Avaya buys Traverse Networks

Avaya recently acquired Traverse Networks for US$15 million and announced simplified pricing for its various VoIP software platforms — moves the vendor hopes will be a one-two punch against Cisco and Nortel in the mobility and collaboration arena.

Avaya acquired Traverse for its fixed-mobile convergence software, which allows users to access corporate IP PBX features, voicemail, e-mail, and other resources over a secure cellphone data connection.

Timed with the acquisition, Avaya announced a repackaging of its unified communications products, including a new four-level product structure that the vendor says will make it simpler and less expensive for customers to buy and install the technology.

Traverse, a 5-year-old start-up based in Fremont, Calif., makes mobile phone applications — Visual Voicemail and CallConnect — which let mobile users access office telephone features and IP PBX/voicemail services remotely.

Visual Voicemail aggregates a user’s office voicemail messages and displays them on a cellphone in a manner similar to an e-mail in-box. It shows data including coworkers’ names, caller ID, and message time and date. Users can listen to, delete and forward messages on the office voicemail system from the cellphone interface.

CallConnect is software that extends control of a desktop IP phone to a mobile device application interface. From a cellphone, a user can program a simultaneous-ring feature so an incoming call to an office phone extension or cellphone will ring both devices at the same time, for example. Number forwarding and other call-handling options are also part of the software.

PDAs and smart phones running Java 2 Micro Edition, as well as RIM’s Blackberry devices, can run the Traverse client software.

The server-based component of Traverse’s product sits in front of a corporate IP PBX or IP-enabled phone, behind a corporate firewall. Called Mobility Server, the application communicates with IP PBX and messaging systems and connects these internal servers, via an encrypted data tunnel, to external cellphones running the Traverse client.

Avaya’s Traverse acquisition could be considered a counter move to Cisco’s purchase of Orative Corp. in October. Cisco paid US$31 million for the start-up, which makes software that ties together mobile phones with corporate IP PBX and messaging systems. Orative was already part of Cisco’s network of VoIP technology partners, with Cisco-interoperable products, when Cisco bought the company.

Traverse’s platform works with Cisco CallManager, but not with Avaya’s VoIP technology. Avaya says it will integrate Traverse into its IP PBX and messaging products in 2007, and still continue to support Traverse on Cisco CallManager.

Meanwhile, Avaya also is relaunching its various unified messaging and collaboration software products into four packages: Unified Communications Essential, Standard, Advanced and Professional editions. Each edition is a mix of messaging, conferencing and other features that already exist in Avaya’s various platforms, along with some new capabilities.

The Essential Edition includes basic access to a combined voicemail/e-mail inbox as well as basic voice-conferencing capabilities from the software client. Standard Edition adds the Traverse software features to extend office phone applications to mobile cellphone users.

Unified Communications Advanced Edition includes a whiteboard and collaboration feature, based on Avaya’s SIP -based Meeting Exchange package, that lets users share and edit images and presentations across the network during a conference call. It’s similar to a WebEx service, but hosted inside a company. The Professional Edition includes video conferencing and speech-recognition features.

Deploying each level of Unified Communications technology will require various back-end server components, starting with Avaya’s Communications Manager IP PBX and Modular Messaging voicemail, as well as Microsoft or IBM Lotus servers. Avaya Meeting Exchange, Traverse servers, and Avaya videoconferencing platforms are required for the Advanced and Professional editions.

Avaya says its Unified Communications products will interoperate with Microsoft Office Communicator in early 2007. Cisco’s Unified client and server software currently interoperate with Microsoft Office Communicator. In July, Nortel also announced a four-year partnership with Microsoft to tightly integrate Nortel’s IP-telephony gear with Microsoft’s VoIP and collaboration products.

Avaya says its new cumulative pricing model will take effect when the four editions become available in February. Essential Edition will cost about $160 to $170 per user depending on the size of a deployment. Standard Edition will cost an additional $145 per user on top of the cost of Essential Edition — around 50 per cent less than the price of buying the components separately, Avaya says.

Advanced Edition will cost an additional $100 per user (a 21 per cent discount versus buying Meeting Exchange as a separate package). For the Professional Edition, add another $125 per user — a 35 per cent discount if compared to a piecemeal Avaya videoconferencing system, the company says.

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