Avaya Rolls Out Nortel Roadmap

Barely a month after formally closing its $900 million acquisition of the Nortel Enterprise business, Avaya today rolled out a new integrated roadmap for the two companies.

Under the plan, Avaya will change the way Nortel customers are supported and provide an evolutionary path for growing the capabilities of the product suites of both companies. The integrated Avaya/ Nortel portfolio will include former Nortel data networking products as well as unified communications.

The new roadmap comes at an opportune time for Avaya as the market for unified communications is projected to experience rapid growth over the next several years.

“This portfolio brings together the best of Nortel with the best of Avaya to create significant business value for our customers,” Avaya Vice President Alan Baratz told reporters at a press conference today.

As part of the integrated platforms, Avaya will not be pushing a “rip and replace” agenda, according to Baratz. Rather Avaya will be layering technology on top of existing assets in an effort to expand functionality and lower costs for users.

One such overlay will come by way of the Avaya Aura platform, a SIP based technology for unified communication business services. Avaya first launched Aura in 2009, and will be expanding it with Nortel technology in 2010.

Baratz noted that with the Avaya Aura architecture users can plug into an existing PBX infrastructure whether it’s Avaya or Nortel and it will play nicely with the PBX environment, a compatibility that Avaya says will add value to users while cutting expenses.

On top of Aura are the APIs that enable business applications to run, which now stand to benefit from some Nortel technology. Nortel has a product called the Agile Communications Environment (ACE), for instance, which will now provide application enablement and services on top of the Aura platform.

“Going forward the Aura architecture will become a blending of the best technologies from Avaya and the best technologies from Nortel,” Baratz said.

In addition to unified communications assets, Avaya has also acquired Nortel’s enterprise data products, which include networking gear such as routers as switches.

“We have also now brought in a very compelling data products portfolio into Avaya,” Baratz said. “What’s important about the data portfolio is that it is a fit-for-purpose data product portfolio oriented for providing data connectivity in support of real time communication environments.”

Even while under bankruptcy protection in 2009, Nortel managed to roll out new enterprise networking gear. One of the biggest pieces of gear was the VSP 9000, which can support up to 27 terabits per second (Tbps) of switching capacity in a single chassis delivered by up to 720 10GbE (Gigabit Ethernet) ports per rack.

“We’re all really excited about how well we’ve been able to bring together the Nortel and Avaya product portfolios,” Baratz said. “While we definitely overlap in some areas, we found that we have strengths in different components and we’ve been able to bring those strengths together to allow us to accelerate our move into the future.”

Nortel Customer Support

One key item that will be changing for Nortel customers is how Avaya plans to offer support moving forward. Todd Abbott, Avaya’s senior vice president of sales, noted during the press conference that Avaya will be moving Nortel support to a more sustainable model.

In his view, Nortel’s support system was a significant drain on the company’s balance sheet.

Nortel had been offering a fixed fee for any initiation of a support requirement, regardless of the complexity or length of time it took to address the issue.

“Nortel lost money on every one of those,” Abbott said. “It was a significant profit drain on the business and it significantly contributed [adversely] to their profitability.”

Moving forward Avaya will be moving to what Abbott referred to as an “industry-standard” approach for providing support with an annuity contract. Abbott did not provide details on how such contracts would be structured or how much more it might cost Nortel users.

“What we’re telling partners is that going forward, they’re going to have to build in the cost of software support,” Abbott 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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