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Avaya & IBM Expand Working Relationship

Last week Avaya and IBM announced an expansion of their alliance relationship to deliver unified communications solutions backed by newly-Avaya-certified security products for enterprise clients and government organizations, worldwide. A new focus of the alliance will be the recently announced Avaya Aura unified communications architecture that will integrate with existing IBM converged communications services.An important element of the announcement was the expansion of the alliance to jointly deliver unified communications solutions that simplify complex mission critical communication systems, achieve accelerated return on investment and improve individual user productivity by supporting communications from any type of device using any type of network.

IBM and Avaya have had a long term relationship, but each company also has similar working relationships with others. IBM and Siemens Enterprise Communications have had a strong relationship going back many years when the computer giant sold its Rolm operations to Siemens. IBM also has a strong relationship with Nortel extending to providing server equipment for a variety of Nortel telephony systems for both small and large business customers. Other enterprise communications system suppliers also work with IBM in support of Lotus Sametime integration with their IP telephony systems, and Avaya is one of many telephony system suppliers who support Microsoft's OCS solution for unified communications applications.

It is important that IBM work with a market leader such as Avaya as a strategic initiative to compete against Microsoft, but the relationship also benefits Avaya in a similar way. There is little doubt that Microsoft is intent on making a big splash in the telephony market and pushing aside the traditional PBX system suppliers with its fully integrated telephony/unified communications OCS offering. IBM and Avaya need to work together to effectively compete against Microsoft's single system solution, hoping that customers will not want to risk purchasing all of their communications systems from a single supplier. IBM has not indicated that it plans to develop its Sametime Unified Telephony offering along the same lines as OCS, i.e. a full featured telephony system capable of replacing today's IP telephony systems. Although Avaya offers some desktop user applications, it will not stop the growth of OCS shipments, especially for customer presence and IM requirements.

The traditional PBX system suppliers, such as those cited above, will need to form strong alliances with IBM as a competitive measure to retain their current standing in the enterprise communications market. Cisco is a different story, because they are the dominant supplier of communications networks and can leverage this position to market and sell its telephony/UC communications solutions to remain highly competitive against Microsoft. There are many industry analysts like myself who see Microsoft and Cisco battling each other for market leadership in the next few years, with the remaining suppliers who survive settling for diminished market shares.