Avaya beefs up switch architecture to compete with Cisco, HP, others

Avaya this week rolled out extensions to its 4000 series switches and said its year-old virtualized networking architecture is taking hold in campuses and data centres. The new Ethernet Routing Switch (ERS) 4000 series switches are designed to help enterprises optimize networks for collaboration, and simplify the convergence of voice, video and data. One of the key new features of the line is a boost in stacking bandwidth from 320G to 384Gbps.

Along with the switches, Avaya rolled out new software that includes support for Power over Ethernet (PoE) and PoE+, among other features.

The switches are compatible with Avaya’s Virtual Enterprise Network Architecture (VENA), a blueprint unveiled a year ago to allow users to optimize the network for business applications and services through virtualization. VENA is a software enhancement that supports the emerging IEEE 802.1AQ Shortest Path Bridging (SPB) standard for deploying multiple active paths in a data centre switch fabric. 

While SPB may not be going gangbusters, Avaya says components of VENA – such as switch clustering, “enhanced” Shortest Path Bridging, wireless networking, network access control, and network management – are being picked up by customers.

“Our long-term strategy is successful, and momentum continues to build up” for the architecture, says Jean Turgeon, global general manager for Avaya Networking. “Many customers have bought (Avaya switches) based on VENA. Customers like where we’re going and we have real deployments.”

Despite these claims, VENA and the rest of the fabric architectures out there need some showcase accounts that show quantifiable value or operational shift, says Zeus Kerravala, principal of ZK Research.

“Proof points: that’s the case for much of the industry right now,” Kerravala says. “How many actual customer deployments can any of them point to? It’s all theory right now.”

VENA is competing with other network virtualization and fabric architectures from Cisco, Brocade, HP, Dell, IBM, Extreme, Enterasys, Alcatel-Lucent, and others. Though there’s less of a footprint for SPB specifically, Turgeon says the VENA message is resonating with customers.

“It’s our most successful strategy launch,” Turgeon says of VENA. “Today’s biggest pain point is around the data centre and VM mobility. Done and delivered. And now we’re extending new services across the campus with the need for per-box provisioning.”

Some analysts see that as a benefit for VENA and similar strategies from Avaya’s competitors. “I like that they’re extending the fabric to the campus edge… to reduce latency and make applications work better,” Kerravala says.

But VENA, and Avaya, are having a hard time extending interest beyond the old Nortel Enterprise Solutions base, he says, even into Avaya’s traditional telephony base.

“They’ve done a good job pushing it into Nortel,” Kerravala says, “but their next area should be the Avaya phone base, which has a lot of HP Procurve.”

New: ERS 4800s

New in the 4000 family is the ERS 4800, a group of four Gigabit Ethernet switches in a variety of configurations.

For example, the ERS 4826GTS includes 24 ports of 10/100/1000Mbps Ethernet, including two shared Gigabit Ethernet SFP uplink ports, plus two additional 10G Ethernet SFP+ uplink ports. The ERS 4826GTS-PWR+ includes 24 ports of 10/100/1000 with PoE/PoE+, including two shared SFP uplinks and two additional SFP+ uplink ports.

The ERS 4850GTS carries 48 ports of 10/100/1000, including two shared SFP uplink ports, plus two additional SFP+ uplink ports. And the ERS 4850GTS-PWR+ includes 48 ports of 10/100/1000 with PoE/PoE+ and two shared SFP uplink ports, plus two additional SFP+ uplinks.

The switches feature fabric performance of 128G to 184Gbps, and a frame forwarding rate of 66M to 102Mpps. Latency is 9 microseconds, Avaya says. They support up to 1,024 port/protocol/802.1Q-based VLANs, 8,000 media access control addresses and up to 512 IPv4 routes.

Avaya also added two new models to its ERS 4500 Fast Ethernet line that both support PoE+. The ERS 4526T-PWR+ includes 24 10/100 ports with PoE/PoE+, plus two 10/100/1000 SFP uplink ports. The ERS 4550T-PWR+ features 48 10/100 ports with PoE/PoE+, plus two 10/100/1000 SFP uplink ports.

In addition to PoE and PoE+, the new ERS 4000 software – Version 5.6 – includes support for redundant field-replaceable AC power supplies on all new models; increased CPU and Flash memory; stackable chassis compatibility with all 4500 models; future support for IPv6, Wireless Split-Plane and the Virtual Services Fabric on the 4800 line; Equal Cost Multi-Path routing; IGMPv3 snooping and proxy; and increased VLAN scaling.

Avaya’s Wireless Split-Plane technology decouples wired and wireless control and data traffic in order to ensure that wireless data takes the most optimal path across the network. The company’s Virtual Services Fabric is designed to extend the reach of virtualized services from the data centre to the campus edge to support the peer-to-peer traffic of collaborative applications like video, and data centre-based desktop virtualization applications.

The ERS 4800 line starts at $5,295. The ERS 4500 starts at $3,295. Both v5.6 lines will be available at the end of the month.

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