Avaya, NES – and the Future of UC

Avaya held a teleconference and Webinar today describing its roadmap and the integration of Nortel Enterprise Solutions, which it acquired late last year.

In most cases, of course, an acquisition (or technically, an auction win) occurs long after the sector itself has solidified. That’s not the case in unified communications, which continues to be a services, marketing and technical moving target. It’s clear that the approach taken by Avaya is as much about predicting and influencing the future of the category itself as it is about blending in a newcomer’s gear.

Alan Baratz, Avaya’s senior vice president and the president of Avaya Global Communications Solutions, said the starting point of conversations between NES and Avaya’s staffs was the idea that systems will evolve from the current paradigm, in which functionality is centralized and concentrated in IP PBXes, to far more open, flexible and modular systems. An enabler of this – and a key design feature for the ongoing roadmap of Avaya – is the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP).

Standards in the UC era have three tasks: To enable the applications themselves to work, to enable different applications to work together efficiently within the same platform, and to help UC offerings from different vendors speak the same language. SIP is said by many observers to be the best-positioned protocol to pull this off. Nortel, by structuring its roadmap around SIP, clearly agrees. 

Standards is one big issue. Another is finding an entry point into the corporate structure that makes sense. Baratz said that Avaya is doing this by creating an infrastructure in which its flagship Aura product is, in essence, slipped into the mix atop the existing gear. It will form a layer in the customer’s hierarchy that doesn’t interfere with existing gear and only eventually becomes the linchpin. The goal is to serve these masters without asking them to “rip and replace.”

There will be a lot of expert commentary on the way in which Avaya is integrating NES and the roadmap that the newly joint entity will follow. What’s clear is that Avaya is taking the opportunity afforded by the NES integration to think about the basic approach to UC and collaborative infrastructures. It’s not just the best way to combine a couple of product lines.


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