'Next 24 months are ours. Nobody can compete with us in the networking space': Jean Turgeon, Avaya

"We want to let the world know about the innovative technology we have to offer, and we don't want to be just perceived as the telephony company. We want customers to know Avaya is about solving real business issues, and that we are at the forefront of putting up a right and next generation networking architecture that is unique in the marketplace, ahead of any competitors to better support business agility and reliability," said Jean Turgeon, VP and chief technologist, networking & SDN, worldwide sales, Avaya. In an exclusive interview with Firstpost, Turgeon shares about Avaya's Fabric technology, how the technology is relevant for India's smart cities and digital projects, and competition.

Collaboration is no more room-based activity; video conferencing is now done from different devices at different locations. What are the emerging trends and opportunities in the business collaboration and communication industry?

We call it secure your own device, bring your own device, bring your own apps. Mobility is key factor and the number one factor is that end-users now have an expectation that they can get the same kind of services in the campus, or being mobile, hotspots, in the hotel, or at the airport. The trends are moving towards that. The technology has to follow. So we have made some substantial investments in networking next-generation wireless portfolio, so that we can bring much better experience when it comes to roaming capabilities. Now many customers have started to roll out not cellphone coverage but WiFi coverage within their building. So the roaming has to be flawless. So as you see the explosion in number of places that are entering the network, we have changed our architecture.

 Next 24 months are ours. Nobody can compete with us in the networking space: Jean Turgeon, Avaya

Jean Turgeon, Avaya

We needed to move to more distributed forming models and so we had to rebuild the portfolio with access points and had more intelligence. That’s one big investment that we have made. In addition, there's a concept of Fabric Attach. Based on our Fabric technology, we now have the ability to automate the provisioning, make it very easy for customers to deploy access points, thousands of them across your network. Avaya is also making huge investments in mobile solutions to support our engagement services – be it conferencing solutions, video conferencing solutions, or the two running simultaneously in the same client; and the investment in secure mobile solutions or secure BYOD.

In India, Bangalore Airport has deployed our Fabric Connect technology. Fabric Attach is a non-fabric capable device that wants to dynamically connect with the fabric. And, Fabric Connect is Ethernet based and optimised for IP metrics architecture that makes the network very agile for thousands and thousands of edge devices to be able to connect with network, and that is very critical based on where the market trends are going being Internet of Things, smart cities, smart buildings, sensors technology -- all of these things require much more agile edge and the core has to be dynamically capable of about being those services to be deployed.

What do you think the next big thing will be for enterprise networks?

Everybody has to come to the conclusion that legacy networking infrastructure and architecture is no longer suitable. Lot of customers are still trying to upgrade their networking infrastructure the same old way -- so same complexity of protocols, same slow recovery, disaster recovery set up business continuity, no enhancing, and more. They are kind of upgrading the pipes as opposed to fixing the infrastructure. But with Fabric Connect architecture, Avaya has changed that paradigm on how networks are built into the future.

And, why this is important in India is because here we are talking about smart cities, digital enterprise projects -- so all those key projects that are moving forward where you will need Wifi everywhere and so on. It requires different core architecture, and if they continue to just build the same old way, they are going to struggle. The reason they are going to struggle is because all the provisioning require, all the work that has to be done just to connect the video surveillance camera. The network has to be pre-provisioned, if that was done planned then you will have wait till next window and make sure you close configuration changes, make sure something has not gone wrong. What Avaya has done with its Fabric architecture, take the camera, connect it, we will extend the video surveillance service to that camera dynamically. The camera disconnects, the service retracts. All this is done by Avaya, and no other vendors can do that. We believe all these future projects like smart cities, smart buildings, and digital enterprise will come to reality with right agility, reliability, security that will be based on the Fabric-based architecture.

Avaya is the innovator in Fabric-based architecture, which was invented 10 years ago. We brought this through Avaya acquisition of Nortel. We have evolved with this technology to be able to support not just the layer-2 domains or layer-2 services but the layer-3 unicast and multicast. That is what makes us unique. Now through the journey of this technology innovation, we made it a standard too. It is an IEEE standard and IETF standard. It is the only Ethernet fabric technology recognised by IEEE that has been standardised. Therefore, there is interoperability with other vendors and has been proven that can be deployed. We are the innovators, and that's why we are pushing the envelope faster than anybody else. Our competition can only extend it to layer-2 services, and we are the only one to offer layer-3 services.

What benefits can next-generation networking solutions Avaya has to offer?

Currently, we have solutions is to leverage entire ecosystems provide better automation. Look at crisis responses, automating troubleshooting, automating provisioning. In the provisioning aspect, Avaya has a good grip on it and we have great solutions available, and on top of this we have added some security components. The next step is now to push the envelope towards more and more automation but gear towards say I have a core networks and data centre device that went down. How difficult is it to troubleshoot today, to bring the right resources together, to bring the right information to people to troubleshoot, or reduce your time to repair.

Our competition and many of our customers do it the legacy way, it’s typically 45-90 minutes before you can consolidate all that resources that you need and all other right information to be able to troubleshoot the problem. Here, Avaya has embedded troubleshooting tools within the Fabric technology and on top of this we have this application known as EDP (engagement development platform) -- this allows us to stop automating the process and rather than taking 45-90 mins to bring the team together, we have a dynamic team formation capability. So, as we detect the failure the system is smart enough to know where the device failed and where this location is; we will notify our system which is part of our platform systems capabilities. From there, we will send SMS or emails to the end-users that need to look at this problem, bring them to the virtual room, conferencing the log and in parallel don’t gather all the log information required, create a shared document, and bring this all together in just 60-90 seconds. We start automating now operational processing that used to take hours down to minutes because we have the entire stack portfolio. While the heritage comes from the strong networking, we are now leveraging some of our platforms to be able to enable those services.

