This syndicated post originally appeared at No Jitter - Recent posts by Zeus Kerravala.

I hope Avaya uses this announcement as a starting point to raise the level of noise from its networking group.

Well, it’s now the end of August, which means it’s time for a few annual events to happen. The kids are getting ready to head back to school soon, so my wife has been doing school supply shopping. The Red Sox are in first place and about to collapse so someone else can win the division. And it’s time for the annual VMWorld event.

In tech, VMWorld has become one of the places to be seen. It’s like being at the MTV Music Awards if you’re an entertainer or the ESPYs in the world of sports. Last year’s attendance was about 20,000 people and it’s expected to be more than that this year. Why? Because virtualization has changed the face of almost every market in tech. In fact, it’s hard to think of a vendor that doesn’t have some sort of relationship with VMWare.

VMWorld kicks off Sunday and I’m expecting the typical deluge of news, as different vendors try and leverage the show for their own product announcements. Avaya this week jumped the gun and issued a press release outlining its vision of the Software Defined Data Center (SDDC).

When it comes to “Software Defined X” there are many angles a vendor could take, including programmability, orchestration, virtualization or anything else that even remotely touches the data center. Avaya’s announcement focused its SDDC vision of simplifying IT management by reducing the provisioning time of new applications and services.

If there’s a low-hanging fruit for SDDCs, it is simplifying management. In a survey on SDNs I ran towards the end of last year, I asked why organizations were researching SDNs, and the top response was to improve the manageability of the data center.

Provisioning new applications or modifying existing ones is one of the most inefficient processes in IT today, primarily due to the IT silos. When I was a consultant, I remember on one engagement, asking to have a 1 RU server loaded and racked with Apache on it. The process took over four months. Why? Well, the server guy ordered me the server from Dell, which has its own challenges I won’t get into now. The rack person wouldn’t give me space until the server came in. The cable guy wouldn’t run the cables until he knew where. The network person wouldn’t assign ports until the cabling was done and so on. Clearly not the model of efficiency but more the norm than the exception in businesses today.

The Avaya SDDC framework is built on OpenStack and includes an orchestration process that combines, customizes and commissions resources for compute, storage and network. Avaya will use OpenStack as a way of providing a single pane of glass to enable data center managers to deploy virtual machines, assign storage, and configure network resources.

The foundation for Avaya’s implementation of SDDC is its Fabric Connect network that compliments OpenStack environments. Fabric Connect leverages the Shortest Path Bridging (SPB) protocol to remove the current limitations that traditional VLAN and Spanning Tree-based networks have, to create a much more agile network. Network agility is a key to the vision of a SDDC, since you really can’t have an agile infrastructure without an agile network. Think of the network fabric as a virtual backplane to connect all of the pooled resources in and between data centers.

Avaya also announced a management platform based on OpenStack Horizon to orchestrate the deployment of compute (OpenStack Nova), storage (OpenStack Cylinder/Swift) and network (OpenStack Neutron). This creates that single view across the various IT silos as well as the physical/virtual boundaries.

Lastly, Avaya announced a number of APIs so other SDN-related vendors can interface with the Fabric Connect network. The vision of SDNs is supposed to be one where the compute, storage and network resources become more fluid and dynamic, but that means the components of the “stack” need to communicate with one another, and the APIs will enable that.

Avaya’s claim is that customers who adopt this version of a SDDC will be able to provision new services in a five-step process. I don’t know if this is true for all processes or just a utopian scenario but regardless, customers will see a significant improvement in the time it takes to provision or modify services or applications.

Additionally, customers will realize other benefits such as multi-vendor orchestration, secure multi-tenant networks and increased network agility.

Fabric Connect leverages a number of current Avaya networking products such as the 9000, 7000 and 4000 series versions of the Virtual Services Platform, and the Ethernet Routing Switch 8800, all of which were designed specifically for virtual and cloud environments.

Avaya Networking has spent the last few years building its Fabric and, the addition of orchestration and automation via OpenStack is a logical next step. Given where customer’s heads are at, the focus on simplification is the right approach for Avaya to take as well.

I believe the share Avaya has in the data center isn’t nearly reflective of the quality of product. I hope Avaya uses this announcement as a starting point to raise the level of noise from its networking group. It’s got the product and the right focus, the company just needs to be louder to not get buried in all the other noise in the data center market today.

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Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.
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