Avaya announces Nortel product plans

Avaya Inc., which has completed its takeover of the enterprise assets of Nortel Networks Corp., announced its product integration plans Tuesday.

Though Avaya plans to drop the Nortel Multimedia Conferencing product, industry analysts said customers should have little, if anything, to worry about.

“There is nothing being discontinued in the next 12 months except Nortel Multimedia Conferencing,” said Tracy Fleming, who leads Avaya Canada’s Aura practice.

Nortel Multimedia Conferencing is software for audio and video conferencing.

“Overall, Nortel customers should be satisfied by some of these announcements in that there’s not going to be a rush to end these products,” said Jayanth Angl, senior research analyst with London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group. “With Nortel and Avaya having very similar products in the past, we’ll have to see some rationalization over the next 12 months.”

Avaya plans to continue to invest in Nortel Ethernet Routing Switches, VPN (virtual private networking) outer and integrate them with other contact centre products, said Alan Baratz, president of Avaya global communications solutions.

During a conference call Tuesday, Baratz said Avaya plans to add Nortel’s Agile Communications Environment to Aura, which is based on a Linux server and designed to function as a communications server in a multi-vendor environment, using session initiation protocol (SIP).

“The ACE environment is going to become a part of Aura,” he said. “It’s going to provide the application enablement and application services no top of the Aura platform.”

Basking Ridge, N.J.-based Avaya won an auction in September when it agreed to pay US$915 million for the Nortel units that make switches, routers, firewalls, virtual private networking (VPNs), unified communications, private branch exchanges (PBXs), phones and key systems.

With the acquisition of Nortel’s enterprise unit, Avaya now has 920 employees in Canada, 600 of whom worked for Nortel, an Avaya Canada spokesperson said. Of those, 375 work in Ottawa, and Avaya had inherited a Nortel facility in Belleville, Ontario.

Nortel, which has lost money nearly every year since 1998, filed for protection from creditors a year ago. It sold its carrier wireless assets to Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson of Sweden and its optical networking and metro Ethernet units to Ciena Corp.

The Avaya deal had some analysts worried that the company would not keep all Nortel and Avaya products, given the overlap in their voice products, but Avaya officials promised Tuesday Nortel customers would not have to rip and replace their equipment to get support.

“It sounded like they really thought through a lot of the potential challenges and issues,” said Roberta Fox, president of Fox Group of Mount Albert, Ont. “For at least 2010 and half of 2011 it sounds like they’re supporting everything from both families.”

Matthias Machowinski, directing analyst for enterprise voice and data at Infonetics Research Inc., agreed.

“In a nutshell they’re essentially keeping all the products alive for at least the short term,” Machowinski said. “The key here with Aura is they’re going to have support for all the Avaya and Nortel products. That’s the major benefit for both Avaya and Nortel customers.”

With the Nortel acquisition, Avaya will now have switches and routers.
“While Nortel had only five per cent market share in data networking it’s an $18 billion market,” Kerravala said. “It’s a lot of money.”

During the conference call, Baratz explained Avaya’s overall vision of voice communications.

In the past, companies used computer telephony integration, to connect applications, but Baratz said with CTI it is difficult to build and manage applications. Instead, Avaya wants to use a service oriented architecture based on SIP.

Avaya wants to combine “an open rules engine” with its session manager, which would manage and route conversations.

“All connections would be conferences, not point to point connections,” Baratz said, so users could add other callers, such as subject matter experts, or allow a computer to access the call.

A typical scenario is when a customer calls a vendor for product support.

“I might call in on my phone and the contact centre agent wants to send a flash ‘how to’ to my PC and they need to conference my PC,” he said.

To help add these capabilities, Avaya and Nortel official looked at products from both companies and concluded Nortel’s Contact Centre 7 “is a bit ahead of Avaya” in that respect, though it cannot scale to large enterprises.

“So the road map for contact centre calls for the existing Avaya Elite in high end enterprise to continue,” he said. “We will adopt Contact Center solution as our mid market solution.”

 The US$915 million Avaya is paying is comprised of US$900 million in cash to Avaya and US$15 million in “employee retention.”
Avaya, which is privately held by Silver Lake Partners, was born as a separate firm in 2000, when Lucent Technologies Inc. decided to spin off its enterprise unit. Lucent was formerly known at AT&T Bell Labs and merged with Alcatel SA of France in 2006.

 Last year, Avaya hired Charlie Giancarlo, a former executive with Cisco Systems Inc., as its temporary chief executive officer. Giancarlo was replaced by Kevin Kennedy.

“I think they’re doing everything they can to make sure you’re not going to left out in the cold with a product they won’t support,” said Zeus Kerravala, senior vice-present at Yankee Group Research Inc. of Boston. “If you’re a  Nortel customer you will be able to take your products and migrate to them to a related Avaya product.” 

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