Understanding Avaya Aura Media Server Survivability Settings

My recent articles have explored how Port Networks and H.248 Media Gateways invoke the survivable modes of Avaya Aura Communication Manager (CM). In this article, I describe how the newest actor, Avaya Aura Media Server (AAMS) can also activate a CM-Survivable Core (fka Enterprise Survivable Server) and CM-Survivable Remote (fka Local Survivable Processor). In this article I will use the generic term CM-Survivable to reference both the Survivable Core and Survivable Remote servers.

If you follow Avaya’s announcements, then I’m sure you have heard that AAMS is one of the significant enhancements introduced in Avaya Aura 7.0. Actually, AAMS is a mature product that was created at Nortel circa 2003 to provide additional capabilities to their various communication servers. Back then, it was known as the Media Application Server. Since then, it has grown to provide a plethora of services, such as software-based DSPs, many leading voice and video CODECs, announcements, text-to-speech conversion, speech recognition, and DTMF detection.

Those abilities have been available to other formerly-Nortel products. Now, the abilities are also available to Communication Manager. Because AAMS has been around for a while, if CM is to use it AAMS must be release 7.7 or newer.

CM accesses the services of AAMS with SIP connections. You start by defining the AAMS as a “media server.” Interestingly, communication from CM to AAMS is defined within a SIP Signaling-Group, but lacks a corresponding Trunk-group. Further, the SIP communication is directly between the two devices and must not traverse a Session Manager. Similarly, AAMS needs to be configured to communicate with CM.

As described in other articles, a CM (either CM-Main or CM-Survivable) server becomes active whenever it controls DSP resources, which happens when either a H.248 Media Gateway (MG) or Port Network (PN) registers to the server. Because the AAMS contains DSP resources, it can also activate a CM server.

The first issue is determining which of up to 313 CM-Survivable (63 Survivable Core + 250 Survivable Remote) servers an AAMS could register to. That begins with an option on the third page of the change survivable-processor form called “Priority with respect to Media Servers.”

If no priority is assigned, then an AAMS cannot register to that CM-survivable and make it go active. However, this setting does not prevent a PN or MG from registering to this CM-Survivable server.

The next challenge is deciding exactly which priority to assign. This requires an analysis of your network topology, an estimation of what network failures are likely and/or most catastrophic, and a ranking of several survivability possibilities depending on how the network might fracture. That plan should drive the placement of resources such as AAMS, PNs, MGs and CM-Survivable servers. It would also suggest which priority to assign to each CM-survivable.

If your environment contains a mix of PN, MG and ASMS, you will want a failover strategy that causes as many as possible of them to register to the same CM-Survivable Processor. That administration needs to apply to your H.323 endpoints as well.

Assignable priorities start at 2 and go up to 9999. Since CM-Main is implicitly assigned priority of 1, it is obvious that larger integers mean lower priorities. By the way, priorities do not need to be assigned sequentially, allowing an administrator to deliberately leave numerical gaps that could be filled in later.

Only if a priority is assigned on page 3 of the change survivable-process form will you be able to populate the MEDIA SERVER REPORTING LIST on page 4. Effectively, this list identifies which of the potentially 250 AAMS servers could register to this CM-Survivable server.

Each AAMS needs to receive a list of all the CM-Survivable servers it might communicate with. So, CM-Main analyzes all the CM-Survivable entries and compiles a list per AAMS. I speculate that as part of its reporting mechanism, CM-Main then provides each AAMS with its custom list of CM-survivable servers and their assigned priorities.

03-29-16 Image 1 Understanding Avaya Aura Media Survivability Settings
03-29-16 Image 2 Understanding Avaya Aura Media Survivability Settings

Next, we need a heartbeat mechanism for AAMS to learn when CM-Main has become unavailable. AAMS periodically sends a status “report” to CM-Main that CM must promptly acknowledge. The Report Interval (RI) determines the frequency of this “heartbeat” (default 60 seconds). The Report Expiration (RE) timer (default 180 seconds) determines how long AAMS will wait for a response from CM-main.

If the Report Expiration timer expires, the AAMS will look to its list of assigned CM-Survivable servers. It will then work its way down the list, sending status reports to each CM-survivable until one responds. The available documentation suggests that each AAMS simultaneously sends reports to all its configured CMs (CM-Main and all assigned CM-Survivable servers). When a CM-Survivable receives a report from AAMS telling it that CM-Main is down, it is effectively a registration that activates CM-Survivable.

03-29-16 Image 3 Understanding Avaya Aura Media Survivability Settings

If you assign the same priority (for example ‘3’) to two or more CM-Survivable servers, then you need to make sure that each one has unique AAMS assigned to it on the Media Server Reporting List. In other words, no AAMS can be assigned a list of CM-Survivable servers with duplicated priorities.

In a different article, I discussed how the Split Registration Prevention feature (SRPF) works with MGs. I was surprised to learn that it works the same way with AAMS devices.

