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Avaya redefines SDN architecture in new offering

Avaya says its SDN architecture leverages OpenDaylight, OpenStack and OpenFlow to deliver programmable network services faster than competing technologies.

Avaya launched a software-defined networking (SDN) architecture that lets customers manage IP-based networks from the data center to the Internet of Things.

Open SDN Fx, introduced Feb. 24, includes an appliance called a Fabric Orchestrator that leverages OpenDaylight for the SDN platform, OpenStack for managing groups of virtual servers and OpenFlow for communicating with the forwarding plane of network switches.

Devices with Ethernet ports are connected to an Avaya network using what the vendor calls an Open Networking Adapter (ONA). The card deck-sized appliance downloads and enforces policies set by corporate IT departments. Such policies stored within the Avaya platform would include quality of service-related baselines like uptime, throughput, latency and error rate.

The ONA is what makes the Avaya architecture suitable for devices that would fall under the category of Internet of Things. The appliance can be plugged into medical devices and manufacturing machines, as well as branch office switches.

Avaya expected to leverage UC&C customers

Avaya is not a major supplier of networking gear. The company entered the market in 2009 when it acquired bankrupt Nortel's data networking business for $900 million.

The company, however, is a major provider of unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) technology and those customers would be the most likely candidates for SDN Fx, IDC analyst Rohit Mehra said.

"If you're looking at a typical Avaya customer -- midmarket, lots of remote sites, lots of UC&C video applications -- for that profile of a customer, it makes sense," Mehra said.

Video, audio and Web conferencing require dedicated network resources in order to perform satisfactorily for corporate employees. Companies using SDN Fx to anchor those types of applications would have the option of using current network infrastructure for Layer 2 and Layer 3 services and then use SDN Fx for managing and configuring network resources.

"Many of these environments already have Cisco, HP [Hewlett-Packard] or some other networking solution. In that case, it would be Avaya interoperating with another layer of infrastructure," Mehra said. "It [SDN Fx] would be kind of an overlay over whatever third-party infrastructure the customer is using."

In general, a network infrastructure built primarily around one vendor is simpler to manage, so non-Avaya customers would unlikely opt for its SDN product, particularly since all major vendors like Cisco, Dell, Extreme Networks and HP have already shipped competing technology, experts said.

"They're kind of late to the game," Shamus McGillicuddy, analyst for Enterprise Management Associates, said of Avaya. "They're the last one I know of among the major, mainstream vendors to come out with an [SDN] architecture."

Why Avaya's late to SDN

Avaya acknowledges that it's late to the SDN market, but argues that its technology has advantages that will appeal to many companies.

"Why we're late is because we didn't build an SDN controller to solve the control plane," Jean Turgeon, chief technologist for SDN Fx, said. "We solved the control plane differently, which is unique."

Avaya is using OpenDaylight and OpenStack within its Fabric Orchestrator as the SDN controller, McGillicuddy said. As a result, within an Avaya environment, the company can provide management capabilities better than what's available today in many SDN controllers.

"A lot of them are still kind of raw around the edges," McGillicuddy said. "They don't have a lot of mature management functionality in them."

Avaya claims its architecture significantly cuts the amount of time for failover, for recovering from outages and for implementing, configuring and troubleshooting network services.

Avaya's SDN offering comes as the approach for data center networking gains traction in the enterprise and cloud service providers. The worldwide market for these two segments will increase from $960 million in 2014 to more than $8 billion in 2018, a compound annual growth rate of about 89%, according to IDC.

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