‘Breakthrough’ Communications Architecture from Avaya

PBX giant Avaya today announced the impending release of a ‘breakthrough communications architecture’—an expansion and extension of its bread-and-butter Communications Manager product line called Avaya Aura.

While Aura contains incremental improvements in individual communications services, such as aggregating presence data from the applications of major vendors such as Microsoft and IBM, the revolutionary architectural piece is Session Manager, a SIP layer that centralizes communications control across multi-vendor, multi-location, and multi-modal businesses.

Session Manager simplifies the deployment of complex communications network, delivering hefty savings in infrastructure costs, and providing a consistent set of applications to employees, regardless of where they happen to be.

A key consideration in designing Session Manager was that it weave together multiple legacy communications systems into a single, much more cost-efficient system.

“What [customers] are currently running isn’t ripped out and replaced; it keeps going,” Avaya’s director of unified communications architecture, Lawrence Byrd told Enterprise VoIPplanet.com. “We’re integrating with equipment from Nortel, from Cisco—any legacy system you can put a SIP gateway in front of.”

“Today, our communication is all based on individual locations, individual systems,” Byrd continued. “My applications are dependent on the building I’m sitting in rather than who I am.” And, for larger companies, there are almost certain to be multiple systems to deal with, he pointed out.

“The majority of customers we talk to have a big mish-mash of telecoms equipment systems—old and new and multi-vendor,” he said.

Moreover, a great deal of money is being spent on poor connectivity to hook these systems together. “You’re not really making full use of your network; you’re not really routing calls efficiently. You’re over- trunked and you’re paying for more than you really need if you did it right,” Byrd commented.

“So the first step of Avaya Aura is ‘Let’s fix your connectivity problem.’ Instead of every different system having its own dialplan, its own rules, its own information and knowledge, etc., why don’t we have a SIP layer where in one centrally administered architecture, all of the routing for all of the systems is done in one place?”

Session Manager’s SIP backbone or ‘core’ is fully secure and is massively scalable, serving up to a quarter of a million individuals and up to 25,000 locations, globally. It creates one centrally managed company-wide dialplan, plus hefty, immediate cost savings.

“We find that customers are getting literally hundreds of thousands—for a large customers, literally a million dollars or more per month—in savings, simply squeezing it out of the poor way they do things at present,” Byrd told VoIPplanet.com.

Reducing location-specific trunking needs—and the associated costs—is a benefit that resonates with customers in the current economic climate, but Session Manager boosts efficiency in other ways as well.

“It suddenly allows you to move your cores on-net, use all these least-cost routing, time-of-day routing, and chose-the-right-path algorithms for everything—for all vendors, for all calls. Call out from the best location: If I’m calling from here to Tokyo, why not exit from my network from my system in Tokyo?” Byrd said.

The Avaya Aura architecture reshapes the communications fabric in another way as well:

“Instead of me being connected to an individual system,” Byrd explained, “we now move to where my SIP phone, my PC SIP application instead connect to the core, and applications are delivered to me as what SIP calls ‘feature servers’—much like the way the Web works. Wherever I am, I get my applications. And Avaya Aura has one profile that maps me to my applications, so I get the same applications wherever I go and, more importantly, I get my applications.”

Session Manager profiles are role-based. A worker in R & D would get a different application set from one in sales, say.

“Things like our Communications Manager—as well as other UC applications—video, Web, audio conferencing, unified messaging—all become feature servers. They’re features that you get access to, courtesy of the core,” Byrd explained.

Also announced today was Intelligent Customer Routing (CRI), an application designed to streamline call center operation—an example of what the Avaya Aura end-to-end SIP architecture can do for customers, according to Byrd.

Laura Bassett, senior manager of Avaya customer service solutions, described CRI to VoIPplanet.com as a way to help customers deliver quicker and more effective service to their customers, to increase ‘first-call resolution,’ and to access the right knowledge—the right agent—at the right time.

To do this, CRI employs a highly intelligent Voice Portal that elicits extensive information from the calling customer and uses that information to make routing decisions within the call center system. Voice Portal can also interact directly with the customer, sending audio and/or video, for example, in response to customer input.

Avaya Aura will be available in May 2009, in Standard, Branch, and Enterprise editions. According to Byrd, it will be priced “like and upgrade.”

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