IBM, Avaya answer convergence call

It takes two to tango.

First it was Microsoft and Bell. Then early this week, IBM Corp. and Avaya Inc. sashayed to the convergence beat.

The alliance with Basking Ridge, N.J.-based Avaya Inc. will enable IBM to integrate telephony capabilities into its enterprise collaboration tools – at least that’s the plan.

And one analyst is saying the move positions Big Blue to tackle Microsoft Corp. head-on in the integrated communications space.

“IBM is going to continue to invest in this [communications] platform so it competes against Microsoft’s future roadmap,” said Carmi Levy, senior research analyst at London, Ont.-based InfoTech Research.

The tie up would allow seamless integration of audio capabilities into IBM’s instant messaging and e-mail applications using IBM Lotus Notes, Domino and IBM Sametime through a “click-to-call” functionality. In a nutshell, a user would be able to initiate a telephone call by simply right-clicking a name from his contact list

Part of the offering is combining Avaya’s audio conferencing tool, Avaya Meeting Exchange, with Lotus’s Web conferencing application for full conferencing experience – participants could see who is speaking, have the capability to dial out to others, and control the call from the PC.

“The main goal is to follow through on the need we have been seeing in the market for convergence,” said Adam Gartenberg, IBM’s offering manager for real-time and team collaboration. Voice functionality will be available by fourth quarter 2005 on Lotus Sametime, and by the first quarter of next year for Lotus Notes, he said.

IBM and Avaya will continue to collaborate on enhancing their capabilities in converged voice and collaboration applications, according to Tracy Fleming, national IP telephony practice leader for Markham-based Avaya Canada Corp.

VoIP and IP telephony are increasingly moving towards “application-centred” functionality “and the value of this overall component really comes down to the collaboration workspace,” Fleming said.

Last month, Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft Corp. and Bell Canada teamed up to integrate Bell’s audio conferencing service into Microsoft’s Live Meeting 2005 Web conferencing tool.

“I definitely see a trend…we are seeing a recognition that voice functionality is basically another form of data, so the closer that you can bring that telephony function to your existing office applications and your collaboration applications, the better your people can work,” said Levy. The move could also be sending a signal to other telecom players that desktop applications and the telecom space may gradually be converging into one large market.

“[Telcos] are recognizing that they are not just in the telecom business anymore, they are in the solutions business…it is not enough to have effective technology – those technologies need to be rolled up, packaged and marketed as part of larger solution,” said Levy.

Partnering with IBM allows Avaya to extend its voice over IP (VoIP) offering to a larger market. Businesses running IBM’s collaboration platform would now have telephony capability as part of their infrastructure, regardless of whether they are considering a VoIP deployment, Levy said.

“It’s really effective brand marketing for Avaya because its products are now seamlessly integrated into a collaboration package that is used by a fairly large number of business customers.”

Related links:

Bell, Microsoft team on audio, Office tie-up

Get prepared for convergence

Telcos should be wary of Microsoft’s moves

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