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New Avaya Aura System Platform Deploys Virtualization Technology

Avaya introduced its new Aura brand name at VoiceCon Orlando a few months ago, including the introduction of Session Manager for centralized SIP routing control and management of multi-system networks (i.e., Avaya and competitive systems from Cisco Systems, Nortel, and Siemens Enterprise Communications). With VoiceCon San Francisco on the near horizon, the company has introduced Avaya Aura System Platform, using standards-based virtualization technology for real-time communications. Avaya claims that virtualization will be the de facto method for deploying its future applications offerings.The first deployment of virtualization is for a new Avaya Aura mid-size enterprise solution, a single server system, with an optional redundant duplicated backup server, that is scalable up to 2,400 users and 250 locations. In addition to re-using the existing 8510 Server for the mid-market model, Avaya has also introduced a new 8800 Server. It is important to note that the previous 8510 Server mid-size model was not available in redundant mode.

Either current generation virtualized server, in simplex or duplex (redundant mode), will be able to run a variety of existing Avaya Aura applications, several that previously required dedicated servers. One virtualized server can now run Avaya Aura Communication Manager, Voice Messaging, SIP Enablement Services, Application Enablement Services, Utility Services and Media Services. A single server design significantly reduces, by a factor of up to 75 percent, hardware footprint, power, cooling, and maintenance requirements, according to Avaya.

The new design is characterized by a simplified installation and management process with integrated services for administrators, wizards and self-use administration. The entire solution can be remotely deployed in 1-2 hours, the company claims. The Avaya Aura mid-size solution for enterprises will be available globally through authorized Avaya channel partners in November. The early word from trial customers has been highly positive; for example, U.S. Helicopter claims it took one tenth the time to install and operate the new single server design compared to earlier implementations.

The Avaya Aura midsize solution for enterprises is available in either Standard and Enterprise Editions. Enterprise Edition includes the Avaya Unified Communications All Inclusive end-user package which includes station licenses for a variety of user productivity tools, such as desktop softphone, web portal, mobile communications, secure teleworking, and interoperability with either Microsoft OCS 2007 or IBM SameTime. Avaya has re-priced the All Inclusive bundle at $60 per user for Standard Edition customers (it was originally $50 per user). The pricing scheme for Avaya Aura Communication Standard and Enterprise Edition has also been greatly simplified. Each Edition was previously priced based on one of nine line size ranges, but is now based on a more reasonable three line size cells (below 100 lines, 100-1,000 lines, and greater than 1,000 lines). List prices range from $180 to $240 per user for Standard and $265 to $320 per user for Enterprise. Also note that Enterprise Edition includes Avaya Aura Session Manager software; it is list priced at $50,000 for Standard Edition customers.

Avaya is also enhancing two application server options, Modular Messaging and Meeting Exchange. Modular Messaging previously required two servers for application and storage requirements, but now can be supported using a single server configuration. The enhanced Meeting Exchange server solution now supports both voice and video conferencing and collaboration capabilities. Customers can also add contact center application support, such as Avaya Contact Center Express (CCE), a multi-channel contact center solution for mid-size enterprises. The option enables companies to deliver sophisticated customer service capabilities using an array of features including a unified desktop display, advanced multimedia tools and integration to CRM software including Microsoft Dynamics CRM. The CCE common administration tool will soon be enhanced to let companies manage the contact center-related data and capabilities of Avaya Aura Communication Manager from within CCE, according to the company.

What is the bottom line of the Avaya Aura System Platform announcement? From a competitive perspective the new Avaya mid-size market solution requires far fewer hardware servers than most competitive offerings, particularly Cisco Systems and Microsoft, for most customer configuration requirements. Cisco's UCM system design can be server intensive for a variety of customer configuration requirements, such as high end contact center applications; Microsoft requires dedicated servers for several common user requirements, such as conferencing, call recording, and PSTN media gateways. The large number of servers Avaya previously deployed made the old mid-size system appear to be a kluged solution of afterthought requirements; the "server farm" approach detracted from the feature/function capabilities of the offering.

The new design is cleaner looking (and less complex) with a lower total cost of ownership. Though Mitel Networks beat Avaya to the punch with its own virtualization solution last year, using a Sun server platform for its Mitel Application Suite (MAS) that includes generic software and several UC-type feature/function applications, Avaya has upped the ante against strategic competitors Cisco and Microsoft for moving forward using more current server design technology.

Although not yet formally announced, Avaya also plans to expand the new system design platform to its larger line size configurations currently using the 8730 Server model, continue using more off-the-shelf hardware, and introduce new feature servers and a new Essential Edition software package. Be prepared to see a few follow-up Avaya Aura announcements at VoiceCon San Francisco early next month. I hope to see you there.