One of my fondest memories of childhood was watching the game shows on Nickelodeon. Double Dare. Legends of the Hidden Temple. Nickelodeon Guts. But by far one of my favorite game shows was called Finders Keepers.
On stage there was a set constructed to replicate a home. Standard rooms such as a kitchen, living room, bathroom and den were represented. In addition some themed rooms such as Sherlock Holmes’ Study, Tarzan’s Tree House and Frankenstein’s laboratory were also present.
Children spent the first rounds looking for hidden objects embedded in images for the right to search rooms in the house for real hidden items. The second round was what I found mesmerizing. The host of the show would describe an item for the team to look for and mayhem began.*
Thanks for the Memories
So why do I take the trip down memory lane in this blog post? Recently I was speaking with one of my customers. They were sharing with me a story surrounding a recent network outage. All of a sudden the corporate network had became unusable. Workstations were unable to connect to the data center and associated services. Point of Sale systems were not available causing business to grind to a halt.
This is the theoretical second round for my poor friends at IT. They were gearing up for their game of Finders Keepers. Much like the game show our IT members are given some basic clues on what is hidden and causing the network outage. Unfortunately there is no blue arrow illustrating the outage for those in the end user audience.
While the stakes in a game show are somewhat trivial the opposite is true in the enterprise. You aren’t racing against a clock to win prizes while a audience cheers you on. Instead you find yourself tearing apart the house looking for a hidden object while people look over your shoulder, grumbling about the outage. In place of a clock counting down is one counting up…measuring the financial loss the longer it runs.
If it’s too good to be true…
One of the many lessons I learned from my grandfather was if something looks too good to be true, that’s because it is too good to be true.
Many network administrators, IT managers and CIOs will tell you that your business is protected from the “Finders Keepers” fate described above. What they are really doing is putting their faith in an urban legend. As the urban legend tells, brand loyalty to a certain networking vendor will automatically equate to revenue protection and IT job security. If a network outage occurs after selecting this vendor, there is little which could have been done to avoid the business impacts. The sticker on the product is a shield. The only problem? Just as my grandfather once told me about things that seem too good to be true…
“1 in 5 companies fired an IT employee as a result of network downtime.”
In a study commissioned by Avaya, Dynamic Markets reported some eye opening statistics. Including the above quote Dynamic Markets reported 80% of responding companies correlated a revenue loss to a network outage. The average cost of an outage was $140,000 USD.
Don’t play games with your business
By and large networking has not changed much. Many of the solutions being sold to this day still include products with single points of failure. The boxes you buy today may look shiny and new, but the stuff inside is largely unchanged over the past 20 years.
Protocols have been invented primarily to fix problems or support new apps. These protocols tend to resemble a pile of Jenga blocks. One stacked on top of the next. Each layer dependent on the one below it being stable. Every time a new app is developed, a new layer gets added to your stack of blocks.
Want to support IP Video Surveillance? Add a block. Need to create an agile environment for your virtualized server environment? Add another block. All without addressing the unstable foundation underneath these blocks. If there’s a failure below these layers, the entire tower tumbles over. Nothing works until the tower is rebuilt, block by block.
What if we re-imagine how networks are built? Instead of building your Jenga tower with lots of blocks stacked on top of each other we use a single piece of wood? It’s not as much fun of a board game, but this is your business we’re talking about!
Avaya network solutions do exactly this. We started by inventing a new way to network. A single protocol called Shortest Path Bridging** was born from Ethernet and IP. SPB is the single block of wood in your Jenga game. Unlike other vendors in the technology sector, we didn’t keep this invention all to ourselves. Avaya took SPB to the standards bodies for adoption***. SPB is now available to any vendor to use and many have adopted it in their solutions.
Built on the freshly poured foundation of Shortest Path Bridging, Avaya created FabricConnect networking which delivers three keys for your enterprise.
Today’s network resembles a giant plate of Spaghetti. If you don’t believe me take a walk down to your network administrator’s office. On one of their walls I’m sure you’ll find a giant map with icons for switches, routers, clouds, virtual networks with lines that connect, cross and swoosh. Each one of those icons serves a purpose. Try however to make sense of the routing patterns and protocols needed to get traffic from point A to point B and you can develop quite an ice cream headache.
Imagine if you could use the same hardware to create a zone for your users Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD) using corporate apps. Create another zone for video surveillance, and yet another for guest access. On the same hardware you can create totally separated zones for sensitive needs such as ATM’s in the banking industry, credit card terminals in retail or workstations processing HIPAA information. What if those zones were available in every office? Now imagine adding a device to a zone happening automatically? Sounds too good to be true. Lower your costs through consolidation of hardware. Improve your ability to add devices and services without long lead times and change control windows. And do it all by typing a single command.
