Avaya Launches Voice Portals for Web Services

Communications software giant Avaya is pushing its Voice over IP software to the next level with the ability to integrate within a Service Oriented Architecture .

The company said its new Avaya Voice Portal significantly reduces the costs of deploying speech self-service by using a company’s existing Web services . This integration is designed to make Avaya’s software simpler to manage for customer service operations, rather than having to integrate a separate speech solution architecture for help desk functions like change of address and password reset requests.

The Avaya Voice Portal software platform, which it announced today, will be available this November. A separate development tool, Avaya Dialog Designer, is set for release this September.

Dan Miller, senior analyst at Opus Research, said more businesses are moving to a service oriented architecture that employ Web-based technologies and tools to leverage a company’s existing call processing, voice response and customer support systems.

“Avaya is already a leader in contact center automation and this announcement, working with partners and open source components, gets them more hooks into the enterprise,” Miller told internetnews.com.

Avaya Voice Portal supports the open standards-based Red Hat Linux Enterprise 3.0 platform. The company also announced it selected IBM’s Websphere Voice Server and Websphere Application Server as the initial speech and middleware platforms for Avaya Voice Portal.

While Voice Portal works with other middleware, analyst Miller said a partner like IBM with its considerable resources provides a “security blanket” of assurance for potential customers.

“We see this as the next step to IP-based SOA architectures,” said Cory Glover, Product Marketing Manager for Avaya. “The synergies between VOIP technology, SOA and speech will generate more business value for our customers.” Current customers of Avaya’s Interactive Voice Response software will be able to upgrade free to the Voice Portal as part of their maintenance agreement. For new customers, the cost is $900 per port.

Additionally, Avaya and IBM have been working together to provide a tighter integration of application development tools and development environments through the Eclipse 3.1 platform. Avaya’s new Eclipse-based development tool, Dialog Designer, works with IBM WebSphere Eclipse-based tooling, providing commonality and skills re-use for customers and application developers.

Working together, IBM’s WebSphere Voice Toolkit components and the Avaya Dialog Designer can help Avaya customers develop, debug, and deploy Voice XML applications for Avaya Self Service solutions.

This is the second time in a week Avaya and IBM have hooked up. Earlier, IBM announced an agreement to include Avaya-powered “click-to-call” functionality and web conferencing integration into IBM’s Lotus Sametime, Notes, and Domino products.

The lower cost structure of using SOA has the potential to make voice applications more attractive to mid and smaller size companies. “There’s a huge middle market below the Fortune 1000 who couldn’t afford to invest in speech,” said Tom Hanson, senior product manager of voice self-service at Avaya.

Voice-enabled applications include phone-based booking of travel, tracking packages and insurance claims. “An automated help desk can lower costs and provide better service,” said Hanson. “But if it cost millions of dollars, companies weren’t going to invest in it, now we’re providing a more attractive return on investment.”

The reliability and uptime have been improved in Voice Portal which features a license pooling system. The system recognizes a failure to process a call and move to another part of the network to handle the transaction.

“We think this is another way we reduce the total cost of ownership,” said Glover. In the past, when there was a technical breakdown the caller would have to wait in a queue to be helped by a human agent.

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