Polycom, Avaya Broaden UC Partnership

Building on its string of Cisco-resistant partnerships in the video conferencing sector, Polycom (PLCM) is extending its partnership with Avaya across its full voice portfolio. The companies will announce on March 9 that they plan to co-develop and market unified communications systems that comprise Avaya’s SIP-based Aura platform and Polycom’s Open Collaboration Network architecture.

Encompassing products from Polycom’s plug-in Communicator phones to high-end immersive telepresence systems, the alliance “Extends our six-year relationship with Avaya,” Polycom vice president for partner marketing Mark Roberts told VON. “This represents the next stage of evolution in that relationship.”

The two companies plan to invest together in a channel strategy that will enable agents and resellers to move up-market in offering comprehensive, integrated UC systems, particularly ones involving video conferencing, Roberts added.

That being said, the integrated strategy is also a reflection of recent developments in the video conferencing market, specifically the acquisition of Polycom rival TANDBERG by Cisco (CSCO), announced in October 2009. Creating a single entity with a dominant market share in video conferencing, that acquisition shifted the landscape significantly, at once threatening and bolstering Polycom’s prospects.

“It’s a good time to be Polycom,” Roberts asserted, listing a series of announcements of partnerships with companies including IBM (IBM), Juniper Networks Inc. (JNPR), Siemens Enterprise Communications, and BroadSoft. Briefly, Polycom is capitalizing on the pricey, proprietary nature of Cisco’s video conferencing systems to spread the technology across a broader swath of businesses and to push for an open standards approach to video-enabled UC. Thus the Open Collaboration Network approach.

In January, Polycom and Juniper unveiled a partnership aimed at lowering the upfront and operating costs of telepresence and video conferencing services from telecom service providers. Beginning in mid-2010, the companies will offer the first “conferencing-aware” network solution, allowing service providers to maximize the capabilities of their existing network.

While “None of these partnerships is a direct correlation” of the TANDBERG acquisition, Roberts said, “really what Cisco has done is provided impetus” for competitors to align.

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