Avaya rounds out data story with VENA

Amir Hameed Avaya

Amir Hameed, Avaya Canada

Avaya has introduced its Virtual Enterprise Network Architecture, rounding out the data centre networking portfolio it acquired with its purchase of much of Nortel’s business last year.

VENA comes from a technology standard build by Nortel prior to its purchase by Avaya and submitted to the IEEE. Amir Hameed, director of national solutions specialists at Avaya Canada, said VENA takes the virtual data centre discussion from a conversation about two locations to across a variety of data centres.

“It’s all about the data centre these days – optimizing, maximizing and getting more value out of them,” Hameed said. “The industry had been focused on virtualization between data centres, but now we’re doing virtualization across multiple data centres and for the first time extending out to the end users themselves.”

Hameed likens the launch to the data equivalent of its Aura launch, which brought what Avaya describes as “carrier-grade” voice technology into the enterprise. “We view this as game-changing, bringing a carrier-grade initiative into the enterprise,” he said.

While VENA is primarily en enterprise opportunity, Hameed said the company is also seeing midmarket interest. It all depends on the complexity of a given company’s data centre needs, he said.

Hameed said VENA allows Avaya channel partners to be “much more consultative” in their approach with data networking customers.

“It’s not just about the technology, but about leveraging the technology to help solve business issues and help companies move in the directions they’re already heading,” he said.

For partners already offering customers Avaya data switches, Hameed said the company has “a migration path” to enable VENA on existing infrastructure. And for greenfield opportunities, it’s about “being able to do things they haven’t done before” in a virtual network environment.

The lineup fits under Avaya’s data centre business unit and the matching competency under its newly revised Avaya Connect channel program. Hameed said the company is currently “actively engaged” with its channel partners to build understanding around VENA and to get partners certified for the new technology.

In a blog post, Yankee Group analyst Zeus Kerravala said VENA is “a solid proof point that Avaya isn’t ‘UCing’ up the data center portfolio” and is focused on bigger enterprise networking issues than just making sure voice and video play nicely together on the same network.

Kerravala calls VENA a timely announcement, arriving at “the first real opportunity any vendor has to take share in a long time,” basically since the move towards voice over IP a decade ago. He writes that the data centre is the hot spot right now due to the increased importance of cloud computing and virtual desktops, and described it as a market in transition. It may not be anyone’s game, but it’s as close to a level playing field as can be found anywhere in the networking arena.

Cisco has an obvious advantage because of its incumbency but the network in the data center is far too important for an enterprise to just hand them the business,” Kerravala writes.

Kerravala lists other arguments in Avaya’s favour in this field: Nortel’s engineering background, an existing installed based of Nortel/Avaya customers, and the improvements made in management at Avaya.

“This is the first time in a long time that I’ve seen actual differentiation in network products,” Kerravala wrote. “Historically vendors were either a little faster than Cisco (Foundry) or cheaper (HP) than Cisco and that was pretty much it for differentiation. The challenges of a virtual data center have given all the vendors a chance at gaining share.”

The debut of VENA brings to a close what has been a busy launch year for Avaya, which has overhauled essentially all of its major lineups on the heels of the Avaya/Nortel integration roadmap. Other major launches this year included its Aura unified communications systems, its contact centre lineup and most recently its video-centric Flare Experience launch.

Hameed sends the launch sends a strong message to both customers and Avaya’s rivals in the increasingly crowded data centre networking field.

“Look out, we’re heavily into the data centre business,” Hameed said. “This is definitely a bright spot for Avaya, and we’re seeing tremendous interest and growth.”