Fallback to CM-main can be invoked automatically when the ms-recovery-rule threshold is met (i.e. as soon as possible, or at a particular day and time). Alternatively, failback can be invoked manually from CM-Main with the command: enable ms-return.

Another implication of the introduction of AAMS is that it modifies a technical distinction between CM-Survivable Core (SC) and CM-Survivable Remote (SR). Previously either a PN or a MG could register to Survivable Core, but only a MG could register to a Survivable Remote. An AAMS can register to either a Survivable Core or a Survivable Remote. In other words, now the distinction between the two types of survivable servers is simply that PN cannot register to a Survivable Remote server.

With the addition of AAMS in Aura 7, Avaya has introduced some fantastic features. It also added flexibility to the survivability strategies that can be applied to CM.

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Avaya CS1000 Customers—We’ve Got Your Backs!

We live in the age of “Fake News” and “Alternative Facts.” Depending on where you live and where you stand on various issues, the daily coverage of events can range from annoying to farcical to deeply troubling. Not to be left out, one of our competitors recently published a blog that by any standard meets the “Fake News” criteria. The headline screams “Avaya End of Support for CS1000” and then (surprise, surprise) suggests the path to glory is to move to their solutions. It really is FUD at its best!

Get the Facts about Avaya CS1000

The Avaya Communication Server 1000 remains a fully supported and saleable product. We have been crystal clear with our customers and partners that Release 7.6 is the final feature release and only Service Packs will continue to be issued. As promised, Avaya continues with Service Packs and has done so on a regular basis over the past several years.

We continue to work with our material suppliers, customers and partners to determine the right date for the end of sale and, once the decision has been made, we will make a formal announcement of the EoS date in accordance with our normal polices. Once an EoS date is announced, per our standard Avaya support policies, we will provide support out to at least 2024. Specifically:

  • End of Sale would be followed by one year of Manufacturer Support for software (three years for hardware)
  • That in turn would be followed by five years of Extended Services Support for software (three for hardware)

So we will provide support for a full six years following an End of Sale announcement—which is why I say we will provide support to at least 2024. Note that this is the earliest possible date for the end of support.

Beyond supporting specific dates, Avaya has a number of programs and policies (like the Avaya Software Investment Protection Policy) that provide investment protection for CS1000 customers as they migrate to the Avaya Aura® platform or the Avaya IP Office™ platform. Avaya plans to expand these offers with additional announcements over the next few quarters—details will be widely communicated to our customers.

Feeling better? You should be. Avaya values our CS1000 customer—and all of our customers. It is our intention to remain your trusted partner and supplier of innovative communications and collaboration solutions for many years to come. A big part of that is our drive to provide a path forward for every customer. If you’d like to learn more, please contact your Avaya or partner representative and start a conversation about where Avaya’s latest solutions can take your business.

Avaya. Strong Now. Stronger in the Future.

A Look at the Radical New Desk Phone You Never Knew You Needed

Back in 2009, Gartner boldly stated that enterprise mobile phones would replace desk phones in the U.S. by 2011. Today, six years later, we can see that this statement never became reality. If you ask us, it never will.

It’s true that mobility has transformed communications. Nearly 80% of Americans now own a smartphone. Over 340 million minutes are spent each day using video calling apps like WhatsApp. Every minute, over 340,000 new apps are downloaded from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

Mobile capabilities like texting, video, and collaboration apps may have changed the game, but they haven’t killed the desk phone. In fact, 65% of workers still prefer using desk phones. This even includes millennials, who rank the desk phone as one of their top communication technologies. For many of these younger workers, the device represents stability in a dynamic, fast-paced environment.

If anything, the rise of mobility has ushered the desk phone into a new, digital era of seemingly limitless possibilities. One that combines the flexibility of mobile with the reliability of a traditional desk phone. That’s exactly why we at Avaya are so excited about our new multi-touch, customizable desktop device, the Avaya Vantage™ Device.

The Fundamentals

Avaya Vantage is available in two models—one with an integrated camera and one without, for privacy—that each offer a variety of essential functions:

  • 8-inch, portrait-oriented, 800×1280 color display with capacitive touch
  • All-glass screen (no mechanical buttons)
  • Enterprise grade security and audio excellence
  • Compatibility with both cordless Bluetooth handsets and corded handsets
  • Message Waiting Lamp for message notification and visual call alerting
  • Hinged stand for smooth, multi-angle positioning
  • Power over Ethernet Class 3 (802.3af)
  • Single Port RJ45 Ethernet Connector
  • Integrated Wi-Fi (can be deployed over the Wi-Fi network)
  • Optional power adapter when deployed over Wi-Fi or when PoE data networking switch is not available

Fusion of Mobile Simplicity

Avaya Vantage is ideal for a collaborative, on-demand work environment. The device is inherently designed to deliver next-gen security, ease-of-use, and seamless integration—three major challenges of mobile reported by businesses across virtually every sector. Consider utilities, where 79% of executives believe they are exposed to more risks than they can effectively handle. Or, consider how data integration challenges are costing healthcare organizations billions.

