Avaya Makes UC Easier for Developers, Midmarket

The company rolls out an application development platform and bulks up with an IP Office solution for smaller businesses.

Avaya is rolling out an aggressive expansion of its unified communications offerings that touches on everything from the cloud and midmarket businesses to application development and text messaging.

The new and enhanced offerings, announced Oct. 15, are part of Avaya’s six-year-old effort to transform itself from a telecommunications company to one that provides open communication and collaboration solutions designed for and aimed at businesses.

“In the marketplace, things have changed very rapidly in the last two, three, four years,” Gary Barnett, senior vice president and general manager for collaboration at Avaya, told eWEEK, noting that until recently it was businesses rather than consumers that drove the development of communication technologies. “Obviously, these days, that has been turned upside down.”

With the rise of such trends as greater mobility and employees not only using their own devices for work but also their own mobile applications—such as Dropbox—businesses are now “consumer-driven enterprises,” Barnett said. “We’ve brought consumer simplicity and consumer designs into the corporation.”

Couple that with the increasing speed of business technology—don’t expect to have 18 months anymore to get applications up and running—and the growing prominence of communication and collaboration capabilities in business applications, and the results are corporations that are wrestling with increasingly complex and multichannel communications environments, he said.

Avaya officials are looking to make unified communications (UC) simpler and easier to manage, part of the vendor’s larger transformation effort that included $2.5 billion spent in R&D to determine how companies collaborate and to develop solutions to address those issues.

Avaya’s announcements came the same day as the announcements of Siemens Enterprise Communications’ rebranding as Unify and the accelerated timetable for its Project Ansible UC platform. Irwin Lazar, an analyst with Nemertes Research Group, touted the announcements of Avaya and Unify as important signals in a necessary transition for UC.

“Taken together, these announcements highlight the transformation of UC away from its voice-centric past to one where a variety of collaboration channels are brought together, integrated with business process applications, to enable collaboration in context, improving the value of UC, and the productivity of those who use it,” Lazar wrote in a post on the Nemertes blog.

He particularly noted Avaya’s new Aura Collaboration Environment, a software development platform designed to make it easier for businesses and ISVs to create enterprise applications that can be embedded with UC capabilities. The functionality within the development platform removes the need for programmers to have strong communications expertise, enabling a wider range of developers to create applications within days rather than weeks, according to Avaya officials.

“While we’ve had the premise of ‘communications-enabled business processes’ for the last 10 years or so, real-world implementations have been hampered by the complexity of development, a challenge Avaya hopes to solve,” Lazar wrote.

In addition to the Collaboration Environment, Avaya unveiled IP Office 9.0, the latest version of the company’s midmarket collaboration portfolio. The enhanced UC offering scales the number of supported users on the platform to 2,000 (from 1,000), adds support for VMware’s virtualization technology so that the software can now run inside a virtual machine, and simplifies management and increases support for branch offices.

Barnett said the midmarket has been underserved by UC vendors, noting that these companies have the same needs as their larger enterprise counterparts. What they don’t have are similarly sized IT departments, which put a premium on simplicity, he said. With IP Office 9.0, smaller businesses can deploy a UC solution within an hour.

Avaya also is enhancing its Aura UC platform to support both cloud and virtualized environments through multi-tenancy and upgraded virtualization capabilities. At the same time, businesses using Aura can support up to 10 different mobile devices from a single phone number, making it easier for people to use a range of devices for communication, according to Avaya officials.

The company also is offering its Avaya Messaging Service, which enables users to send text messages to and from smartphones, tablets, notebooks and desktop PCs via the cloud. Enabling text messages to run through a corporate network means that such messages will have the same level of security and compliance that emails do, Avaya officials said.