Avaya’s belated entry into the SDN arena is intriguing; they combine late entry with a new appliance – the Open Networking Adapter (ONA). The ONA being an Open vSwitch in a box, rather than its usual deployment as part of a server virtualization installation. The idea of providing a small form-factor, low cost, SDN capable switch is appealing in that it allows easy extension of the SDN management domain to individual appliances – allowing zero-touch provisioning of security, QoS, etc.
One question that springs to mind is why invest in embedded physical SDN vSwitches which sit in-line between each and every appliance and their corresponding access ports? Why not simply apply the appropriate SDN configuration to the access switch on a per-port basis (assuming the access switch is SDN capable – of which there are a growing number)? Given that SDN (if present) is much more likely to be found in the data-centres and core networks than out to the access layer and remote branch offices, ONA would allow SDN policies to be pushed out further than existing SDN deployment would allow.
The question is then one of price – with ONA’s entry price of $545 and Avaya’s suggestion of using ONAs to SDN enable thousands of “network illiterate” business endpoints (one per ‘illiterate’ device), deploying ONAs could be significantly more expensive than replacing existing access switches with newer SDN enabled physical switches. Alternatively one could deploy a single ONA per branch office switch uplink to extend the reach of SDN to remote offices without the expense of deploying a single ONA per branch office device.
One appealing aspect of ONA is the notion of assigning dedicated ONAs to specific mobile pieces of equipment (e.g. industrial or medical) and then wherever the equipment is connected its QoS policies, security policies, etc. will be seamlessly enforced. Of course if the mobile equipment connects wirelessly ONA is not an option.
Despite the emergence of many open-standards for inter-network device negotiation, communication and management, it is still considerably easier to maintain networks of devices from (predominantly) a single vendor and as such, Avaya may struggle to appeal to customers beyond their existing customer base.
Aside from the SDN enablement of critical pieces of mobile equipment ONA may simply end up as a stop-gap solution placed in branch offices prior to upgrading traditional SDN ignorant equipment with SDN aware replacements. Whilst Avaya SDN is worth watching (and ONA in particular), it is unlikely to “redefine SDN”.
More on this from Anton Gonsalves of TechTarget’s in his article below: