Avaya Launches SDN Offensive, Says Cisco, VMware Aren't Only Choice

With a proclamation that Cisco and VMware aren't the only SDN game in town, Avaya launched a new open SDN architecture on Tuesday, including an open networking adapter, which provides a plug-and-play network connection for any device with an Ethernet port.

Avaya said its new SDN Fx architecture is the first to deliver "connect anything, anywhere" simplicity, saving weeks in provisioning time by allowing devices and users at the network edge to be added easily to the network.

"If you look at the market, the whole focus and hype around SDN right now is centered around this war between Cisco's ACI [application centric infrastructure] and VMware's NSX, but the truth of the matter is ... it's just scratching the surface of what SDN can do, and that market itself is definitely big enough," said Randy Cross, senior director of product management at Avaya. "It's quite possible if people start to wake up and see all the different ways that SDN can change the industry and things that are possible here, it will likely very much restructure the market of networking -- from who the plays are and how they contribute."

[Related: Cisco's Chambers: We're Pulling Away From Competitors In SDN]

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Danny Poindexter, sales manager from Houston-based Shamrock Communications and Avaya partner, said the new products give Avaya a decisive advantage against Cisco.

"What customers are looking for from Avaya is addressing, reducing complexity and speeding up time of service to the market for delivering applications -- they're really good," said Poindexter. "Customers are really getting tired of running networks on legacy protocols and traditional ways that are just putting out fires and not enabling them to deliver applications. Did Cisco run the network for the 2014 Sochi Olympics? No, Avaya did. That's a perfect example of SDN."

This month, Cisco CEO John Chambers said his company is pulling away from competitors in regard to SDN.

"The market has recognized the benefit of ACI as compared to PowerPoint concepts of aspirational competitors," said Chambers, during an earnings conference call earlier this month. "ACI and APIC will become the cornerstone of the next generation of networking architectures for many years."

Poindexter disagrees with Cisco's recent statements.

"When Cisco says that, my next question would be, 'Tell me what your plan is to deploy services quickly and automate the network from server to desktop?' Avaya does that," said Poindexter. "Avaya can deploy services rapidly with only provisioning at the edge of the networks, where Cisco and other competitors there's a lot more work involved, a lot of layers of protocol that Avaya eliminates and collapses down into just one protocol where fabric connects."

Avaya's new SDN Fx architecture is built on the company's existing fabric networking technology, featuring an open networking adapter (ONA) that can connect to any device with an Ethernet port, such as medical devices, manufacturing machines and branch office switches. Around the size of a playing card deck, the ONA automatically provisions a secure QoS-customized virtual path across the network and manages thousands of devices, according to Cross.

NEXT: Avaya Extending New Capabilities In Fabric Connect

Avaya also is extending a new capability in Avaya Fabric Connect that enables extensibility of fabric networking across any IP-based network without loss of functionality, according to a release.

Cross said the new SDN launches will help the company and its channel grow because other companies are not "focusing on the edge."

"We recognize new use cases for us every day, every time we go out and talk about this to customers because they all do have problems out on the edge," said Cross. "It gives our partners new potential. New avenues to go talk. Those traditional Avaya voice partners, it gives them a much more easier foray into the data side of the discussion and to go talk about switching against traditional switching partners. For our general partners that cover the whole portfolio, it opens up a new set of services."

According to a recent Avaya survey, 100 percent of IT professionals want SDN to extend beyond the data center. However, two-thirds of them said the ability to do so today is extremely or moderately limited. Similarly, ZK Research indicates that 81 percent of organizations are interested in deploying an SDN, but deployments remain low because customers are unsure of what problems to solve with SDN, according to Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at ZK Research.

"The demand [for SDN] is there," said Kerravala. "2015 needs to be the year the vendors make SDN a reality by highlighting use cases and helping customers fully understand the business and technical benefits."

Cross said Avaya's SDN Fx architecture can support a wide range of use cases, such as ensuring the security and mobility of devices connecting to the Internet of Things (IoT).

Kerravala said he believes Avaya can make waves in the SDN market through the new products.

"Avaya has taken the fabric and SDN concept and extended it past the data center. This brings the benefits of fast provisioning, simplified management and reduced errors to the whole network," said Kerravala. "There's no question that the complexity of the network has continued to grow and customers want an easier way to manage and operate networks, and Avaya gives them that."

Cisco was not available for immediate comment.