a task that would have taken weeks with a legacy system was accomplished in a matter of hours.

Network downtime, even for maintenance, damages business. More so, perhaps, for Addison Lee, whose network handles 50,000 booking a week through the company’s mobile app, and a steady flow of phone bookings 24/7.

The new, Fabric-enabled network allows Addison Lee to upgrade or configure parts of the network in isolation without impacting overall service levels. When rolling out a new service, the network automatically configures distribution and core switches.

IT personnel simply focus on configuring edge devices, reducing the chance of human error. As a result, using Fabric Connect can save the IT department hours—if not days—of configuration time. New configurations are simpler, reducing the chance of outages that impact business agility and the bottom line.

Now that’s what I would call a well-oiled machine!

For more business insights and examples of how to grow an engaged business, follow our dedicated midmarket LinkedIn page.

Moving from Networking to Nirvana with SDN

Part of the excitement of a career in the tech industry is that innovation is a given. There’s always something new on the horizon or in the labs – something that is guaranteed to be The NEXT BIG THING to which all kinds of attributes and expectations become attached.  The downside of a career that thrives on technological advancements is deciding when and where to place your bets.

Software Defined Networking (SDN), while it’s been around for a couple years, is one of the latest technologies to reach what might be called SuperTech stage. Virtually every networking vendor has rushed an SDN solution to market to meet the demands of companies that threaten to vanquish the incumbent lest they fail to turn up with SDN soon. Others see ‘gold in them there hills’ with an opportunity to finally break into the networking fortresses built by a select few.

IT professionals widely vary in their expectations for SDN. For some, it’s about relieving network management issues; others, application performance, and still others, policy control or any other of more than a dozen issues. The bottom line, however, is finding a way out of the Iron Maiden of complexity that characterizes the majority of networks today.

To bring SDN into an existing network and secure continued revenue, some vendors take the overlay approach. They add another protocol, another layer of software, possibly another layer of hardware–all of which further burdens the network. What you have is akin to Jenga, whereby one wrong move topples an increasingly precarious stack of blocks. Imagine if you had to manually remove and replace each of those blocks before finally selecting the one piece that would let you move to the next level – or not.

To the outer world, it may seem that Avaya is a bit late bringing an SDN solution to market.  In reality, the timing has never been better. With SDN Fx, we’re enabling IT to connect anything, anywhere. Our Avaya Fabric Connect technology on which our SDN Fx architecture is built, already solves the top five issues that IT professionals are seeking from SDN solutions. With today’s announcement, we’re now enabling automation and programmability all the way to the user edge – without unnecessary overlays, boxes and protocols.

We built SDN Fx on three fundamental tenets:

  • An automated core that takes advantage of a single, network-wide Ethernet fabric to remove the need for manual configuration at each network hop; thus, reducing the potential for error and accelerating time-to-service.
  • An open ecosystem that utilizes standard fabric protocols married with open interfaces and open-source customization tools, empowering IT to quickly respond to changing business requirements with precision and flexibility.
  • An enabled edge that leverages fabric extension beyond the data center to the user edge, allowing applications, devices and users to simply connect anywhere along the network and interact seamlessly to create a more agile and productive business environment

This new approach has profound ramifications for the network simplicity and application performance that every IT person I know is seeking. Fabric Orchestrator is the first SDN controller embedded in a unified management instance and manages and orchestrates the Ethernet fabric as well as provides SDN Control to north- and southbound interfaces.

With its elastic extensibility, SDN Fx has particular significance for the Internet of Things, Smart Cities, healthcare environments – anywhere that the “edge” encompasses a growing array of devices and users in effectively any location. Our Open Networking Adapter–the first ever Open Networking Adapter–provides a plug-and-play network connection for any device with an Ethernet port, including medical devices, manufacturing machines, and branch office switches.

We also understand that companies are unlikely to rip out their existing network – even the most frustrated among you will probably stop short of that. So, we’ve made it possible to add SDN Fx to those existing networks with a new capability built into Fabric Connect that will enable it to extend across any IP-based network without loss of functionality.

Over the course of my adult life, I’ve moved a number of times. Most of the time my furniture has moved with me: lamps, TVs, sound system, electronic toothbrushes. I plug them into the electric socket and don’t ever wonder whether they’ll work when I turn them on. Wouldn’t that simplicity be great in your network? While other vendors promise networking nirvana through SDN, Avaya SDN Fx can make it happen.