Networking and telecommunications supplier Avaya has unveiled a number of enhancements to its software-defined networking (SDN) portfolio, Fabric Connect, extending the potential benefits of SDN all the way to the edge of the network, in what it has claimed is an industry first.
Having already seen some success with its core SDN fabric, Avaya corporate consulting director of strategic solutions architecture, Adrian Brookes, told Computer Weekly that focusing on simplifying the datacentre network did not always reflect what customers wanted.
Brookes said SDN worked very well on campus and datacentre networks, but the fundamental change in how people work meant the benefits did not always extend out to remote and home workers, as well as distributed sites.
Indeed, a recent survey commissioned by Avaya suggested 99% of IT professionals wanted to extend SDN outside the datacentre environment, but almost of all of them said their ability to do so was either extremely or moderately limited.
To this end, Avaya has launched the Open SDN Fx architecture, built on top of its fabric networking tech, to allow businesses to deliver what it refers to as "any thing, any where" simplicity and cut weeks from network provisioning times by allowing devices and users at the edge to be added easily. The three elements of the system are:
- Open Networking Adapter, an appliance the size of a deck of cards that plugs into any device with an Ethernet port to provide plug-and-play network capabilities. The adapter provisions a QoS-customised virtual path across the network that Avaya claims mitigates security risks and enables simple, powerful management for many thousands of devices.
- Fabric Orchestrator, the first SDN controller to be embedded in a unified management instance, to manage and orchestrate the Ethernet fabric and provide SDN control to north and southbound interfaces. It also integrates into OpenFlow, OpenDaylight and OpenStack.
- Fabric Extend, a new capability in Avaya Fabric Connect to extend fabric networking across any IP-based network without loss of functionality to preserve existing infrastructure and interconnect deployments of Fabric Connect between datacentres and branches.
Beyond the datacentre
Brookes claimed this was effectively the first time SDN had ever moved beyond the datacentre to get closer to users.
“When I read about SDN positioning from Avaya’s competitors and it’s all about the datacentre, I understand what they’re doing, but as a user I don’t really see the benefit of that,” he said.
Read more about SDN development
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“As a user I don’t care about virtualised switches spinning up and down. As a user I just want to have the capabilities I need at the right place and the right time.”
Avaya claimed the new architecture could support a number of use cases, noting particular potential around connecting and securing internet of things deployments, and other device-heavy environments such as hospitals, as well as remote and home workers.
Leeds Beckett University is a good example of an environment where many thousands of devices have already been deployed to improve both student learning and staff collaboration.
According to senior comms consultant Chris Stead, the problem had been that keeping the network design simple, manageable and flexible was a major challenge – hence the university had already deployed Fabric Connect at the core, allowing it to build layer three virtual networks quickly and easily.
“We see Avaya’s SDN Fx architecture as a giant step towards realising our vision of secure universal device access,” he said.
IDC network infrastructure vice-president Rohit Mehra added: “Given the challenges of today’s networks, it’s imperative SDN implementations reach beyond the datacentre to simplify connection points and provide the necessary integration between applications and users.”