Avaya Charts a Course Ahead

Avaya CEO Kevin Kennedy used his keynote time to offer a pretty straightforward analysis of industry trends and Avaya's position relative to them. He cited four forces that he said are critical in the industry today:

* Communications infrastructure--Including real-time systems and switching
* CEBP--Communications Enabled Business Processes, i.e., the integration with applications such as Oracle and SAP
* "Application-Expressed Communications"--Kennedy's term for publish-and-subscribe systems like Facebook
* Communications Applications--In which he included sites like Twitter

Into the center of this collection comes a "Middleware Collaboration Environment," done up in Avaya red on Kennedy's slide. When Enterprise Connect GM Fred Knight asked Kennedy during Q&A if that middleware was Avaya Aura, Kennedy said it's Aura-plus, adding elements like APIs that help tie together the pieces.

And where Rob Lloyd of Cisco talked in his keynote about the bond between great hardware and great software, Kennedy stated outright, "In the end, this [Avaya] becomes a software company, software and services." In fact, he mentioned that managed services is the fastest growing asset in Avaya's portfolio now (with Radvision video sales also having doubled in the less-than-a-year since the company was acquired.

Kennedy also presented a list of 9 priorities for Avaya in the coming year, beginning with customer satisfaction, with "grow channel" at number 2--the data point here was that Avaya is adding 60 new partners a quarter. Video sales, with their strong growth, was number 3, and the final on the list, number 9, was "Financial Foundation." This of course has been a subject of much of the talk about Avaya ever since it was taken public in a major public equity deal that saddled it with a multi-billlion-dollar long-term debt load. That issue is under control, Kennedy said, with gross margins at an all-time high and high enough to service the debt, with the debt repayments themselves pushed out to the 2017-2022 time frame.

On the subject of WebRTC, Kennedy predicted that it will "start as on-ramps/off-ramps, and blossom to much more." When Fred Knight pressed him for details during Q&A, Kennedy said he believes WebRTC will blur the line between call control and applications, but won't obliterate it.

You can't underestimate the challenge that Avaya faces, going up against Cisco and Microsoft, which are both aiming to cut into Avaya's huge installed base of PBX-based customers looking to the next generation. But one thing you can't say about Avaya is that they're clinging to the visions of the past; they seem to recognize that future communications architectures are going to look very different from the past, and they're fighting to be as important a part of those next-gen architectures as they've been through all the previous generations.

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