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VoiceCon Witnesses the Debut of Avaya Aura

Avaya has wisely selected VoiceCon to announce a multitude of new and upgraded product offerings. The newly named Avaya Aura unified architecture solution supports Avaya and third party enterprise communications systems and applications across media and modes, networks and devices. Major core components of Avaya Aura are:* Communications Manager * Communication Manager Branch * Session Manager (new) * SIP Enablement Services * System Manager * Communication Manager Messaging * Application Enablement Services * Presence Services

According to the announcement materials, Avaya Aura is a new approach to enterprise communications, because it attempts to radically simplify complex multi-vendor, multi-modal, multi-location networks to create a truly unified architecture for enterprise communications. Using Avaya Aura, enterprises will be also be able to securely incorporate consumer communications methods, i.e., social media such as Facebook and Twitter, text messaging and peer-to-peer communications. For example, a traditional communications session could be augmented with a social network profile on the participants. This would enhance the communications experience by providing more useful contextual information about the session parties than currently provided by relatively simple Calling Party ID or Name information. In theory, customized widgets to social network home pages could also be added to facilitate real-time communications and enrich customer service transactions.

The Avaya Aura announcements are:

* Avaya Aura Communication Manager 5.2--a new release of Avaya's flagship IP telephony software.

* Avaya Aura Communication Manager Branch 2.0--a set of Communication Manager features optimized for enterprises with customer-facing distributed branch offices or retail locations (Note: Communication Manager Branch was formerly known as Distributed Office).

* Avaya Aura Session Manager 1.1--a new SIP foundation that dramatically expands Communication Manager's scale and control, while enabling new user capabilities.

* Avaya Aura SIP Enablement Services 5.2--an application for enabling SIP connectivity and capabilities, released in conjunction with Communication Manager 5.2 software.

* Avaya Aura System Manager 1.0--a new common management framework for Avaya Aura that provides centralized management functions for provisioning and administration to reduce management complexity.

* Avaya Aura Communication Manager Messaging--built in basic voice mail application for Communication Manager.

* Avaya Aura Application Enablement Services 4.2--the current release of Avaya's enhanced set of telephony APIs for customizing and integrating Communication Manager solutions.

* Avaya Aura Presence Services 1.0--the current release of Avaya's presence aggregation service for collecting and disseminating rich presence from Avaya and third party sources.

* Avaya one-X-UC All Inclusive--a package of desktop and mobility applications included with Avaya Aura Enterprise Edition (Note: Originally announced November, 2008).

* Avaya Integrated Management 5.2--a new release of Avaya system administration and network management tools for Communication Manager software, media gateways and switches that will be migrated over time into System Manager.

Avaya Aura Session Manager At the heart of the Avaya Aura unified architecture is Session Manager, a server-based software application that decouples users from the system they are configured behind while providing access to services available across the network whenever they are needed. The Avaya Aura Session Manager architecture is highly scaleable, available and secure, according to the company. It is available as a new solution or an upgrade to existing Avaya telephony networks. Avaya claims it will bring to customers:

* A lower total cost of ownership

* Faster time-to-market for new applications

* A centralized infrastructure for communications

* Inherent mobility across the enterprise

* A Services-Oriented Architecture (SOA) approach for enabling next generation application deployments and services

Specific intelligent networking benefits, according to Avaya, include:

* Reduced network complexity and costs through SIP routing, trunk sharing, international tail-end hop-offs, and centralized deployment of media applications.

* Increased user productivity and agility using a variety of access devices

* Vendor-agnostic support and location independence

* Innovative open applications

* Simplified management tools for network configuration and automatic least cost call routing

Session Manager, which can also be used by Avaya customers as an alternative to the existing SIP Enablement Services (SES) Server option, supports a unified network multi-vendor dial plan with intelligent routing. Session Manager servers can be centrally deployed at customer data centers, interfacing to IP telephony systems (including contact centers) via SIP trunk circuits. Third party SIP trunk gateways can be used to support TDM PBXs and/or IP telephony systems without current SIP trunk interface capabilities. The embedded Session Manager network routing table supplants each local system's network routing control functions, although simplified local PSTN routing control functions are retained should access to a Session Manager not be available. Avaya application services, such as Modular Messaging, Voice Portal, and Meeting Exchange, are available to station users (analog, digital, H.323, and SIP) behind all networked communications systems. The Avaya Aura unified architecture also supports presence services with multi-vendor protocol aggregation and systems management functions, including the full suite of Integrated Management tools and the new System Manager offering.

