Avaya’s Starbucks Approach to the Network
Coffee is a popular commodity whose supply far outweighs demand, is available everywhere from gas stations to five star restaurants, and the typical consumer cannot decipher the subtle differences in taste from brand to brand. Given coffee’s broad availability and extremely low price, how can Starbucks continually attract buyers away from competitors while charging four to five times as much for a shot of caffeine? The answer lies in Starbucks’ focus—which isn’t coffee—the focus is customer experience. Consumers flock to Starbucks for the experience, not the product itself. Avaya has followed Starbucks’ example in its network design. Instead of concentrating on speeds and feeds, Avaya understands that next generation networks must respond and answer to a single authority: the user.
Most network vendors are rapidly developing a “fabric” strategy that simplifies the data center to allow the expansion of cloud computing and drives more data center consolidation. In some ways, Avaya is no different—VENA is a network architecture that embraces virtualization and increases network efficiency within the data center through the use of Shortest Path Bridging (SPB). However, Avaya’s VENA strategy and use of SPB has taken the network beyond where most vendors are going with their various fabric approaches. Most fabrics are isolated to the data center. Vendors are achieving unprecedented speeds from rack to rack within the data center (the removal of Spanning Tree Protocol and the move towards 10G Ethernet have accelerated this movement). However, most vendors have concentrated on increasing the speed of the data center from an “intra” data center perspective. Before you buy into any fabric’s capabilities, consider the broader implications.
First, consider what is housed in data centers. Sure, your traditional suspects still lie in the data center: databases, archives, etc. However, the newcomers to the data center are what users care about: user applications. A user application housed in the data center is whole premise of cloud computing. A user no longer runs the application from his edge device; rather, he accesses the application from whatever edge device he desires from wherever he is located. This usage model begs the question: who cares how efficient your data center is if your campus, branch, and remote workers can’t access the applications with the same efficiency? Unlike many network vendors, Avaya has addressed this question.
Avaya uses the same VENA architecture and SPB protocol from the core of the data center, to the edge of the network. Avaya understands that in order to take advantage of increased data center efficiency, the same single management plane and high availability must be available clear to the edge. It must be available at the edge, because the edge user is using applications that exist in the data center. Most fabrics concentrate on the data center and leave campus, branch, and remote sites to more traditional network architectures. This network approach is like flying home from a trip on aConcordjet, but then having to walk the twenty mile journey from the airport your house. The quick plane ride is offset by the amount of time it takes you to travel the last leg of your trip.
Avaya designed its network strategy not with the network itself in mind. Rather, Avaya knows that the next generation network must serve a single master: the user. The user wants access to his application. Applications are moving more and more to the data center. The end user doesn’t care about the network, and he shouldn’t have to. The user simply wants access to his application. With that in mind, Avaya has simplified the entire network: core to edge with a single, robust network strategy.