Avaya Arms For Unified Communication Battle

Telephony titan rolls out presence technology and vertical-specific solutions.

By Judy Mottl | Posted Mar 17, 2008
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In a bid to better compete in the crowded enterprise unified communications (UC) landscape, Avaya today introduced several offerings for mobile workers and a services program, all geared toward helping businesses achieve better workforce responsiveness.

Today's product announcements puts the telephony call center giant head-to-head with a growing list of UC vendors including IBM, Cisco, Citrix, Nortel Networks and Microsoft.

At the heart of Avaya's (NYSE: AV) new launches is its Intelligent Presence server, featuring an application that collects and integrates users' presence information -- that is, their location, status and availability -- from multiple sources.

Those sources include landline and mobile phones, and e-mail and instant messaging (IM) applications. The server can pull users' availability information from those sources into other apps to help coordinate activities and collaboration.

"We define UC as orchestrating communication and collaboration across time, location and medium to accelerate business," Allan Mendelsohn, the company's senior marking director, told InternetNews.com. "We are about making communication happen with the right people, at the right time, despite whatever network location device. It's all about working smarter."

The product also integrates user information from third-party communication tools as well, such as Google e-mail.

Avaya's Intelligent Presence server is built on the Jabber Extensive Communications Platform, a real-time enterprise instant messaging and presence platform licensed from Jabber, Inc., and based on the Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP). In addition to XMPP, the Intelligent Presence server also ties into other protocols often used by enterprise VOIP, IM and messaging and collaboration platforms, including Session Initiation Protocol (also known as SIP) and SIP's IM-focused offshoot, SIMPLE.

As a result, it will also integrate with Microsoft Office Communicator. Future integration with IBM (NYSE: IBM) Lotus Sametime and Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) Exchange will come later in the year, Avaya said.

Available in the second quarter, the offering will become a component of Avaya's Unified Communications Standard Edition, the vendor's overarching UC software suite -- though it will also be sold individually.

New capabilities, deepening rivalries

The effort comes as competition continues at a brisk pace in the UC space. Earlier this month, Microsoft and Nortel (NYSE: NT) pushed out a suite of applications in a joint UC offering, building on Microsoft's Office Communications Server 2007. Last week, newcomer NEC announced new tools for its month-old UC platform, and IBM pledged to spend $1 billion to better compete with rivals in the arena.

Despite the crowded marketplace, one industry pundit believes Avaya's efforts could propel the New Jersey-based, privately held company past competitors in the industry's potentially lucrative quest to create communications-enabled business processes (CEBP).

The allure of CEBPs is that they promise to remove inefficiencies in everyday business actions --- automating tasks now tied to human activity. For example, a CEBP could instantly alert specific employees about an inventory dip and arrange a meeting for decision-making discussion.

"The goal [of CEBP] is to take out the human delay in business processes," industry analyst Nick Lippis told InternetNews.com. Avaya's technology, he said, "provides the development platform for making that happen."

Central to CEBPs is the concept of presence -- knowing when and how a user is available for collaboration or to receive messages.

"Presence is considered a must-have for unified communications," said Brian Riggs, research director at Current Analysis, in a statement. "What's needed to take presence to the next level is the ability to tap both new and existing sources of information and develop presence-aware applications that cross protocols and vendors."

Lippis, who described Avaya's presence technology as a "huge service," predicts CEBP will arrive by 2011 given the technologies coming into play.

Continued on Page 2: New vertical offerings, client app and consulting services

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