As we continue this journey of automation, the next is orchestration. Orchestration will be the ability to start making it very easy for customers to deploy new applications but not just in the data centre, but across the enterprise.

What are the focus areas for Avaya in India in 2015?

We are focussing on all verticals. We are doing extremely well in education, healthcare, retail, digital enterprise, and transportation (both railways and airports). Recently, lots of financial institutions have become our customers globally because of the security capabilities that we have added within the fabric. We have this concept of stealth networks, making your entire network core completely invisible. So, IP hacking is not possible with our Fabric technology and that's what attracting lot of financial institutions.

We have specific initiatives to target specific market needs. For smart cities, we have some kick-start initiatives internally so that we continue to promote the right foundation to be able to make smart cities, smart buildings a reality in India.

What is the company’s strategy for promoting its business in the Indian enterprise segment? Do you have a specific strategy for Indian SMBs?

We refer to it as mid-market. We have been having tremendous amount of success in 100 users and below. We have multiple initiatives in the mid-market globally and also in India. We are just trying to elevate ourselves into the ‘sweet spot’ of the small enterprises -- below 2000 type users. So, that’s where we are focusing on with our entire portfolio. Our solutions are also cost-effective as all of these are virtualised, means less dependency, greater flexibility, and that too as cloud offerings. Earlier, the requirements of the smaller customers used to be quite different than large enterprise customers. Today they are the same. They want reliability, digital, security, mobility, contact centre, video, and more. Those are the key areas we are investing in globally and in India.

What are the challenges before Avaya in India?

Our reach is a challenge in India, yet we can convert this into an opportunity. We want to let the world know about the innovative technology we have to offer, and we don't want to be just perceived as the telephony company. We want customers to know Avaya is about solving real business issues, and that we are at the forefront of putting up a right and next generation networking architecture that is unique in the marketplace, ahead of any competitors to better support business agility and reliability.

To increase our reach, we are hiring lot of sales people in India and have rebuilt teams. We are now focused on engaging with customers and tell them that our technology is relevant and that it solves their business issues.

Collaboration across enterprises has witnessed a paradigm shift with the advent of mobile apps, BYOD, cloud, and social media. Isn’t it tough for CIOs to enhance their UC roadmap time and again?

The market is moving faster for sure. BYOD triggered a lot of problems for CIOs. They had to deal with this, many other resisted it. But the pressure is so big in front of consumer and also the executives that they wanted to use this as business tools and they had to adapt to it. So, they had to deal with security. Virtualisation of all of the applications is triggering some new interesting discussions. There is a discomfort and people think that physical device is more secure than a virtual device. That’s perception, and that perception you have to win over time, you get to go improve that. So, all CIOs have to deal with right now is bring and force people to move faster and stop resisting without breaking things. But, this is where we can help with some security capabilities, enhance VDI solutions.

There are lots of big players in the enterprise networking sector with Cisco being the market leader. How is Avaya placed vis-a-vis other competition?

The market has now tremendous opportunity. Many of our competitors have made bad decisions over the last two years, which has re-opened the door for us to walk in with innovative solutions and highly differentiated. Some of our competitors are saying customers if you want to move into the future software defined networks, take all your stuffs, throw it out in the garbage and start afresh. And, lot of the customers are saying, we can’t do this anymore. So, the bad decisions by our competition have re-opened the door for us. Now, we can share with customers what is so unique about our architecture.

The competitive landscape is still there very strong with traditional ones like Cisco, HP and more. But there’s lot of disruption. Our time is now, we fundamentally believe we have 18-24 month window of opportunity that is unique, and nobody else can compete with us. We want to make sure that customers don’t start the same old way, and look at alternative solutions that will better address their needs.

With the new government's digital initiatives, how confident is Avaya about growing in the Indian market?

We are very confident. I would like to refer to the ‘smart foundation’. If you want smart cities, smart buildings, and digital enterprise, you need the right foundation. We have it, and now we just need to go and prove it to them to make sure that as they move forward to these strategic projects, where we are the vendor of choice for the next generation foundation. We are very optimistic and believe that if we do spend our time with our customers and show them how relevant our technology is, we will be chosen, we will earn that business, and then the market share will be a reflection to that.

Cisco is working with smart cities projects. Is Avaya in talks with the government to become vendor of choice?

Yes, we are, and across verticals and at different stages. There are different smart projects in the works. The key is while the competition may have some projects that are going on, I can assure you that they are still building the networks the old way. They’ll get it done, but it’s going to be way more painful. We are doing some projects in healthcare, transportation, and education sectors.

How much India contributes to your global revenues at this point in time? Where would India stand in the Asia Pacific or the emerging market basket for you?

We have seen double-digit growth in the last two years, and that will hopefully continue. India is doing extremely well over the last 24 months. We are investing in sales resources, strategic projects and initiatives; we are much more engaged than we have been in the past. India is part of our global growth market. China, India, and Middle East are growth areas where we are investing substantially.

What are your plans for the Indian market?

We want to maintain absolute double-digit growth. We need to protect our install base, and we need to upgrade and refresh into next generation architecture. We will continue to leverage the investments and all other developments going on in India.

It is a very mature technology, took us 8 years to bring this to the market. Our solutions are very different than any of the market share leaders. Our Fabric growth is tremendous. In last 10 quarters, we have about 50 fabric deployments globally; in the next two quarters, we had 50; and the next quarter, we have deployed 50. So almost we are doing one fabric deployment per day.

We are on the attack mode right now. We are not playing defensive, our financials are very solid, so it’s time for us just to go out there and deliver.

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Updated Date: Feb 05, 2015 12:06:44 IST