Extreme leverages Avaya Networking to automate network management campus-wide

As network complexity rises, network management gets harder. Automation, such as the Extreme – Avaya Networking solution, eliminates tasks and allows for more innovation.

Extreme leverages Avaya Networking to automate network management

It’s been about two months since Extreme Networks closed on the acquisition of Avaya Networking. As I pointed out, Extreme’s first partial quarter post close was a smashing success, which indicates the company is headed in the right direction. But now the real work begins.

In the two months since the close, the company has been extremely busy (pun intended) doing a bunch of things to integrate the companies, such as onboarding workers, bringing systems together and holding a unified sales conference. These things are obviously interesting and important, but the question on most customers’ minds is how long before there is integration at a product level?

The Extreme/Avaya Networking product integration plan 

Given the complexity of network gear, product integration can often take years to do. In the case of Extreme and Avaya Networking, it took about two months, which is much faster than I thought possible. The combined solution integrates the portfolios at a management and software layer, enabling network managers to use Avaya’s Fabric Connect and Fabric Attach through Extreme Management Center (EMC) and mix and match Avaya and Extreme hardware. 

For those not familiar with the way the Avaya Fabric operates, it is designed to let network managers make changes at the edge of the network and then automate the configuration across the network. For all intents and purposes, the core of the fabric is completely passive, making it fast and easy to make changes. An interesting factoid from ZK Research is that the average time it takes to implement a change network wide is four months. Avaya’s Fabric automates the process so it can be done in minutes. The automation capabilities also eliminate the chance of human error, still the top cause of unplanned downtime.

[Read “Inside the network powering the Sochi Olympics” to learn how the Avaya Fabric (formerly known as VENA) was used to quickly build a robust network capable of running a wide range of network services at the Sochi Olympics.]

Avaya’s Fabric now supports Extreme’s EXOS switches, as well as the ExtremeWireless 3900 WiFi APs, enabling customers to use the best of each vendor but still maintain the value of the fabric. The integration into EMC will happen in phases. The first phase (now) brings integrated fault management, change and status management as well as backups and firmware upgrades. Phase 2, which is slated for the first quarter of 2018 adds more configuration aspects, and phase 3 is expected sometime within a year.

Extreme is calling this “Automated Campus,” and as an industry watcher, it’s good to see some innovation happening in the campus. Much of the innovation that has taken place in networking over the past decade has been focused at the data center, so its nice to see the campus finally getting some long-overdue innovation.

Automation helps network engineers; it doesn’t hurt them

I know many network professionals, and likely many readers of Network World, who fear automation and look at it as something that threatens their jobs. This mentality is flat out wrong. Businesses are putting so much pressure on IT to help drive innovation, but many IT organizations can’t do this because they’re bogged down in manual processes. My advice to network engineers has been that if you’re doing things today that aren’t strategic to your company or your resume, don’t do them. Find a way to automate them. And products like Extreme’s Automated Campus make that possible.

An example of how this can add value is to use Fabric Connect to configure fine-grained segmentation, or hyper-segmentation as Extreme calls it. Trying to segment a network using manual processes is difficult. Managing segments in a highly dynamic environment is even more difficult. Creating fine-grained segmented zones in a constantly changing network that supports IoT, mobile devices and cloud is impossible. The only way to do this is to use a solution like Extreme’s to automate the process. It’s important for network professionals to consider what automation will let them do that they simply could not do before.

2 new Extreme hardware platforms

In addition to software integration, Extreme is announcing two new hardware platforms. I know everyone is gaga over software today, but businesses still need rock solid, high-performance network switches, and Extreme announced two new ones.

The VSP 8600 is a compact, 7 RU system with a total capacity of 21.6 Tbps. Customers can configure up to 192 1/10 Gbps, 128 ports of 40 Gbps or a whopping 48 ports of 100 Gbps.

The other switch, the VSP 8404C, can be thought of as either a core switch for a midsize campus or aggregation switch for a large campus. It has a total switching capacity of 2.56 Tbps and can support 96 1/10 Gbps ports, 24 at 40 Gbps or 8 100 Gbps ports. Both products can be deployed today and can likely remain in place for a decade. 

Network complexity is on the rise, and that trend isn’t abating any time soon. Businesses need to rethink their network strategies and automate as much as possible to keep up with an increasingly connected world. The combined Extreme – Avaya Networking solution makes this possible in the campus, something much of the industry has forgotten about.

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