In-house communications systems still in demand, says Avaya president

Businesses will continue to demand communications systems owned and operated in-house, despite the cost attractions of cloud-based unified communications...

Businesses will continue to demand communications systems owned and operated in-house, despite the cost attractions of cloud-based unified communications systems, says Michael Bayer, president of Avaya's Europe, Middle East and Africa division.

"Companies need to weigh the risk of damage caused by an outage over which they have no control against the cost savings they might achieve in the cloud," Bayer told Computer Weekly in an exclusive interview.

Bayer said applications such as Skype and devices such as iPhone were setting the expectations of workers entering business. "But no company can afford the unreliability inherent in Skype, not if they are running a contact centre taking 800,000 calls a day, as some of our clients do."

Even so, the consumer market was reshaping corporate thinking about how to get things done, he said.

Avaya was exploring how to integrate this rampant energy into its products, but also to provide the reliability, security and compliance factors that companies had to have, said Bayer. Its early decision to base its business on Session Internet Protocol (SIP) and other open standards was paying off here, he said.

For example, it meant Avaya could announce an integrated technology roadmap, complete with end of life strategies for some of both Avaya and Nortel product lines, just four weeks after it took over the ailing Canadian communications equipment maker in December 2009.

A further development, which Avaya would launch in June, was a Java-based, touchscreen, wi-fi-enabled device, similar to an iPad, that would assume whatever "personality" the user wanted according to the applications loaded.

Codenamed the Avaya Mojo, this was not an executive toy but rather a "soft" machine suitable for office work of different kinds, he said. The Mojo already had software clients for voice, video, session management and other applications, as well as third-party applications for the hospitality sector, such as hotels and restaurants.

"This could be your hotel room controller, or your meeting room controller, or your office desktop," he said.

But it would not support mobile telephony. That was a cul-de-sac, he suggested, because it required a choice of technologies, and Avaya wanted to remain an open system.

Products such as the Mojo would help to position Avaya against what it sees as its two main rivals, Microsoft for control of the desktop applications, and Cisco for control of the network applications, he said.

But Bayer stressed that Avaya was happy to co-exist. "We do not need to fight (Microsoft's Office Communication System) OCS; we do a lot (in Avaya's infrastructural products) to improve its scalability to ensure it delivers service level agreements at the desktop," he said.

He said he was not aware of specific talks to support enterprise applications such as Oracle and SAP on the Mojo. "But we are in contact with them through our contact centre applications," he said.

Products such as 1X, its session controller, were helping Avaya to integrate and manage multiple concurrent applications on both mobile and desktop systems. It had launched a 1X application for the iPhone three weeks after Apple launched the device, and Avaya was now testing an Android version. It had had a Symbian version for years, he added.

The takeover had also accelerated Avaya's entry into new markets through its expanded channel network. He said Avaya was taking "an old-fashioned view" of the channel. It was up to value-added resellers to develop applications for vertical markets, even tailoring custom solutions for a single client.

This was how Avaya would address the unified communications market, he said. He suggested moves by network operators to offer bundled services were doomed. They tried that as Application Service Providers, and before then with Centrex, he said. All had come to nothing.

But was cloud a play? Yes, and Avaya would play via its channel partners, he said. "But CIOs cannot afford to lose operational control," he said. That is why there would always be a demand for direct relations between supplier and customer.

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