Avaya Touts Big Sales Gains With Fabric Connect, Says VMware NSX To Thank

The adoption of software-defined networking (SDN) technologies like VMware NSX is paying off big time for Avaya, according to the UC and networking vendor, who says the SDN movement is rapidly spurring sales of its Fabric Connect data center solution.

Implementations of Avaya Fabric Connect shot up 100 percent year-over-year in 2014, marking the first major growth spurt the product has seen since its introduction in late 2010, according to Randy Cross, director of fabric and infrastructure product management for Avaya. Throughout the course of its next fiscal year, Avaya said it again expects the number of Fabric Connect implementations to double.

"[Fabric Connect] had very, very low adoption early on. We had a handful of customers," Cross told CRN in a recent interview. "So we really just hit the ramp in this last year, where we are starting to see kind of that exponential growth and a pretty decent number of customers implementing on a quarterly basis."

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Avaya considers Fabric Connect the "virtual backbone" of its overall software-defined data center strategy, connecting pools of resources within and between data centers and allowing for greater flexibility and scale.

Cross declined to say how many customers, in total, have deployed Fabric Connect to date, but said the product is especially gaining traction among early adopters of SDN. In particular, Cross said Fabric Connect has become a popular complement to SDN software overlays, such as VMware NSX.

According to Cross, while these overlays simplify and accelerate the process of spinning up new services -- a benefit embraced by server and application teams -- they can add another layer of complexity for networking admins.

"If you adopt a solution like [VMware NSX], and you overlay the existing network, then you solve the problems for the server team [and] the application teams. You allow them to get quicker time to service and a quicker, simpler experience," Cross said. "But for the underlying network team, you've changed nothing. The complexity they were dealing with before is exactly the same."

This, Cross said, is where Fabric Connect comes into play, eliminating that complexity through increased network automation.

"We've seen a lot of uptick in people looking for automation, people looking for fewer physical touch points in the network and in the infrastructure, and Fabric Connect naturally plays a role there," Cross said.

In addition to customers embracing SDN overlays like VMware NSX, vertical markets like education and state and local governments -- where IT budgets and resources tend to be particularly tight -- are also ramping up with Fabric Connect, Cross said. Organizations in these markets see Fabric Connect as an opportunity to free up valuable resources by, for example, eliminating the need for IT teams to manually configure core and distribution switches, he said. Customers in these market segments include the city of Redondo Beach in California and the York Region District School Board in Ontario.

"We see deployments where we are cutting down resources required for networking to a tenth of what they were originally to kind of keep the lights on," Cross said.

Mike Tavares, CTO at Integration Partners, a Lexington, Mass.-based solution provider and Avaya partner, said his company is definitely seeing a jump in Fabric Connect sales in 2014, especially within the surveillance vertical.

"The technology really simplifies and allows video surveillance traffic to scale across the network," Tavares said. "And it really takes a lot of the manual error out of provisioning an end-to-end service."

Avaya said all Fabric Connect deals to date, with the exception of one, have been sold through the channel. The company has also identified what it calls "Fabric Elite" partners in all its geographic theaters that specialize in selling Fabric Connect.