Avaya Grows SDN Portfolio with Open Architecture

The company's SDN Fx offering is aimed at extending the reach of SDN from the data center to the network edge, according to officials.

Avaya SDN Fx

Avaya is expanding its presence in the highly competitive SDN market with an architecture and other technologies designed to enable organizations to extend the reach of the network beyond the data center to include devices at the network edge.

The company made some steps into the software-defined networking space, including unveiling a data center orchestration and automation framework in 2013 based on the OpenStack platform and the company's own Fabric Connect technology. However, the introduction Feb. 24 of the SDN Fx architecture represented Avaya making a significant push into a market that includes a broad array of established tech vendors—like Cisco Systems and VMware—and smaller vendors and startups, such as Big Switch Networks, Plexxi and Midokura.

Avaya is best known for its unified communications and collaboration technologies, but gained a foothold in the networking market with its acquisition of Nortel Networks' enterprise business in 2009. Randy Cross, senior director of product management at Avaya, admitted that the company is making its way into the SDN space after others had already begun to build up their portfolios over the past couple of years. However, the SDN Fx architecture offers an alternative to network overlays and other offerings, according to Cross.

"We've been fairly quiet and working in the background and trying to get to the right place," he told eWEEK.

That right place is an architecture that makes connecting devices and people to the network relatively easy, and that stretches from the data center to the edge of the network, which is getting a lot of attention from tech vendors and businesses, due to such trends as greater worker mobility and the burgeoning Internet of things (IoT). Cross pointed to a recent Avaya survey that indicated that 99 percent of IT professionals say they want to see SDN extend beyond the data center, though 93 percent said their ability to do so is limited.

Eighty percent of respondents also said they need SDN programming that is simple before they adopt it. Avaya's new architecture addresses those concerns, according to company officials.

"To the outer world, it may seem that Avaya is a bit late bringing an SDN solution to market," Marc Randall, senior vice president and general manager of Avaya Networking, said in a post on the company blog. "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."

Included in the SDN Fx architecture is the Open Networking Adapter (ONA), which provides a simple network connection for any device that has an Ethernet port, according to Cross. The ONA, which is based on the open-source Open vSwitch, is an appliance about the size of a deck of cards that automatically provisions a path across the network that is secure and enables simple management of thousands of devices, officials said.