Convergence Corner

Welcome to the New Avaya

By Erik Linask

After the speculation as to how the pieces of the former telecom giant Nortel (News - Alert) would be distributed amongst the many potential bidders died down naturally, once the various deals fell into place, attention turned to how Avaya would manage the integration of Nortel’s enterprise division into its own environment. Many, in fact, questioned if it could be successfully accomplished.

While the final verdict may be years away still, the energy level at the recent Avaya DevConnect (News - Alert) Partner Conference clearly signified that both existing Avaya and former Nortel developer communities are at ease with how the transition has played out thus far.

Certainly, with 100 million lines of combined installed telephony lines, the task of combining the two entities, their product lines, their employees, their partners and resellers, and their developer communities was daunting, at best.

But, there were certain atypical elements of this acquisition that, according to George Paolini (News - Alert), vice president of devices, clients, and application platforms at Avaya, have actually made this a tailor-made transition. Specifically, the Nortel bankruptcy created an unusual level of granularity that allowed Avaya (News - Alert) to evaluate much more effectively the Nortel assets, providing deeper insight into which products from each entity would live on, which would be replaced, and which could be combined to create enhanced offerings.

Essentially, Nortel’s financial predicament allowed Avaya to begin formulating a transition roadmap immediately, even as it was still evaluating its potential investment, which meant it could also begin implementing its roadmap much sooner that might have been expected – it announced its roadmap on January 19, 2010.

In fact, the entire process was made easier because of the synergies between the two organizations, beyond the obvious focus on real-time enterprise communications.

“It was fascinating to see just how similar the Avaya and Nortel visions were,” said Harvey Waxman, vice president, architecture, Global Communications Solutions at Avaya. “It made it easy to see which pieces of each company would allow Avaya to enter this new era of contextual communications.”

For instance, Avaya is retaining its session manager – and rightfully so, as it is a key component of the Aura platform. On the other hand, it will be integrating several pieces from Nortel, including its Business Communications System Manager and what both Paolini and Eric Rossman (News - Alert), vice president of developer relations at Avaya, say is the real gem of the acquisition: Nortel’s Agile Communications Environment (ACE), which Rossman adds had been significantly undervalued by not only Nortel itself, but analysts as well.

It’s almost surprising that it was, given the widely acknowledged role of applications in the communications environment, and the ability to quickly develop and integrate those applications ACE provides.

Still, the big question was how well and how quickly Avaya would be able to integrate the Nortel pieces into its own product line and sales strategy, much of which was unveiled in its roadmap. Without question, much of the speculation was likely anticipation by the community – after all, it’s not every day two of the top three vendors in any market come together.

According to Rossman, perhaps the most amazing development is the excitement from within the Avaya community in accepting the roadmap and the integrated product set.

“It’s been fantastic,” he said. “It’s been a while in the tech space since we’ve seen this kind of excitement, and we want to continue to build off of it.”

James Ingram, director of the International Avaya Users Group, acknowledges that both Avaya and Nortel users were in the same state not long ago, wondering about their existing equipment, future support, integration of the two product sets, and generally about the roadmap.

But he says that what he’s seen since is “just mind-boggling.”

“The transition has been handled transparently and honestly,” he said. “Avaya embraced the Nortel equipment and, in a few years, they will have taken the best of both to product the leading technology player in the market.”

So, as the world is introduced to the new Avaya – just as its developer partners were at the conference – only time will tell if such acknowledgement portends the bright future Avaya anticipates. But, the agility with which it has laid out its plans and the genuine enthusiasm from its partners and developers undoubtedly answers many questions,

It would also be unwise to overlook the significance of Avaya having brought Paolini on board, whose experience includes stints with Sun Microsystems, SAP, and Cisco (News - Alert), and who admitted he jumped at the opportunity to lead Avaya’s ecosystem team, which he says is the most dedicated he has seen. IT