Avaya unveils platform for virtualized network functions in the campus

Avaya has introduced a platform for taking virtualized network functions to campus networks. New products include an operating system and orchestration engine.

Avaya has launched an operating platform and complementary orchestration engine that bring virtualized network functions, such as firewalls and specialized gateways, to campus networks.

Avaya is pitching the products, introduced last week, as a replacement for stand-alone hardware appliances that deliver the same services, but have to be managed separately. Network services available through Avaya's new technology include network virtualization, firewalls, intrusion detection and intrusion prevention systems, specialized gateways and quality of service.

Avaya calls the campus operating platform Pivot. The hardware-independent software can run on third-party switches or x86- and ARM-powered hardware. Avaya, however, also introduced an Ethernet switch, called the VSP 8600, that is designed for Pivot and the Arc orchestration engine.

Pivot acts like a hypervisor, but instead of virtual machines, it runs virtualized network functions (VNF) in containers that Avaya calls Pivot points. "Linux, KVM and Open vSwitch are the software elements that operate and manage the virtual network service containers," Avaya said.

Network managers would use Arc to build service chains that meet the requirements of specific applications. Managers create the "full-featured services" using centralized policy-based tools, Avaya said.

Avaya not alone in targeting campus with virtualized network functions

Avaya is not the only vendor providing a VNF platform for the campus network. "The challenge is to see how much of a widely accepted platform [Avaya] can become, since there are products from vendors such as Cisco that have platforms that orchestrate VNFs," said Dan Conde, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group Inc., based in Milford, Mass. 

Nevertheless, for Avaya customers, "I think this is a good move," he said.

The Avaya VSP 8600 is a modular switch with control processors on every interface card, Avaya said. When used with Pivot, Avaya contends the switch has enough processing power for load balancing to deliver NFVs.

The switch provides interface connectivity from 1 Gb to 100 Gb and can isolate traffic from devices and applications throughout the campus. Isolating traffic -- a process called segmentation -- prevents malware from traveling between applications.

Avaya in bankruptcy

Avaya introduced the new products roughly a month after announcing plans to sell its networking business to Extreme Networks for $100 million. The deal, which is expected to close by the end of June, is part of Avaya's ongoing reorganization, which started in January when it filed for bankruptcy.

The uncertainty caused by bankruptcy has had an effect on network operators who are risk-averse, said Teren Bryson, network consultant at systems integrator World Wide Technology Inc., based in St. Louis.

"I am personally a fan of Avaya's networking gear, to the extent that I know it, but it's hard to recommend to a large customer when the fate of the company and its products are in so much question for the longer term," Bryson said.

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