Avaya Data Chief: We’re Not Nortel Anymore

LAS VEGAS – Nortel’s enterprise data business unit has tough year in 2009, beginning with corporate bankruptcy and ending with the division’s sale to Avaya.

As part of Avaya, the former Nortel business unit is now being re-invigorated with new focus and products as it escape the shadow of Nortel failures and attempts to set a new course for success.

Joel Hackney, president, of Avaya Data Solutions is no stranger to the business as he formerly served as the president of Nortel’s Enterprise Solutions business unit. According to Hackney, Avaya has a different focus than Nortel did and it’s a focus that will help to ensure the division’s success under its new ownership.

“It’s important to talk about how much can change in a year,” Hackney told InternetNews.com. “We had two major focuses a year ago as Nortel – protect our customers and secondly to keep innovation alive. One year later, I think we’ve done that. We’ve done a transaction where Avaya acquired the assets in a transaction that strengthens both companies and solidifies the position of Avaya in the enterprise.”

Hackney noted that innovation has continued as well with continued investment in new products. This week, Avaya announced new switching and wireless gear that Hackney said is proof positive of Avaya’s commitment to Nortel’s enterprise technologies.

For Avaya, Hackney added that he’s not interested in being a storage or server company, but rather is interested in switching and routing, which is where Nortel had a long history.

“Our data business is profitable, cash generating and it’s growing,” Hackney said. “It’s a critical piece of the growth strategy for Avaya, so Avaya is very serious about the data business.”

While some in the networking business at the Interop show were talking about the Application Delivery Controller (ADC) market, Hackney stressed that Avaya’s focus is on the network itself.

“We don’t see us expanding into ADC, we’re really focused on making sure our solutions are fit for purpose,” Hackney said. “So you’ll see continued innovation around the data center and wireless and then network management on top.”

Nortel No More

The Nortel nameplate is now being phased out of the products as well, with new products now shipping with the name Avaya on them.

Overall Nortel as a company developed solid enterprise technologies but it had some issues when it came to the enterprise and there are some lessons that Hackney learned from his Nortel experience.

“The biggest lesson is to remain focused though a growth pattern and make sure you’re clear about what you want to be,” Hackney said. “Avaya is an enterprise company, fit for purpose and focused on one customer base. We’re not trying to enter a market where we don’t have a position already.”

Hackney added that the Avaya business model is different than what Nortel had on many levels. Nortel had a split personality in that it was also focused on carrier customers as well, which deterred from the focus on the enterprise.

“If you speak to former Nortel employees that are at Avaya now, they’ll tell you what excites them most is to be in one company that is completely focused on the enterprise,” Hackney said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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