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Extreme Networks Integrates Its SDN with Skype for Business

Microsoft scored another win for its Skype for Business integration with Software Defined Networks (SDN) last week, when Extreme Networks announced Extreme Networks announced an upgrade to its SDN platform that includes the ability to use the Microsoft API.

Microsoft has been pitching the SDN integration as a way of allowing first Lync and now Skype for Business to invoke QoS across networks via the SDN API. The API lets the Skype for Business server communicate its requirements to an SDN controller, which acts as the brains to dynamically reconfigure lower-layer "dumb" switches.

Other wireline and wireless infrastructure vendors, including HP, Aruba (recently acquired by HP), and Meru have included the Microsoft API integration in their products. Nectar, a network management vendor, also uses the API to gather data to manage Lync/Skype for Business voice traffic.

In Extreme's implementation, integrating with the SDN API sends Skype for Business call setup information to Extreme's NetSight network management platformNetSight network management platform to apply QoS policies to the network infrastructure, providing appropriate handling of the real-time Skype for Business traffic.

Extreme developed the integration at the behest of a customer, the City of Bellevue, WA, which uses both Extreme infrastructure and enterprise voice from Lync/Skype for Business, Goodall said. Extreme also cites the City of Enfield, CT and Mt. Mary University in Milwaukee as customers for the new release.

Extreme's ambitions with the new integration are...well...if not extreme, at least lofty. I met with Darius Goodall, director, solutions architecture and innovation at Extreme, and John O'Shaughnessy, senior manager, product market, at Interop Las Vegas last week; Goodall told me he believes the Lync integration will be the thin end of the SDN wedge. Once enterprises use start using the SDN API to improve QoS on networks carrying Skype for Business traffic, they'll realize that SDN isn't a big, complex system that's only meant for giant enterprises like Google and Amazon, he said. He called the Skype for Business integration an "incursion" strategy.

"What we're saying is, SDN is for everybody," Goodall told me.

The growing popularity of the Lync/Skype for Business SDN API integration has the potential to change the industry's focus when it comes to SDN, he said. The original emphasis on SDN's ability to commoditize infrastructure and use resources more efficiently offers a business case that improves as the network's scale grows. In contrast, an integration like the one with Microsoft highlights SDN's ability to let networks provide better application performance--something that, in theory, all (or at least many) enterprises need.

"It's all about applications," Goodall said. "It's about how we make applications run better."