Avaya lays out Nortel migration road map

Long-awaited road map for merged networking and unified communications player

Avaya tomorrow will reveal a road map that shows how its customers – in particular its newly minted Nortel customers - can move to unified communications technologies without ripping out existing gear.

The plan particularly addresses how the company will eliminate overlap between its own and Nortel's product lines, sometimes favoring Avaya technology, sometimes Nortel's, in the areas of unified communications, contact centers, small and midsize businesses as well as network infrastructure. At the same time the plan enables cost savings via SIP trunking which will let customers send voice and data over one pipe rather than multiple lines and other reduced costs by centralizing administration of corporate phone systems, Avaya says.

The net result, says Alan Baratz, senior vice president and president for Global Communication Solutions at Avaya, is expanded capabilities, reduced costs and less disruptive change.

Promising to accomplish a significant part of this within the year is an aggressive goal that may impress Nortel customers looking for an attractive path to unified communications, says Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with the Yankee group.

Delivering on time is important because former Nortel customers that want to aggressively pursue UC won't want to wait and wait, he says. Avaya CEO Kevin Kennedy's time at Cisco may help because of that rival's experience in buying other companies and integrating them smoothly, he says.

"Every Nortel customer is going to have a competitive vendor trying to create a path to their own unified communications solution," he says. Fumbling won't be fatal, Kerravala says, but it could mean a loss of the impressive 25% marketshare he says Avaya has amassed in telephony.

As for the specifics of the road map, adding an essential SIP layer into the communications hierarchy will be accomplished via Avaya Aura, the company's SIP-based communication software platform that will be sandwiched between communications infrastructure - such as PBXs - and services - such as voice, video, messaging, conferencing and mobility.

With Aura in place, legacy Avaya and Nortel PBXs will interoperate with SIP-based VoIP gear. So Nortel Communication Server 1000 IP PBX with Aura layered on top of it could interface with SIP-based phones plugged into the Aura side of the network. All the phones would have CS 1000 features and the same button sequencing in order to navigate those features, Baratz says. Also, legacy Nortel phones could be plugged into the Aura side of the network.

This move will reduce cost of adopting unified communications because it reduces the need for replacing PBXs and phones as well as the cost of retraining end users in how new phones work, he says.

The plan requires software integration and it won't happen overnight, Baratz says, but it will be accomplished by the end of this year, likely in November, Baratz says. Nortel's Business Communications System Manager will be incorporated into Aura, as will Nortel's Agile Communications Environment (ACE), which enables infusing applications with communications capabilities.

The changes will be distributed as software upgrades to current Aura customers.

This strategy isn't surprising, Kerravala says, because Aura was designed to embrace an SIP-based gear, no matter who the vendor. Integration with Nortel equipment should be simpler because Avaya owns both sets of assets so can make their SIP implementations compatible. Standards-compliant implementations of SIP can vary enough that they don't interoperate, he notes.

In the area of contact centers, Avaya has decided that Nortel's Contact Center will be integrated into the product line in lieu of Avaya's. Over the next six to nine months, revisions of Nortel's Contact Center will prepare it to become the Avaya offering for midsize businesses rather than Contact Center Express.

The contact center software from Nortel will be further developed to incorporate all of the architectural features Avaya envisions for contact centers, then further developed so it can scale to enterprise proportions. These two revisions will take six to nine months each. At that point the software will become an upgrade to replace Avaya's high-end Contact Center Elite.

Baratz says that even before the acquisition of Nortel, Avaya acknowledged that Nortel's midsize contact center was better. "It was very close to the ultimate product we wanted," he says.

Avaya plans to slowly reduce the number of telephony options available for small and midsize enterprises. It plans to bring legacy Avaya Partner and Integral 5 key systems as well as Nortel Norstar systems under the umbrella of its IP Office gear.

IP Office will be developed to support Norstar systems and Nortel Business Communications Manager hybrid PBXs, and a few years down the line will replace them. But in the meantime, Norstar and BCM will remain available. "Nothing abrupt is going to happen here," Baratz says.

Nortel's Software Communications System SIP appliance will join the portfolio as is. There is no analogous Avaya product.Nortel brought along a portfolio of switches, network security and wireless gear for which Avaya has no competing equipment. Avaya plans to sell these products and develop them to interoperate more closely with its unified communications infrastructure, Baratz says.

For instance, the wireless gear and switches can be tweaked to give more complete data about the presence of mobile workers. Currently they reveal whether an individual is available via voice. With better integration they could say that the individual is available on a mobile device and where it is located, he says.

But Kerravala says that Avaya needs to develop its gear to be competitive with other infrastructure vendors feature for feature, not just to have switches and routers that augment communications. He says Avaya owns 5% of the infrastructure market by virtue of buying Nortel and should let it operate as a separate division directly taking on Cisco, HP and others. "It's a big installed base," he says.

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Tags unified communicationsnortelNetworkingAvayaMergers and acquisitions

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