The initial release of System Manager provides for central administration of the network dial plan and routing policy. Avaya plans to enhance the offer to allow for common user provisioning across the Communication Manager, Session Manager and Presence Services components and eventually adopt Integrated Management features. It will ultimately be used to manage users across all Avaya applications as well as third party applications working with its pluggable SOA framework. System Manager benefits will include better data consistency, faster deployment, lower total-cost-of-ownership and less training.

Redundant servers can be deployed across an enterprise network for active/active, N+1 geo-redundancy requirements. Capacity is currently rated at 250,000 station users across 25,000 locations. Signaling links are secure, because TLS encryption and integrated SIP firewall are embedded in the design. Support of the SIP-ISC standard (3GPP) provides agile "feature" server integration for station users. Current IP telephony systems that are supported (based on internal testing results), in addition to Avaya Communication Manager models, include products from Cisco Systems, Nortel, and Siemens. Third party media gateways are also supported, such as those from Audiocodes. SIP trunk Service Providers (SPs) supporting the new solution include AT&T, Verizon, BT, and Orange.

Session Manager and System Manager software incurs no price fee when included as part of an Avaya Enterprise Edition Communication Manager software solution. There is a $50K fee for a single instance of Session Manager with Standard Edition Communication Manager solution and an additional fee for System Manager.

Avaya Aura Communications Manager 5.2 Communications Manager is the generic software package running on Avaya's S8XXX Media Servers. Release 5.2 upgrades and enhancements include:

* Processor Ethernet for S87X0 Media Servers: Allows support of H.248 media gateways, H.323 endpoints and SIP endpoints to connect directly to each of the redundant paired servers, eliminating the need for the more expensive G650 Gateway at a cost savings of up to 50% for hardware costs.

* S8510 Embedded Voice Messaging: Integrated voice messaging (previously supported on S8300 and S8400) is now available on the S85x0 Media Server, providing a cost effective messaging solution for mid-size customers.

* S8400 Enterprise Survivable Server: Provides the option of configuring a S8400 Media Server as an Enterprise Survivable Server (ESS) to provide enterprise-wide disaster recovery.

* Increased endpoint and trunk capacity: On S87x0-series servers IP (H.323) endpoint capacity is increased from 12,000 to 18,000; SIP capacities are increased from 12,000 to 18,000 endpoints and from 5,000 to 7,000 trunks.

* G430 Gateway: The G430 is a new H.248 media gateway intended for branches and sites with 2 to 150 users. The G430 has the same features as G250, G350 and G450 gateways, including SLS (standard local survivability) integrated in the gateway.

* Survivable SIP Gateways: Solution support for small, low cost third party, e.g., Audiocodes, customer installed SIP gateways and Avaya 96xx phones enables remote branches to stay connected during WAN outages.

* New telephony features: supports new telephony user features for EMEA market.

Communication Manager Branch 2.0 Communication Manager Branch was formerly known as Distributed Office (DO), a solution designed for a network of small line size facilities linked via SIP trunk circuits. The newly renamed Communication Manager Branch announcements are:

* Increased scale: Up to 2,000 branches with centralized dial plan and administration.

* G450 Media Gateway: For large branches up to 360 users.

* Contact Center Integration: Leveraging the ability to capture caller information and universal reporting (UUI/UCID), now calls can be intelligently routed to a centralized Voice Portal or call center allowing screen pop and end-to-end reporting.

* More flexible phone support: Complete line of Avaya phones including Digital Phones (2410, 2420), 96xx (H.323 and SIP), and 4690 conference phones now supported in addition to existing phones (16xx H.323 and WiFi 3631, 3641, 3645).

