Avaya urges partners to get their SDN fabric in front of customers

At an event Wednesday, Avaya strongly urged its partners to look closely at their networking fabric and the middleware which enables its automation, saying that it provides a clear path to smart computing and a strong differentiator from competitors.

Greg Schlotzhauer Avaya

Greg Schlotzhauer, Avaya’s regional sales lead for Ontario

Mississauga ON – On Wednesday, Avaya hosted a networking-focused luncheon for Canadian partners and customers at a premier steakhouse here. After the attendees were well-fed, the next course was a message that Avaya also hopes its partners will find delicious – that their software-defined networking (SDN) fabric is a major differentiator which can win them deals, and they need to get it in front of customers.

“This is real – it’s not vaporware – it’s as good as we say it is,” said Greg Schlotzhauer, Avaya’s regional sales lead for Ontario, to the audience. “We are relying on partners to propagate this message. We have an incredible advantage with this, and it’s a big differentiator for us.”

Schlotzhauer said that when customers are exposed to the SDN fabric, they typically follow a multi-stage pattern.

“The first response is disbelief, then challenge, then acceptance, then the orders start to flow,” he said. “The key is getting to that first point, where partners can get us to the table to prove what we are saying is true. If we get that far, we will win nine times out of ten.

Schlotzhauer emphasized that the market for this type of solution is growing with the intensification of digitalization, where Avaya has made a large play.

“The underlying network still holds this thing together,” he said. “You need to have these conversations about what customers are doing and make sure they aren’t doing what they did historically, where networking switches were the foundation. Now our Breeze middleware – a term you will be hearing more and more of — enables automation and business process.”

Breeze was formerly Avaya’s Engagement Development Platform — a cumbersome name that Avaya execs said at their recent Avaya Executive Partner Forum in San Diego needed more pizzaz. The rebranded Breeze, together with new Avaya Snap-in modules was unveiled two weeks ago at Enterprise Connect in Orlando.

Fabrizio Fiori Avaya

Fabrizio Fiori, Global Director, SDN FX Solutions, Software Defined Architecture, WW Sales, at Avaya

“Breeze is about creating smart outputs based on inputs,” said Fabrizio Fiori, Global Director, SDN FX Solutions, Software Defined Architecture, WW Sales, at Avaya, who followed Scholtzhauer with the main presentation elaborating the networking strategy in detail.

Fiori emphasized that as customers borrow from the Google and Amazon model by embracing hyper-converged to simplify their compute and storage, they also need to rethink their networking. Networking was essentially absent from the first wave of hyper-converged, and is only just beginning to make its way into some of those solutions.

“Creating one big cluster in the new hyper-converged world means that the network in the middle gets pretty complicated,” he said. “This is where the Avaya mesh does very well, as our Avaya fabric is one hop anywhere, any number of times around the world. If your customers are trying hyper-converged, they should try something new and go all in with networking as well.

“The biggest challenge as VARs that you deal with is that if the customer has got something in pace – why change it,” Fiori continued. “But if they move to hyper-converged, why stay status quo on networking?”

Fiori said that Avaya’s SDN FX – a marketing term which is really about the Avaya Fabric – both automates the core, with a single SPB (Shortest Path Bridging) protocol, and enhances security. He said it creates what is essentially an ‘invisible core’ where a hacker could see the IP edge, but will only see entry and exit points to the core, something that has been verified by Avaya-sponsored ‘hackathons’ where hackers were unable to penetrate the core.

“From a security standpoint, it’s a big deal,” he said. “I’m not saying we are a security company, but using SPB removes any security concerns in the middle you might have. It solves part of the problem, although would I still put firewalls in place? Yes.”

Fiori said that this solution can work with existing legacy systems, as it can be dropped in the middle of the data centre with Cisco or any other incumbent vendor being used all around it.

“Automating the core also lets you innovate elsewhere for better business impact,” he stated. “The automated edge is where the business value is. It’s what the customer can actually see, not the networking in the core.”

Fiori said that while the term ‘smart computing’ is being overused and applied to questionable use cases, true smart computing, such as Avaya has been doing in Dubai, which has been building smart cities, is greatly accelerated by this type of networking advance.

“It lets you drive some great solutions around smart,” he said. “What we still lack is enough partners to customize specific business outcomes that customers want to have. We are actively looking for partners to work with us.”

Avaya is providing assistance to partners here with new and very demanding training.

“We’ve been dinged in the past about training, so we have launched ACE-fx, which is 4.5 days of training – four days of theory and a half day of lab,” Fiori said. “It has a 50 per cent fail rate, which is usually caused by partners being unable to change the way that they’ve been doing things.” Between 12-15 individuals in Canada have successfully completed it, he added.