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Interop: Avaya revives Nortel enterprise

Data networking advances will rival Cisco, says company

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Avaya's data networking business - obtained from its recent $900 million acquisition of Nortel’s Enterprise Solutions group – grew 30% in the company's second quarter, while its government business grew 15%, indications that momentum has returned following Nortel’s bankruptcy.

At last year's Interop conference, Nortel enterprise chief Joel Hackney said customers had "hit the pause button" while Nortel sorted through its bankruptcy restructuring. But things are now looking up after the Avaya purchase and the company plans to ride the wave.

"Avaya is committed to the (Nortel) data business," said Hackney, now an Avaya senior vice president and president of the company's Government Solutions and Data Business, during an interview at the Interop conference this week. "We've demonstrated innovation is still alive."

With that, Hackney gave a high-level overview of the raft of new products Avaya unveiled this week, including the next-generation Ethernet Routing Switch 8800, the Advanced Gateway 2330 – which is designed to take on Cisco's ISR branch routers – and the Wireless LAN 8100 controller for 802.11n deployments.

"You'll hear again from us in the fall," Hackney promised, adding that his focus will be on networking. "We're not trying to be a server or storage company," a thinly-veiled jab at competitors Cisco and HP.

Indeed, Nortel's data networking business may have found new life at Avaya even though some industry pundits suggested Avaya would be better off divesting those operations. At Nortel, the enterprise switching and routing group – mostly obtained from 1998's acquisition of Bay Networks – always felt "underneath" the carrier business, Hackney said.

But enterprise is the sole focus at Avaya and advances on the data networking side will continue, he said. Examples include the ability of the Advanced Gateway 2330 to go into Avaya's installed base as a SIP gateway from VoIP, yet attain full routing capabilities through an optional software upgrade.

This is the inverse of Cisco's ISR, which goes into branch offices first as a router, and then attain VoIP and other capabilities through upgrades, Hackney said.

Another is the eventual ability of the 8100 WLAN controller to bifurcate its forwarding and control plane capabilities to handle scaling of 802.11n access points. As the number of 802.11n access points grow, the controller can pass off packet forwarding to Avaya's 8800 core, and 4500 and 5500 edge switches while retaining control intelligence for the 802.11n traffic.

This allows the customer to avoid buying more controllers as the WLAN scales, Avaya officials said. This capability for the switches and WLAN controller will emerge in the second half of 2011, they said.

In about two years, the control capability will be offered as a software CD for servers, the Avaya officials said.

Meanwhile, the VSP 9000 data centre core switch Nortel unveiled at last year’s Interop is in controlled release with a handful of large customers who are testing the switch, Hackney said. It will be generally available in the second half of this year, he said.


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