Historically, most non-networking professionals have considered the network to be the “pipes” or “plumbing” of the organization—something you needed, but low value.
Over time, though, the network has steadily increased in value. In today’s digital era, where everything is connected and more applications and services are moving to the cloud, the network has increased significantly in value. It connects employees, customers and guests, and it is the last line of defense for securing the business.
Because of the increased business value, how networks are managed must change. The legacy process of touching every device in every location is laborious and filled with errors. The 2016 ZK Research Network Purchase Intention Study showed that the highest cause (35 percent) of network downtime is due to human error from manual configuration. Traditional management is also very slow. Turning up a new location or even making simple changes often required a network engineer to be on site.
Another interesting data point from the ZK Research survey is that the average time to implement a change across a network is over four months. Four months doesn’t exactly epitomize the concept of speed and agility that so many digital businesses strive for today.
Enter cloud-managed solutions and Avaya Cloud Network Platform
To combat this, the concept of cloud management has become increasingly more popular. With cloud-managed solutions, network engineers use a web portal to find, configure and maintain network devices. A few years ago, cloud-managed solutions were primarily for small businesses, but today companies of all sizes use this model, and cloud-managed Wi-Fi is outpacing on-premises management by a factor of 2-1.
Today, Avaya announced the Avaya Cloud Networking Platform that provides full lifecycle management of wired and wireless networking devices. The product gives networking professionals a centralized console to gain visibility of the network, but it also controls devices without requiring on-premises controllers or overlay management software. Users can easily add, remove or change network services across the network from an intuitive dashboard.
The Avaya Cloud Networking Platform is built on the following principles:
- High service availability. This is one of the biggest differentiators for the product. With many cloud management products, if the connection to the cloud is lost, the network devices stop working. With Avaya’s platform, the network devices continue to function because all traffic and security is processed at the network edge and in each AP.
- Zero-touch activation. The platform works with WLAN 9100 wireless products and wired switches. Once the network products are physically installed, the cloud portal discovers and brings them online for configuration and management. The product also includes automated software updates and license management, relieving networking teams from these processes, which are typically headaches. It also provides an integrated guest portal and BYOD onboarding capabilities to streamline these tasks.
- Secure platform. Avaya Cloud Networking Platform is hosted in the Amazon Web Services cloud and is multi-tenant, which ensures that one customer’s data is completely isolated from others. Also, all communications are fully encrypted, with user traffic remaining on the local network. The only data going to and from the cloud is out of band management functions. This should be important to all companies, but it is of particular value to regulated verticals such as healthcare and financial services that have strict data privacy requirements.
- Scalability. The platform scales up to thousands of devices to ensure that companies using it today can continue using it as more of the network shifts to cloud managed. The price model is done on a per-device, per-month model, meaning customers can “pay as they grow.”
Another interesting aspect of Avaya’s approach is that customers are not tied into the cloud-managed platform forever. With many cloud networking solutions, once the contract period is up, the network devices stop working if the customer does not renew. With Avaya, if the customer decides cloud management is not ideal for them, they are free to manage the products using traditional management methods.
Pricing for the cloud network management service is on a one-, three- or five-year subscription, with hardware being priced separately. It will be generally available for wireless in November 2016 and wired devices in a follow-on release.
The world is becoming increasingly distributed and dynamic and organizations must rethink how networks are managed. Avaya’s Cloud Networking Platform can give network managers all the benefits of traditional management without the associated burden and risks.