With Avaya FabricConnect you simply connect a device into the physical network (wired OR wireless). The administrator assigns the connection to a virtual network zone called a Virtual Service Network (VSN). And that’s it. No mess. No Fuss. No spaghetti sauce splattered all over your white shirt.
Let me ask you a question. You need to fly from Los Angeles to Boston. You have two planes you can choose from. They both have two engines. However one plane flies with a single engine running and the second there “just in case”. The second flies with both engines running at all times.
Now I don’t know about you but I do not want to be 30,000 feet in the air when the live engine gives out in the first plane. While you may still be able to fly to your destination, there’s a time period where your head is between your ankles and you’re praying for a miracle. Me? I’d rather be in the plane with both engines running at once. If one fails…even the guy sitting in the middle seat snoring like a buzz saw**** will stay fast asleep.
At the bottom of their Jenga stack most competitors in the networking industry have a single block holding up the pile. And that single block is a 30 year old protocol named Spanning Tree (STP).
To eliminate single points of failure in your network you generally will up-link a network element to two switches. Unfortunately with traditional networking if both of these up-links were live, your network would be off-line. You have created a loop in your network and have kicked off your aforementioned game of Finders Keepers. Traffic “goes-outta” one link and “goes-inta” the other and keeps repeating until the switch cries uncle.
The Spanning Tree protocol was designed to prevent loops in your network. The protocol detects loops and temporarily blocks one of the connections, thus the one airplane engine effect. Extra ports not processing traffic. Single points of failure impacting your business.
That’s stupid. Avaya FabricConnect is smart.
As I outlined before Avaya FabricConnect is built from a new consolidated protocol, SPB. We’ve eliminated the need for Spanning Tree, because we’ve eliminated the idea of loops in a network. Avaya FabricConnect is intelligent enough to know when more than one network up-link is present. It routes traffic over ALL up-links at all times, meaning your business is in the plane with both engines running.
The Blue Arrow
The audience always knew where the hidden item was in Finders Keepers. A blue arrow illustrated exactly where in the mayhem the object was buried. Unfortunately for most network administrators there is no such assistance. When service is degraded on the network it’s your network administrator’s turn to rip apart the network looking for the problem hiding. One of my favorite analysts to follow on Twitter is Zeus Kerravala (Click Here to Follow Zeus). He has repeatedly illustrated the number one issue facing network administrator’s today.
You can’t fix what you can’t see.
But what if your network administrators DID have access to the blue arrow? What if they could open a dashboard, see a visualization of the entire network, and the blue arrow showed them exactly where the problem is hiding?
With Avaya they can.
Avaya Unified Communications solutions include a capability to measure network performance. This feature is called Service Level Monitoring (SLAMon) and it is included at no extra cost with Avaya Support Advantage.
SLAMon is embedded in Avaya Unified Communications architecture as well as Avaya FabricConnect network solutions. This means running “Avaya on Avaya” enables your business to see instantly where service is degraded and respond near instantly.
Security – The Ultimate Side Effect
While side effects from medication can range from minor to deadly, with Avaya FabricConnect there is one side effect which frankly is pretty awesome. Dr. Steve***** would prescribe Avaya FabricConnect for the simplicity, stability and lower cost of ownership. However I am compelled to inform you that side effects will include security, stealth networking and a hack proof network.
I previously mentioned the ability to create separate network zones for each type of device. Within FabricConnect you can choose which zones (and even which users within the zones) can speak to other zones. All without hardware connecting these virtual networks, meaning there is no hardware to hack! Want to ensure the teller PCs in your branch cannot send a single packet to the ATM plugged into the same network? No problem. Want to ensure that PCs used by agents logging HIPAA protected data cannot be accessed by guests on the wireless LAN? No sweat.
Security is built into FabricConnect. And when you add Identity Engines you can further ensure security all the way down to the user.
If Heather from HR plugs her corporate laptop managed by IT into the network, the network identifies Heather and then identifies the device using a digital fingerprint. Heather is allowed to access any files her login has permissions for. But if Heather connects her iPad Pro to the wireless LAN she is restricted from accessing sensitive areas of the network.
Always on, Efficient, Scalable
Avaya FabricConnect delivers unrivaled simplicity, stability and security. If trouble does arise, your IT team won’t have to go through Tarzan’s Treehouse or Sherlock Holmes’ Study to find the problem. When seconds matter there’s only one choice for your business.
If you’d like to have a discussion or have questions please feel free to let me know in the comments below.
* My brother and I replicated this game in our room once. It took us the better part of a week to clean up the mess. Sorry Mom.
** or 802.1aq for my fellow nerds out there.
**** My wife tells me that the person sitting in the middle seat snoring like a buzzsaw would be me. My apologies to those who have flown with me.
***** My parents always wanted a doctor in the family.