Avaya's Kevin Kennedy: Why Infrastructure Matters
In previewing his Enterprise Connect keynote, Kennedy talked fabric switching rather than fancy applications.
If you think of the buzzwords you're expecting to hear around Enterprise Connect Orlando 2014 next week, you're almost certainly not thinking of the term, "Fabric Switching." But that was what Avaya CEO Kevin Kennedy talked about the most when I spoke with him this week to preview his EC keynote.
Most of the buzzwords in the industry these days relate to applications in one way or another, and ironically that's pretty much why Kennedy wants to talk IP infrstructure. "The infrastructure [enterprises] are trying to run on is not friendly toward applications," he explained.
It's a really intriguing approach for the company that's still the PBX installed-base leader. Of course, Avaya does have an IP infrastructure business (via the acquisition of Nortel, which bought Bay Networks). And Kennedy said one reason he's emphasizing this aspect of the communications ecosystem is that this infrastructure business has grown for the last 3 quarters.
Another reason for Kennedy to be bullish on the underlying infrastructure is that this is an area that actually is receiving renewed attention, thanks to the emergence of Software-Defined Networks (SDN). SDN still is not fully baked as a standards-based, interoperable technology, and Kevin Kennedy believes enterprises can and will look to gain many of the benefits of SDN via existing technologies like that offered by Avaya's VENA Fabric Connect.
"I think fabric switching is a foundation that will give people the 70-80% of the value of SDN without any change" to their existing switch/routing technology, he said.
"Multitenant, virtualized fabric switching is here today" via Shortest Path Bridging (802.1aq), which Kennedy said dramatically expands the scalability of VLANs. This allows the enterprise to essentially create entire virtual networks dedicated to very granularly segmented uses: One VLAN for PCI-compliant devices; a separate VLAN for surveillance cameras; another for customer/visitor access, etc. This is where the aforementioned application-friendliness comes in.
Of course, one reason why Kennedy is keen to promote this particular technology is that Avaya deployed it successfully as part of its support of the just-completed Sochi Winter Olympics. That'll give Kennedy the opportunity to highlight Avaya's Sochi success in his keynote. Presumably there will be suitably dramatic winter-sports footage to garnish Kennedy's talk.
I asked Kevin Kennedy to comment on some other industry trends. Here's what he had to say:
* On Enterprise Buying Trends--He said he's seeing more involvement from folks in enterprise lines of business, and said he pushes his sales people to engage in "360-degree selling"---that is, talking with the full range of stakeholders--not just the voice or networking or line of business leader, but all of them.
* Capex vs. Opex--"The trend toward opex-based procurement is continuing to move forward with great energy," Kennedy told me. On a recent round of calls in Europe, "It was the exception that wanted to buy capex."
I asked how this is affecting Avaya's relationships with its channel partners. Kennedy said that for Avaya partners there hasn't been a huge change, because much of its channel still has the majority of its revenues in maintenance anyway, so the partners tend to have a strong recurring revenue model already, and people on site on a pretty regular basis with customers. And when customers do make CPE purchases, Avaya is willing to carry the financing so that the partner can realize the revenue up front. * Endpoints--Kennedy repeated a statistic I'd heard earlier: that for every hard phone Avaya sells, they sell 4 client apps on consumer tablets or phones. This very much corroborates what Robin Gariess wrote in her most recent No Jitter post, in which she described the rise of UC applications in Nemertes Research's latest findings.
So that's a snapshot of what we can expect to hear from Kevin Kennedy next Tuesday morning in Orlando. We can expect that Cisco's going to talk video and Microsoft's going to talk "Universal Communications." Kevin Kennedy, who comes out of Bell Labs, has always leaned toward the more technical focus in his keynotes, which can be kind of refreshing. We're at a point where the future direction of the applications running on top of the network is anything but certain, so maybe Kennedy's infrastructure focus will strike a chord.
You can still register for Enterprise Connect! All pass types receive admissions to the keynote speeches by Kevin Kennedy and top execs from Microsoft and Cisco! Register here!