Avaya aims Aura to the mid-market channel

Designed primarily as a channel-focused offering that can help networking partners bring unified communications to the mid-market, Avaya has launched its Avaya Aura mid-size solution for enterprises.

It’s a single-server unified communications solution designed to scale from SMBs as small as 100 seats up to a business with 2,400 users and 250 locations.

Tracy Fleming, Aura practice lead for Avaya Canada, said when the vendor first announced the Aura model a few months ago it was about changing the IP telephony discussion from vendors arguing over who has the best vertical stack with more features and scale to more of an architecture model that looks at unified communications in three layers, the access layer, the connection layer, and the application layer.

While it used to be about closed vendor stacks, Fleming said with the new model third–party developers can innovate on the application layer.

“We think in order to be truly part of the next generation unified communications model, it won’t be solely about the number of features but about an open architecture allowing other types of applications to join in,” said Fleming, noting customer demand for social media applications such as Twitter and Facebook, and even the potential of Google Wave.

Working within this Aura architecture, the new mid-market offering uses virtualization technology to bring services that would each require dedicated physical servers in a large enterprise and house them each on their own virtual server within one physical box to allow it to scale to the mid-market.

Dubbed Avaya Aura System Platform, the virtualization platform enables unmodified versions of Avaya Communication Manager, Voice Messaging, SIP Enablement Services, Application Enablement Services, Utility Services and Media Services to all be deployed on a single standard, commercial server certified by Avaya for security, scalability and resiliency and running a Linux OS.

“We believe it’s the first fully-virtualized platform of its kind in the market,” said Fleming. “Other vendors have virtualization, what’s unique is this is the first time coming to market with fully encapsulated versions of our enterprise software. We had to do light versions before because of hardware constraints.”

With Avaya Aura mid-size solution, the vendor claims businesses can realize a reduction of up to 75 per cent in hardware, power and cooling and maintenance requirements, as well as simplified installation and ongoing maintenance with integrated management tools.

Fleming said rather than calling it an appliance, Avaya considers the solution to be more of a certified bundle.

“People tend to think of an appliance as a black box solution running proprietary software, but this is very much a solution-centric model where we’re taking off -the-self servers from Dell and other vendors, off the shelf Linux with Zen hypervisor framework and following the open source model for virtualization, and putting it together as a solution, fully tested in this configuration,” said Fleming.

And Avaya envisions the offering as primary a channel partner offering, and one that will find particular resonance in the Canadian market.

“Avaya has historically had very good success in the Fortune 500, but obviously that market is somewhat limited in Canada,” said Fleming.

“We’ve been hearing from our partners for quite some time about the need for simplification around the number of products and SKUs, the management challenge and time for training and certification.”

The single-server model addresses many of those partner challenges.

Fleming said partners can make the sale, get the solution up and running and provide its value to the customer in a dramatically shorter period than they could in the past.

While the product scales from 25 users to 2500, Fleming said the sweet-spot is probably in the middle of that range, 500 to 700 users.

While Avaya used to have different configurations for different numbers of users, this time he said each box will have the functionality; the business just needs to buy the licenses it needs.

“We think it’s going to be fairly attractive for partners,” said Fleming. “It’s going to dramatically decrease their time to install, and partner feedback is if we can simplify the instillation, if they can send the guy to the site and get it done in the afternoon, he can then go to another customer the same day. That directly equates to increased margin.”</P.

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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