Evolution of Disaggregated Switching: Bringing Whitebox to the Masses

For years, hyper-scale technology companies like Google have flexed their IT muscles and considerable buying power to create highly specialized operating environments with equally optimized cost structures. In the networking space, this has given birth to the concept of white box switching.

White box switching refers to the ability to use generic, off-the-shelf switching and routing hardware, in the forwarding plane of a software-defined network. White box switches are really just that—blank standard hardware. (Source: SDx Central)

As with many innovations that have arisen from the hyper-scale space, white box switching isn’t readily consumable by the broader market. IT departments that are already challenged with simply keeping the lights on in their existing environments can’t afford to create operational teams and practices for developing open source tools and integrating operating systems onto bare metal hardware. Furthermore, the current business model for network switches today consists of Original Device Manufacturers (ODMs) selling to vendors that in turn create integrated products. As a result, ODMs have very little support capacity. So, “support” in a white box world relies heavily on the user community.

Despite the challenges, the model is very attractive. Going direct to the manufacturers allows customers to reduce capital costs. Then, it’s a matter of finding a Network Operating System (NOS) that meets their needs both technically and operationally.

To that end, several NOS vendors have come on the scene in recent years. Companies like Big Switch, Cumulus, IP Infusion and Pica8 provide software that runs on bare metal switches conforming to requirements set out by Open Compute Projects (OCPs) and Open Network Install Environment (ONIE). Of course, there’s still that little matter of support.

Enter brite-box…

Brite-box switching is shorthand for branded white-box switching. The key tenants of a brite-box switch are disaggregation (hardware and software/OS can be decoupled), reduced capital cost (i.e., white-box economics), commercial software (versus roll your own), and the option to receive service/support from a single supplier. (Source: Andrew Lerner, Gartner)

The brite-box market has emerged via traditional networking vendors partnering with the aforementioned NOS vendors. The networking vendors generally bring the value of an established supply chain, strong professional services, and a mature support organization. They sell standard hardware with their own brand affixed at a lower markup than usual and pre-loaded with your choice of NOS. They also offer experienced professional services to help integrate these new platforms into your environment. Finally, they offer support on the hardware, as it does carry their brand, however, software support is still the domain of the NOS vendor. As these vendors tend to be more nascent, they have limited support capabilities generally comprised of user forums and outsourced call centers. So, the weak link in the chain is in the area most prone to support issues.

Where are the NOS offers from established networking vendors? That’s the very question we asked here at Avaya. With the entire market looking to reap the benefits of disaggregation, the primary obstacle seems to be the lack of a mature NOS with Enterprise class support behind it. That’s precisely what Avaya is announcing today. We’ve decoupled our mature, widely proven Network Operating System software from our branded hardware and created an opportunity for specialty solutions providers to take advantage of the white box consumption model without disrupting their operational environment. It’s yet another proof point of Avaya truly transforming itself into a software and services company.

This new initiative enables solution providers to buy off-the-shelf hardware from certified manufacturers. These manufacturers pre-load the Avaya NOS, which has been deployed globally for nearly two decades and across millions of ports. So, when a switch is shipped, the solution provider as well as the end customer has the peace of mind that they’re getting a platform tested against over 100,000 scenarios collected through years of live deployment experience. Furthermore, the first line of support is Avaya. The solution provider makes one call to our world-renowned support organization that has years of experience and direct access to the software development team. If the issue is isolated to hardware, a warm hand-off takes place to the manufacturer for repairs, replacements, etc. No finger pointing. No frustration. No sacrifice from the current model.

The whole experience should sound somewhat familiar, as it closely resembles buying branded switches today. That’s the point. Disaggregation should be a welcome change in the industry. Vendors shed the overhead of hardware that provides no differentiation for their product. So, why aren’t more vendors moving in this direction? That’s a question we haven’t been able to answer.

Avaya Network Operating System software will be offered exclusively through systems integrators certified in the program and qualifying for direct purchases with approved ODMs. Visit Avaya.com for more information on Avaya’s disaggregated model. For more information on becoming a certified partner or locating a partner in your market, contact Avaya.

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A Prison Partnership That’s Changing Lives with Intention and Compassion

As someone who passionately advocates for female empowerment and corporate social responsibility (CSR), you can imagine my excitement when I was invited to visit the Phoenix-based contact center of B2B lead generation agency Televerde. I had been familiar with Televerde as a sales and marketing solutions company, but I soon found out it’s so much more. Four of Televerde’s five contact centers in Phoenix are employed entirely by women incarcerated at Perryville-Arizona State Prison Complex. Here’s what I experienced during my recent visit.

Stepping Inside a Prisoner-Run Contact Center

The unsettling experience of entering a prison complex was immediately brightened by the smiling faces of Televerde’s contact center employees. Behind these smiles were infectious personalities, positive outlooks and ambitious attitudes that permeated the four walls of the facility. Underneath each woman’s classic orange jumpsuit was a deep propensity for learning, the kind that many organizations now consider their “steel bridge.”