It’s clear that a better communications solution is needed. Avaya Vantage works to bridge these gaps with a simple yet sleek appearance, seamless yet secure multimedia collaboration, and flexible application integration, supported by Android Marshmallow OS. The device preserves those desk phone features that users have come to know and love, while enabling integrated business workflows that support custom user experiences. That means no unnatural breaks in business processes, no need to own multiple devices to engage, and no costs associated with BYOD or system migrations.

SDK for Communication-enabled, Contextual Experiences

Avaya Vantage is an application platform that can be customized to meet the needs of the business. Think of it as a single pane of glass into the Enterprise. Avaya Vantage comes with out-of-box support for the Avaya Equinox™ Experience and the Avaya Breeze™ Client SDK. Customers can use ready-made applications from Avaya, install existing apps from the Google Play™ store, or embed custom communication features into workflows to meet their exact user and vertical needs. Executives can rest assured with administrator control over which applications can be installed, and all users can enjoy the convenience of single-step login for both the device and all communication applications.

Consider how Avaya Vantage can be strategically used across several industries. In hospitality, for example, the device can be leveraged to offer customers in-room help or recommendations, with the option to initiate and/or escalate to chat, video and voice. In healthcare, an application can be integrated with a hospital’s database to show a real-time view of patient and doctor schedule information.

The Bottom Line

The desk phone isn’t extinct—it’s evolving. Engineered for acoustic excellence, enterprise deployment and security, Avaya Vantage offers mobile simplicity with the necessary enterprise software tools to enable personalized, vertical-specific user experiences. The future of the communications experience is now, and Avaya Vantage is at the heart of it.

Avaya Aura® Platform—The Original Pragmatic Hybrid Cloud

In a recent InfoWorld post David Linthicum wrote of “an organic movement driven by rank-and-file enterprise IT people who simply want to solve their issues using the best technology and approach.” Linthicum called this the “pragmatic hybrid cloud.” Reading this from the perspective of someone with decades of experience in the enterprise communications market, my immediate reactions was, “Aha, he’s talking about the Avaya Aura® Platform.” He isn’t, but here I’ll explain why this thought struck me.

Linthicum writes, “What this movement has discovered is that you can combine the public cloud and modernize some of your legacy systems to be more cloudlike.” That is exactly what Avaya customers have been achieving in an evolutionary process spanning almost two decades. Long before the term cloud came into vogue, Avaya customers have been able to gain the benefits of the cloud paradigm while avoiding the need to comprehensively lift workloads to a public cloud provider and the need to wholesale forklift and abandon existing investments.

Today, many Avaya customers—including a large swath of the globe’s most notable organizations in industries ranging from financial services, to healthcare, to government, and many small and medium businesses—process their mission-critical workloads using a combination of premise-based solutions and both public and private cloud-served applications. It is a “pragmatic hybrid” approach that since the mid-2000s has provided these Avaya customers with unparalleled reliability, cost savings, and business agility.

The Avaya Aura Platform is the reason why. Avaya Aura had its genesis in a time tested methodology for allowing geographically distributed organizations to link islands of resources to gain economies of scale. Back in the day, to create either a contact center that followed the sun or a single enterprise communications solution that served the needs of a worldwide workface, expensive dedicated circuits were required. As IP Telephony evolved, companies began to use packet-switched technologies to more cost-effectively link together distant resources into single holistic systems. Rather than centralized in isolated locations, communications applications could now be seamlessly and cost-effectively shared across distances. This made new ways to organize communication assets and the work that depended upon those resources possible.

Avaya’s great insight was to take advantage of the session initiation protocol (SIP). Over time Avaya’s customers have “pragmatically” converted the networking connections of their existing standalone investments to create fabrics of SIP internetworked appliances. The Avaya Aura® Session Manager lets companies treat their owned assets as part of a private cloud and combine those resources with public cloud capabilities both from Avaya and from a growing ecosystem of additional providers. It is a strategy that has resulted in significant cost savings while unleashing new innovation.

Today the Avaya Aura Platform has moved far beyond simply a “pragmatic hybrid” for sharing resources. It has become a strategic tool for many organizations. It gives companies a flexibility and agility to adapt and reconfigure at the speed of business. Avaya Aura has also opened the doors to both internal Avaya inventions and new external development.

Avaya Breeze™ Platform is but the latest application development platform that takes advantage of Avaya Aura. Avaya, Avaya’s customers, and an industry of third-party companies are leveraging Breeze with their own creativity for solving business problems. Breeze allows the creation of unique ways to leverage the inherent capabilities of Avaya products in combination with cloud and third-party capabilities. Whether those assets reside in a private data center, on premises-based servers, or in public clouds, because of the Avaya Aura Platform, the only barriers to progress are the limits of human ingenuity.

Linthicum concluded that, the “pragmatic approach is very sensible. It makes the most of what you have, reducing the need for new resources and letting you transition to the cloud at a pace you can handle, both in terms of cost and time.” Your Path, Your Pace, Your Choice, where have I heard that before? Avaya circa 2004 maybe? Nice to see the industry finally following Avaya’s lead.