Avaya Bolsters its Collaboration Portfolio with Aura Conferencing 7.0
A strong offering features clientless conferencing, Flare for Windows, a rich iPhone application, and overall, a powerful example of session management.
This morning Avaya announced a significant upgrade to its collaboration portfolio with the release of Avaya Conferencing 7.0 and the long awaited release of Flare Experience for the iPad and Windows. This is a strong set of announcements for Avaya, as it demonstrates the value of session management, which is a topic Avaya has been very aggressive trying to market around.
Specifics of what they announced are as follows:
* Clientless collaboration. To me, this was the highlight of the numerous announcements that Avaya made. The company released a collaboration platform that requires only a Web browser to invoke. Unlike many of the clientless solutions that have very basic functionality, the Avaya Web based collaboration application is as feature-rich as most solutions that require clients. It includes desktop sharing, application sharing, whiteboarding, moderator controls, chat and a host of other features. Considering the strength of some of the Web conferencing platforms such as GoToMeeting and Webex, Avaya needs a solution that’s simple and easy to use if they were going to gain some traction, and this product is certainly both of those. One of the interesting features in this was the ability to capture "meeting minutes" so a call administrator could take notes and save them right in the session. This means that anyone who watches the session at a later date will have access to those meeting minutes. Avaya’s solution is focused on real time meetings but also the post-meeting experience as well.
* Avaya Flare Experience now available on iPad and Windows. The porting to Windows is of mild interest to me. With the installed base of Windows devices, it's good that Avaya did this, but the iPad application does seem to hold a lot of promise and is where any excitement will be. For those of you that haven't played with the Flare Experience, give it a try, you'll be surprised how easy and natural it is to use. The experience is based on being able to "flip" through contacts, kind of like virtual business cards and then drag them into a voice call, chat session or video call and then easily add others to the conversation. The Avaya Desktop Video Device (tablet) has niche appeal but I think the iPad application can create greater utilization across Avaya's customer base.
* iPhone based collaboration. As part of this set of announcements, Avaya will release a rich iPhone collaboration application. This is a very feature rich mobile application and includes things like screen and document sharing messaging and white boarding. This is a great complement to both the clientless PC based collaboration tool and the iPad Flare application.
* Distributed architecture using cascading media servers. This solution employs distributed media servers that are used in conjunction with a centralized media server. The solution operates by having a centralized media server and then a number of remote ones. Users in a remote location communicate through a local, distributed media server and only connect back to the centralized one when communications needs to be established outside the local location. So any user that wants to communicate with another in the same location can do so without having to traverse the WAN. Depending on the type of traffic and the traffic patterns, this could cut down on traffic significantly and save organizations a bunch of money on WAN costs. It's a very well designed network solution, which acts as another proof point that Avaya is more than a company with UC solutions.
I thought the pricing for the solution was very reasonable as well. Aura conferencing 7.0 is available for as low as $140 per user or up to $190 if the company wants to add Windows or iPad support. Considering this is a one time, perpetual license, I though this price was low enough that it won’t act as a deterrent for organizations that are looking to deploy it.
The power of session management is evident in the Flare Experience and has been one of the focal points for Avaya for the past few years. In fact, Avaya and Acme Packet have been two of the most aggressive vendors when it comes to evangelizing the benefits of session management. I've maintained for some time now that this industry will not move forward until buyers understand and embrace the concept of "sessions" and stop thinking about simply making calls. Of course, this can't happen until the vendor community starts to embrace this change as well. It's good to see this kind of consistency of messaging from Avaya followed up by strong product releases such as this one.