Keeping this in mind, it didn’t surprise me to learn that 25% of these women continue to work with Televerde after they’re released from prison. Even more impressive, about half of Televerde’s Phoenix corporate office employees came from Perryville. Working in departments like IT, marketing, finance and HR, these women are qualified and educated with a GED at minimum. In fact, with Televerde’s support, numerous ladies have gone on to complete their bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and one Televerde alumna received her M.B.A. at Arizona State University and now heads the customer service organization, globally.

In conjunction with the two contact center managers appointed by Televerde to supervise the facility, these women were clearly helping to successfully run the operation. As I observed the contact center in action, I could see one woman acting as head of training. Another worked as a sales primer. These women were writing scripts, handling calls and managing data just like any other organization. They engaged in friendly conversations before starting their shifts. Each employee worked fluently and expertly in what looked like any other call center in the world.

TELEVERDE

I had the privilege of sitting down and speaking with these incredible women, where I learned more about who they were and how they came into this business. Each woman met Televerde’s work eligibility requirements: a sentence of 10 years or less for a non-violent crime, a specific level of phone articulation and personality skills, and at least six weeks of training. Each woman is paid a minimum wage for eight-hour shifts. In addition to training, Televerde supports these women by offering educational opportunities, mentorship, and career building skills as they transition out of prison.

It didn’t take long for me to see that this group of women had profound ideas about business, social responsibility, and female empowerment. Each of the women I sat with had far-reaching career goals. They desired to excel by continually developing their interpersonal and technology skills. They had countless questions about how to launch a career in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). As a female CMO working in the male-dominated tech industry, I was honored to help these women develop a foundation upon which they could continue to build.

Getting to the Heart of Operations (Literally)

My experience at the Perryville-Arizona State Prison Complex can be summed up in one question an employee asked during our group conversation: “Did your impression of us change when you came in and saw us in our jumpsuits?”

These dedicated women were noticeably concerned about what others thought of them. They wanted to be accepted and respected, despite the poor decisions they’ve made in the past. Televerde reminds these women daily that just because they’ve made poor choices doesn’t mean they are bad people. The organization’s unique rehabilitation and education model allows us to see ourselves in these women. In showing compassion, empathy and respect, Televerde pulls back the curtain to reveal who these women really are. They are indeed convicts, but they are also part of the 14 million Americans who desire a full-time job. They’re flourishing members of today’s growing labor market. They’re hard-working, forward-thinking individuals who simply arrive to work in a different uniform than you and I do.

The benefits of this movement are astronomical. Televerde is helping to actively lower the rate of jobless individuals with a prison record, which is currently as high as 60%. The organization is empowering women by helping them determine what kind of leaders they want to be as they work to complete their sentences. The brand is reversing the psychological effects of U.S. penitentiaries that drive so many back to prison. Above all, however, Televerde’s mission serves as a critical reminder of the things we all must be constantly aware and in pursuit of: compassion, intention, kindness and respect.

TELEVERDE

We hear how companies need to go above and beyond for their customers, staff and communities at large. To me, there’s no better way to do this than by showing compassion and respect as an organization. Despite today’s rapid pace of innovation, the best way to connect and drive change is to simply be human. Imagine the profound global impact of more organizations understanding and embracing this sentiment. At the end of the day, we’re all in need of some help. We’re all in this together.

When it comes to corporate social responsibility, Televerde is walking the talk. For that, I give the brand a standing ovation. Learn more about Televerde’s mission.

3 CX Stats That May Change How You Think About Digital Transformation

Technologies like Artificial Intelligence, automation, big data, and the Internet of Things have made digital transformation an absolute necessity for organizations. With people, processes, services and things more dynamically connected than ever, companies are feeling relentless pressure to digitize, simplify, and integrate their organizational structures to remain competitive.

But there’s a big hole in the fabric of most digital transformation (DX) plans: the customer experience (CX). The problem isn’t that companies fail to understand the importance of the CX in relation to digital transformation. Rather, most fail to understand their customers well enough to envision a truly customer-centric, digitally-transformed environment. Just consider that 55% of companies cite “evolving customer behaviors and preferences” as their primary driver of digital change. Yet, the number one challenge facing executives today is understanding customer behavior and impact.

A massive part of digital transformation involves building a CX strategy, and yet customer centricity remains a top challenge for most. In fact, I encourage you to be your own customer within your organization. Walk in your customers’ shoes, contact your organization as your customers would. What was your web experience? Was the expert knowledgeable during a chat conversation? How well did the mobile app work for you? Did you have a connected experience? Given your experience, how brand-loyal would you be to your organization?

