Why is there such a fuss about next-generation networking?

Fibre Optic
A new approach to networking is vital

You may have heard of SDN, but perhaps not of fabric technology or SDN 1.0 – yet they are important types of networking technology that can help you run your business more efficiently, more productively and more responsively.

We sat down with Jean Turgeon, Chief Technologist at Avaya, to discuss why he believes that the time has come for next-generation networking, and how different approaches, like SDN and fabric, fit together, as well as chewing over what the next big thing will be.

TechRadar Pro: Why do you think networking is coming of age?

Jean Turgeon: The speed of business has increased due to advances in social media, mobility and customer expectation. Organisations now see technology as an essential component for their day-to-day running, which means it therefore needs to enable faster speed of business whilst at the same time providing business continuity. By delivering relevant applications and business information, enterprise networks play a key role in helping organisations to engage with their customers and employees alike in an agile and timely manner.

However, until recently networks were cumbersome, inflexible and often unstable. Research conducted by Avaya earlier this year shows that organisations can spend a total of more than nine months a year waiting for IT to be able to make the necessary network changes in order to deliver a new or improved service to the business.

What's more, the research also indicated that over 80% of companies still suffer from outages caused by their own IT personnel misconfiguring changes to the core, and each network downtime incident costs an average of $140,000 (around £90,000, or AU$160,000). Fortunately recent developments like fabric technology are enabling networks to keep up with the speed of 21st century business.

TRP: What benefits can next-generation networking deliver to businesses?

JT: Next-generation Fabric networking technology can reduce configuration times, speeding up network changes and more importantly reducing errors caused by the manual nature of network changes.

One of the ways it does this is by eliminating complexity. Cutting complex protocol overlays allows simplified management, faster recovery times, and enhanced troubleshooting. Fabric networking creates a dynamic environment where new or changed services can be implemented on the fly – taking only minutes instead of days, weeks, or months to deploy. This also improves network uptime through sub-second recoveries for almost all services.

Overall, fabric networking helps businesses to reduce costs and become more agile.

TRP: What is fabric-enabled networking?

JT: Fabric-enabled networking technology uses an innovative approach to network design, operation and management to avoid the bottlenecks that slow the deployment of applications and services. This approach involves deploying Shortest Path Bridging. It is an evolutionary leap forward because it lets organisations completely virtualise their networking technology. It allows seamless interworking with cloud-based infrastructures making the physical layout of the network irrelevant as you can build any logical network on top. In short, it does to the network, what virtual machines did to the server.

At Avaya, we believe our Fabric Connect technology offers a future-proof foundation for today's megatrends – network virtualisation, cloud and mobile video – while simplifying the network and reducing operational costs.

We deployed Fabric Connect at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics where we supported up to 120,000 devices on our network at any given time, with in excess of 40,000 of those being BYOD, making it the largest BYOD network in the world at the time, with huge peaks and troughs of traffic that could not be predicted from a multitude of consumer devices.

You don't get a second chance with events like this so in conjunction with the Organising Company we chose the solution because it delivered the agility and flexibility that was demanded whilst eliminating business risk for one of the most high-profile events in the world. We were able to add and remove services, not networks, virtually instantaneously and saw no network downtime at all during the Games.

Desire Athow
Managing Editor, TechRadar Pro

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website builders and web hosting when DHTML and frames were in vogue and started narrating about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium.