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Avaya-Nortel Integration: Reaction to Strategy Is Mixed

Reaction to Avaya Inc.’s planned integration of Nortel Networks’ enterprise products remains mixed.

On Tuesday, Avaya talked up its strategy, saying the big emphasis will be on unified communications (UC) and SIP. That’s garnering some criticism from rivals – who stand to profit if Avaya takes any missteps – and continued support from partners.

“Nortel and Avaya had very different, competing directions for their contact center solutions and this will make it challenging for both sets of customers because they will have very different migration paths to contend with,” executives of UC competitor Aspect wrote in a prepared statement, distributed on Wednesday.

The International Nortel Networks Users Association (INNUA) sees matters differently.

“It’s clear that Avaya intends to migrate Nortel customers to their Aura platform; but current Nortel customers will have a great deal of say in how quickly that happens,” said Brad Tompkins, INNUA’s president.

Avaya intends to put its Aura UC software on top of existing Nortel or Avaya infrastructure, allowing users to plug in apps. That means voice, video, conferencing, mobility and messaging platforms from both companies will then work together, without end-users having to buy new PBXs or phones. The undertaking seems simple enough, yet, Aspect’s heads aren’t convinced. Avaya faces a “monumental task … while trying to build credibility in the UC market,” they wrote. Couple that with platform integration, continuity in contact center products and workforce reductions, and the activity could translate into problems keeping customers happy, said Aspect.

Not so fast, noted INNUA.

“The Avaya plan ensures shipment and support of Nortel products for an extended period of time – in some cases up to 7 years from now,” the organization said.

In the meantime, Avaya will bring Nortel partners into its fold by April; the transition won’t be easy, since Avaya and Nortel partner programs overlap in some areas and not at all in others. Aspect execs maintain this will create confusion, and even lead to low motivation, among resellers. However, again, INNUA takes issue with that point of view.

“The short term impact on our members will be limited,” said Victor Bohnert, INNUA’s executive director. “We have launched several programs to inform our members of the changes to their installation timelines and will begin developing training and educational offerings to help them prepare for the long term.”

Partners do need to prepare, though, for the obsolescence of some Nortel products. Production and sales on the MCS and NMC conferencing products will end in six months. And Avaya will replace its Contact Center Express with Nortel’s CC7. Still, Avaya will continue to service these goods for six more years.

Overall, the Avaya-Nortel integration remains a wait-and-see situation. And even some analysts aren’t convinced that Avaya, which says it’s focusing on UC, isn’t really leaning more toward SIP.

“Avaya had already been throwing development resources into making SIP the heart of its contact center routing and applications story,” Ian Jacobs, an Ovum senior analyst, told SearchCRM.com. “This roadmap puts SIP front and center as the core of future development and of the migration path for Nortel technology and customers.”


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