Here are three statistics that will get you rethinking your CX strategy in relation to digital transformation:

  1. 52% of companies don’t share customer intelligence outside of the contact center. In other words, over half of companies are limiting the customer journey to the contact center even though it naturally takes place across multiple key areas of business (i.e., sales, marketing, HR, billing). Businesses must ensure customers are placed with the right resource at the right time, whether it’s in a contact center or non-contact center environment. The key is being able to openly share customer data across all teams, processes and customer touchpoints.
  2. 60% of digital analytics investments will be spent on customer journey analytics by 2018. Customer journey analytics—the process of measuring the end-to-end customer journey across the entire organization—is critical in today’s smart, digital world. Companies are rapidly investing in this area to identify opportunities for process improvement, digitization, automation and, ultimately, competitive differentiation.
  3. 60% of customers change their contact channel depending on where they are and what they’re doing. This means organizations must focus less on service and more on contextual and situational awareness. Businesses must work to create a seamless experience—regardless of device, channel, location or time—supported by customer, business and situational context captured across all touchpoints.

The CX should influence every company’s digital transformation story. For more tips, insights, and impactful statistics check out our eBook, Fundamentals of Digital Transformation. Let me know what you think. We look forward to hearing from you.

What It Takes to Be a Technology Leader in an Evolving Digital World

The definition of a leader varies greatly, especially in business. From my perspective a leader is defined by their ability to pivot and adapt to the evolution of a market. Like many companies today, Avaya, its customers and partners are riding the often daunting—yet consistently exciting—wave of digital transformation of the enterprise. As a technology leader, Avaya is not only pivoting and adapting to this new environment for itself, but pivoting and adapting our services and solutions to enable its customers and partners to thrive during their own transformations.

Unlike many of our competitors, digital transformation is something we saw coming years ago. We recognized right away that it wasn’t a passing fad but something that could truly transform how business gets done, with communications playing the most important role. We knew that for us to be successful, we would need to focus on transforming ourselves first so that our customers and partners could learn and benefit from our experiences, our lessons learned. During our own transformation, we gained that extra insight that we were able to leverage in the development of truly transformational solutions and services.

As we drove our own multi-year transformation, we also maintained our global market share leadership position in Contact Center. According to Canalys research, we hold more than 34% of the market, which is almost greater than the No. 2 and No. 3 competitors combined. No technology leader gets to claim this size of market share without making its customers a priority.

Last month for example, we hosted a private event in New York as part of our Future of Communication Experience series. The purpose was to update and inform specially invited customers about our portfolio roadmap and vision. We encouraged them to come with questions and to be prepared to have real, in-depth conversations about the challenges they’re facing during their own transformations. As always, it was a great experience for the customers and Avayans in attendance. Overall, customers from world-leading payment brands, to high-end retail chains, to players in the automotive industry said that they are very optimistic, confident and excited about what we have to offer today and what we have planned for the future. And next month we will be in Mexico City for our twelfth consecutive year with 3,000 Avaya customers and partners from all over the Americas. This is the largest customer and partner event we do all year.

In particular, two of the solutions our customers are most excited about are Avaya Oceana™ omnichannel contact center and Avaya Breeze™ development platform. These same solutions were recently touted as visionary by a global analyst firm as part of its latest Magic Quadrant ranking.

Avaya Oceana, which was launched last year, adds advanced multi-channel functionality to our own contact center solutions, such as Avaya Aura® Call Center Elite voice platform and Avaya Aura® Contact Center. It also integrates with third-party automatic call distribution solutions, as well as offering advanced reporting and customer journey mapping capabilities through Avaya Oceanalytics™ insights. Specifically, we have been told by analysts that Oceana’s new approach to routing—which is attribute matching so that it includes data consideration and customer journey mapping—is something our competitors simply can’t offer.

The Avaya Breeze platform, which Avaya Oceana was built upon, enables users to be flexible when responding to the ever-evolving digital marketplace. It has garnered industry recognition for its ability to enable developers to quickly create unique communications-enabled contact center applications and workflows for within and beyond the enterprise—with little or no development required and nearly instant deployment. We are seeing customers use Avaya Breeze to create unique applications tailored to their specific business and communications needs.

According to Irwin Lazar, Vice President and Service Director at Nemertes Research, “More than half of the companies are using or planning to use APIs to embed communications capabilities into their apps, while another 25% are looking at using them to build custom apps. Platforms like Avaya Breeze offer organizations the ability to deliver enhanced business value and execute on their digital strategies by integrating communications and collaboration into workflows, business processes and existing applications.”

These solutions are just the tip of the iceberg for Avaya. We are a long-standing industry standard with a significant global footprint. We are focused on continuing to expand and develop our solutions to meet the needs of our growing global customer base, with more than 5,400 patents awarded and pending, including foreign counterparts.

Our strong service provider and system integration partnerships around the world enable us to meet the needs of a wide variety of organizations, both large and midsize. We’ve received industry recognition for our strong Contact Center integration solutions.

Our continued strength in the industry is evident by our 300,000 customers worldwide. In fact, the top 10 largest banks worldwide are running Avaya solutions and 90% of Fortune 100 companies are Avaya customers.

At Avaya, we are re-imagining the industry, bringing visionary products and solutions to market, and enabling our customers to digitally transform their businesses with ease. I am excited and proud of our ability to continue to evolve, pivot and adapt to the changing business communications world. After all, that is the responsibility of a leader.