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.
Avaya Grows SDN Portfolio with Open Architecture
In addition, the Avaya architecture includes the Fabric Orchestrator, an SDN controller that manages and orchestrates the Ethernet fabric and offers SDN control to north- and southbound interfaces. In addition, the appliance supports such open-source efforts as the OpenFlow SDN protocol, OpenDaylight Project SDN controller and OpenStack cloud orchestration platform.
Avaya also is offering a new capability in its Fabric Connect software called Fabric Extend that enables organizations to bring the fabric to data centers, campuses and branches without having to rip out the existing networking infrastructure, allowing customers to protect their investments.
“We also understand that companies are unlikely to rip out their existing network—even the most frustrated among you will probably stop short of that,” Avaya’s Randall wrote. “So, we’ve made it possible to add SDN Fx to those existing networks with a new capability built into Fabric Connect that will enable it to extend across any IP-based network without loss of functionality.”
The company’s Cross said Avaya’s heritage in unified communications helped inform its efforts to build an easy-to-use SDN architecture that is more user-centric than those of competitors.
“Enterprises don’t just comprise applications, but comprise applications and people,” he said.
Avaya’s SDN efforts come at a time of transition for the networking space, which is quickly evolving away from proprietary hardware and software to a more open, software-based environment that includes networking vendors, companies like VMware that saw SDN and network-functions virtualization (NFV) as a way to expand their data center solutions to include the network, smaller startups and white-box makers that build low-cost commodity gear that the networking software can run on.
SDN promises to be a booming market. IDC analysts last year predicted that the space will grow from $960 million in 2014 to more than $8 billion by 2018.
“SDN is taking center stage among innovative approaches to some of the networking challenges brought about by the rise of the 3rd Platform, particularly virtualization and cloud computing,” Rohit Mehra, vice president of network infrastructure at IDC, said in as statement at the time. “With SDN’s growing traction in the datacenter for cloud deployments, enterprise IT is beginning to see the value in potentially extending SDN to the WAN and into the campus to meet the demand for more agile approaches to network architecture, provisioning, and operations.”