Avaya closes Nortel deal

Avaya's purchase of Nortel is final as of Friday, with Avaya promising integrated voice/data branch-office gear and an aggressive integration of Nortel's products and roughly 6,000 personnel.

Avaya is scheduled to detail its unified communications (UC) and contact center product road map on Jan. 19, but the company has been working for weeks to organize the combined sales, support and development staff into a single entity, says Todd Abbott, Avaya's senior vice president of global sales and marketing.

The deal brings to Avaya a line of switches and security gear that Abbot says the company will keep and promote, particularly branch office gear that supports both data switching and unified communications. Avaya's existing partnerships with other switch vendors, notably Extreme and Brocade, will continue. These vendors incorporate Avaya call control into their equipment. Abbot says Avaya customers that buy its switching gear won't gain software advantages over the equipment sold by Avaya partners, but they may be attracted by the all-in-one voice/data hardware Avaya can now offer.

He wouldn't detail what Avaya plans for Nortel's security gear, other than to say that integrating UC infrastructure at the edge -- in branch offices -- is a challenge that requires security adapted specifically to the demands of VoIP. "Security at the edge is critical and we have an enhanced position there," he says.

To facilitate this and to oversee a new business unit at Avaya, the company is making Joel Hackney the head of the Data and Government Systems unit. Hackney had been in charge of Nortel's enterprise business unit. Abbott says Nortel had a bigger share of local, state and federal business in the United States as well as better inroads into markets in India and the Middle East that will be a boost to Avaya's reach. "The added customers will give us much greater scale in the industry," he says.

Integration of Nortel and Avaya personnel should be smoothed out some because Avaya has been revamping its internal staff hierarchy for the past 18 months, Abbott says, with about 80 per cent of the company's leadership team being put in place during that time to simplify the management structure. "It was built to scale," he says.

As Avaya has said before, the company plans to sell and support all Nortel lines for 12 to 18 months and to lay out a migration plan for any products that it decides to phase out. Abbott says the company's Session Initiation Protocol (SIP)-based architecture makes it possible for customers with SIP-based gear to keep their current equipment live and blend in Avaya gear. "We won't force any end-of-life that's going to require a rip-and-replace for any customer," he says. The gear they have will work in the new architecture, he says.

The Nortel name is not part of the deal, so after products now in the production pipeline have shipped, all the former Nortel gear will carry the Avaya label.

Avaya plans to maintain former Nortel facilities in Research Triangle Park in North Carolina, Richardson, Texas, and San Jose. In the case of the San Jose office, that will mean the closing of the current Avaya facility and consolidating staff into one site.

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Tim Greene

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