Avaya Disaggregates Its Networking Operating System

The company is enabling its OS to run on white-box systems, joining such other established vendors as Dell and HPE in the open networking space.


Avaya is making its network operating system available on third-party industry-standard hardware, making the company the latest vendor in the expanding open networking space.

The company is aiming the move at managed service providers, cloud service providers, systems integrators and data center hosting companies, enabling them the put their brand on Avaya's network OS and run it on their systems.

According to Avaya officials, making the operating system available to run on standard systems is the first phase of a larger rollout of a networking disaggregation model that is being designed for high-density data centers that need such platforms as 64-port 40 Gigabit Ethernet or 32-port 100GbE. Avaya is working on the model and building out an ecosystem of partners through its membership in the Facebook-led Open Compute Project (OCP).

Dell, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Juniper Networks are among the networking vendors embracing the open networking concept. Enterprises and service providers are increasingly demanding greater agility, programmability and affordability in their networking environments. A growing number of smaller vendors, such as Midokura, Pica8 and Big Switch Networks, offer network OSes and other software that can run on low-cost, industry-standard white-box systems built by original design manufacturers (ODMs), providing the flexibility often found with hyperscale players like Google and Facebook.

In response to the white-box networking push, Dell, HPE and Juniper are offering what Gartner analysts call "brite box" alternatives—branded systems that can run third-party software and come with services and support from the top-tier vendors. In addition, Dell earlier this year introduced Operating System 10 (OS10), which can run on other vendors' hardware, and Juniper two months earlier unveiled a disaggregated version of its Junos networking OS.

Now Avaya can be added into the mix. The white-box model makes a lot of sense to enterprises, which can reduce their capital costs and enable them to better customize their networking infrastructure to their needs. However, there are challenges, according to Randy Cross, director of data center virtualization and strategy at Avaya. White-box networking puts a lot of the onus of integrating third-party operating systems onto bare-metal boxes on the enterprises themselves, and ODMs often can offer the support customers need.

The brite-box push was designed to address those hurdles, Cross wrote in a post on the company blog. Still, many of these systems still run software from the smaller companies. For example, Dell Open Networking switches run software from such vendors as Midokura, Big Switch, Cumulus Networks and Pluribus Networks. HPE includes software from Cumulus and Pica8.

Now Avaya is bringing its own operating system to the space, joining the operating systems from Dell and Juniper as software from more established vendors. Avaya is offering a network OS that includes network management capabilities that has been used for years and has more than 100,000 test scenarios, Cross wrote. It also brings virtualization features, network orchestration and support.

"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," he wrote.

For end users, the OS and accompanying capabilities and support should bring some peace of mind.

"The whole experience should sound somewhat familiar, as it closely resembles buying branded switches today," Cross wrote. "That's the point. Disaggregation should be a welcome change in the industry."