Avaya is pushing its Ethernet fabric all the way to the campus edge to enable automated network provisioning and simpler troubleshooting across the enterprise.
The company is extending Virtual Enterprise Network Architecture (VENA), its Ethernet fabric based on Shortest Path Bridging (SPB), to the wiring closet by adding its VENA Fabric Connect feature to the ERS 4800, Avaya's flagship campus closet switch. Ethernet fabrics like VENA are widely considered data center technologies, but Avaya Fabric Connect can enable VENA's simpler provisioning, management and troubleshooting in campus networks.
VENA uses SPB to build a fabric that load balances traffic across all active links, removing the need for loop prevention via spanning tree protocols. SPB's control plane -- based on the IS-IS routing protocol -- can route around failed or congested links by using all available paths. SPB can re-converge around a disrupted link typically within 15 milliseconds, which is much faster than spanning tree. Avaya Fabric Connect uses VENA's control plane to automate provisioning.
"With Fabric Connect and Shortest Path Bridging, once you deploy your core [switch] you don't have to touch it again," said Prasad Pammidimukkala, senior director of product management at Avaya. "All you do is provision at a [the] distribution layer and [Fabric Connect] uses a number of configuration headers to introduce [that provisioning] to the core."
With Avaya Fabric Connect on the campus ERS 4800, engineers can configure a closet switch port for a new service. Fabric Connect will then re-provision upstream distribution and core switches, effectively creating automatic topology changes.
"In a traditional model, to deploy a new service you have to touch every new point along the way," Pammidimukkala said. "To configure a VLAN [virtual local area network], you configure it on the edge ports, then on your distribution switch, and then on the core. Whereas, with Fabric Connect, you provision at the edge and the distribution and core switches automatically learn it and self-provision."
This automation reduces the impact of configuration errors, since the automated upstream changes only relate to the specific service the administrator is configuring. Fabric Connect also pushes other benefits of VENA to the campus edge, including the lower latency and resilience that SPB-based fabric offers, Pammidimukkala said.
To date, much of the industry's efforts to automate networks has centered on data centers, said Andre Kindness, senior analyst with Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc. But enterprises are looking for help outside the data center, too.
"The industry has been so focused on moving virtual machines around, but the campus needs just as much automation as the data center," he said. "The movement toward using current standards to do a lot more automation is interesting."
Avaya also announced Fabric Attach, an extension of Fabric Connect that automatically provisions third-party switches and endpoints, including wireless LAN access points on an Avaya VENA network. Fabric Connect deploys on an agent on third-party switches, access points and other endpoints. The agent allows these devices to acquire their configurations from the Fabric Connect system.
"When an access point plugs into a switch port, it talks to the SPB or Fabric Connect cloud, gets its personality and configuration, and tells the local switch how to configure and provision it," Pammidimukkala said. "All the SSIDs [service set identifiers] and VLAN mappings are centrally managed. You get truly zero-touch provisioning at the edge."
Fabric Attach also integrates with Identity Engines, Avaya's identity and network access management system, which will allow computers and mobile devices with the Fabric Attach agent to automatically provision their connections to an Avaya network, as well.
Fabric Attach allows network administrators to support users wherever they plug in or log on, regardless of the device and application used.
"As people bring in their own devices and applications, you need the network to be much more intelligent about user devices and applications," Kindness said. "Before, you had two VLANs: guest and employee. That's not acceptable anymore [when] you want to deliver access wherever people need it."
Avaya also announced the 2.56 Tbps VSP 8284XSQ, a 2 rack-unit, fixed core switch with 80 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) and 4 40 GbE ports. It is the first device in a new 8200 series of fixed configuration switches designed to serve in the midsize enterprise data center core or spine.
"Traditionally, a lot of midsize enterprises have used chassis-based switches to solve their core switching requirements in the days when we had lower port densities at 1 GbE and 10 GbE," said Dinesh Rego, senior product line manager at Avaya. "We've seen a shift [where] merchant silicon is able to provide you a single chip with a lot more switch capacity than the older chassis-based switches. It is for the midsize customers who are sensitive to cost, but want a high-performance switch that can get you to 10 and 40 GbE."