Avaya more than a year ago significantly expanded its efforts in the network virtualization space, introducing a network architecture that spans from the data center to the network edge and designed to make it easier to connect devices and people to the network.
The software-defined networking (SDN) Fx architecture works with Avaya's Fabric Connect technology and includes the vendor's Open Networking Adapter (ONA), an Internet of things (IoT) gateway based on the open-source Open vSwitch technology that offers a simple and secure network connection for devices that have an Ethernet port.
Avaya officials last week announced the release of ONA 1.0 with an initial focus on the healthcare industry, a highly regulated space seeing a massive proliferation of connected devices. Hospitals and other facilities are seeing an increasing need for tools to not only connect and keep track of the devices, but also to ensure they—and the data on them—are secure.
"In the last number of years, there has been an explosion in the number of devices, and it's becoming a very unmanageable space," Gordon Adamyk, director of R&D business operations for Avaya Networking, told journalists during an event at the company's Billerica, Massachusetts, facilities. "It's just become a management nightmare and an industry nightmare."
At the same time, officials with Avaya and partner companies demonstrated in a live test the ease of securely deploying and managing IoT devices using ONAs. They noted its SDN Fx architecture can support up to 168,000 devices.
ONA 1.0 comes as organizations continue to push for networks that are more programmable, scalable and agile to keep up with the rapidly shifting demands brought on by cloud computing, data analytics, the proliferation of mobile devices and the IoT. Estimates of the number of connected devices worldwide by 2020 range from 20 billion to 50 billion or more. SDN and network-functions virtualization (NFV) are among the technologies being used to help create the flexible networks that will be needed.
Avaya's efforts also come at a time when company officials are trying to figure out its future. The company, which competes with the likes of Cisco Systems and Microsoft in such areas as corporate communications and enterprise networking, its undergoing a shift away from its hardware origins to become more of a software and services player.
What Avaya showed last week was a combination of hardware and software, with particular emphasis on security, scalability and openness. The SDN Fx architecture leverages open standards including Open vSwitch, an OpenDaylight SDN controller, the OpenFlow protocol and NetConf network management protocol, according to Adamyk.
At the same time, Avaya engineers built security into the platform at multiple levels. For example, the architecture creates what officials said are secure service paths that are based on the profile of the IoT devices connecting to the network. Based on this profile—which includes who is accessing the network and what is being accessed—the network will provide the necessary compute and security resources in place.
The ONA (pictured) always informs the SDN controller when it connects to the network, and authentication technologies enable secure communication between the ONA and controller. In addition, the ONA doesn't store any data. Instead, its information comes from the controller, so if the ONA is lost or stolen and can't communicate with the controller, it becomes useless, noted Carl Keene, director of engineering of R&D SDN fabric infrastructure at Avaya.
"If it's not properly provisioned [by the controller], it acts like a brick," Keene said. "If it's stolen, it won't work."