Avaya locks up voice over VPN

With two new virtual private network (VPN) gateways, Avaya Inc. says it now has secure data and voice connection products for everyone, from the employee working off-site to the large enterprise. But industry insiders and analysts say Avaya also faces a challenge in convincing customers to buy its latest offerings.

Avaya in January added two “virtual private network service units” (VSUs) to its product line: the VSU-5 for small office and home office (SOHO) users and the VSU-10000, a VPN aggregation unit for large companies.

The VSU-5 comes in two flavours, one capable of handling five tunnels and another with an unlimited number of tunnels up to 2Mbps. With Differentiated Services (DiffServ) and Class-Based Queuing (CBQ), the gateway knows the difference between voice and data, making it just right for voice over VPN (VoVPN), said John Williams, Avaya’s director of data sales in Markham, Ont.

“We’re seeing that a lot of the SOHO devices out there today are not prepared to handle throughput required for voice over VPN and other applications,” he said.

The 10000, at the other end of the scale, hosts up to 10,000 users at 400Mbps, or multiple smaller VSU gateways such as the VSU 5. Both of these newcomers employ the triple data encryption standard (Triple DES) for security.

Despite the advanced features, Avaya’s products face a battle for competition, suggests one VPN user.

David Heafey is the IT manager at Winphoria Networks Inc. in Tewksbury, Mass. The company builds mobile switching centres and uses VPN technology from Virtela Communications Inc. to connect headquarters with engineering facilities abroad.

Heafey said he might consider Avaya’s gateways, “however, the equipment we use is primarily Cisco and our experience base is in line with that; vendor loyalty towards Cisco would be a hard nut to crack in my case.”

Dan McLean, an analyst with IDC Canada in Toronto, said, “Avaya has generally been a little slower to adopt (VPN)…than other companies, like Cisco and Nortel.

“I think it’s their legacy. As a spin-off from Lucent, Avaya was focused on traditional voice equipment. When this whole notion of convergence came down the road, Lucent was among the companies not embracing it as quickly as others.”

The company also faces a challenge educating customers about the benefits of VPN, McLean said.

“I think the application of VPN technology is still something of a mystery for folks…I don’t think people have a full grasp of the potential richness of technology, in terms of it supporting multimedia applications (such as VoVPN).”

Williams said Avaya is ready to teach confused customers.

“It would be a large challenge if we only sold VPN products. But because Avaya brings some of those business-driving applications, like unified communications, call centre and IP telephony, we can show the customer up front the applications that go over VPN infrastructure.”

The VSU-5 is priced at US$795 and the VSU-10000 is priced at US$39,995. For more information see the company’s Canadian Web site at www.avaya.ca.