* Central management of promotional messages: Ability to push promotional messages that incoming customer callers hear prior to the auto-attendants.

* New features for CALA, EMEA and APAC markets.

* Additional key-hybrid features: Outside Line Group Access Restriction; Directed Call Pickup--Un-hold any Call; Auto Hold Enable/Disable; Auto Exclusion Coverage/Hold Enable/Disable; New FACs for Whisper Page; Activate/Deactivate Authorization Codes; LED Status Indication for Bridged Appearances of Line Appearances; Persistent Station States.

Communication Manager Branch will also support Session Manager by year's end.

System Manager 1.0 The new Session Manager-based System Manager includes the following capabilities and attributes:

* Common Console: Extensible browser-based console for managing all users and system connectivity enterprise-wide. Provides one place for accessing all System Manager capabilities: User Administration, Network Routing Policy, Monitoring, Security, etc.

* User Administration: Provides one place for provisioning users across Communication Manager and Session Manager. Will be extended over time to manage users across all Avaya products as well as third party applications that opt to leverage System Manager's pluggable SOA framework.

* Dial Plan Administration: Allows for central administration of enterprise-wide dial plans across multi-vendor PBX environments using Network Routing Policy.

* Network Routing Policy: Create system-wide dialing rules to cost effectively route calls using the enterprise's on-net IP network (tail-end hop-off) or set up least cost routing policies for a Long Distance provider.

* Fault Management: Centralized logs, alarms, and state monitoring.

* Security Management: Define trust domains, perform authentication and provide both administration and security audit logs. Centralized remote access and security policy management.

* Plug-In Architecture: Extensible management framework based on SOA makes it easy to extend management capabilities over time to additional products, applications and vendor solutions.

* Software Management: Common installation and licensing.

* Configuration Management: Solution level application provisioning.

Avaya Application Solutions Modular Messaging is Avaya's enhanced messaging platform. New Modular Messaging 5.0 features and capabilities include:

* Multi-vendor, multi-site centralization with SIP gateways, including dial-plan flexibility and a maximum mailbox length of 50 digits

* Session Manager compatibility

* Available on the more powerful S8730 Media Server

* Software only, option (MAS)

* New business user features, including a maximum of 5,000 caller applications, simpler zero out options, and auto message playback (Aria TUI)

* Full Domino and Exchange support (R5.1 3Q09)

* Enhanced serviceability and security

Avaya Voice Portal provides a variety of voice processing features and functions designed for contact center self-service applications. New Voice Portal 5.0 features and capabilities include:

* Interactive voice/video self service

* Multi-tenancy allows shared capabilities across many organizations

* Enterprise analytics with Avaya IQ

* Presence server integration

* SIP integration with Session Manager, SIP trunks, and new G860 Gateway

* Policy-based routing

* Pluggable data connectors to simplify enterprise integration

* Dynamic resource allocation between inbound and outbound

* Improved roles-based management, custom alarms, and administrable application data

Leveraging Voice Portal is Avaya's new announced Intelligent Customer Routing (ICR) for contact center environments. ICR delivers customers and their essential information to the correct agent or expert through the quickest and most efficient route possible. Customers can use speech self-service, i.e., Voice Portal, to provide key information--such as account number, transaction history and primary needs--and get connected to the best available resource in any location of the business. Higher levels of customer satisfaction, cost savings and organizational agility are achieved with this solution by using SIP, an open standards-based protocol that sets up multimedia communications sessions. ICR will be the first solution enabled by the new Avaya Aura multi-vendor SIP communications platform. With SIP, businesses can more easily route communications to global locations using multi-vendor systems. This allows customer service organizations to maximize all of their agents and experts, regardless of which vendor's equipment they use or where they are located. As a result, customer calls can travel farther, faster and with key information intact.

ICR also uses SIP to help contact center and IT administrators reduce the costs and complexity of customer service. With Avaya Aura, enterprises can deploy a global contact center operation using their existing multi-vendor systems, which improves cost savings and simplifies management. SIP also enables a more direct path from a customer's call to an agent--regardless of the agent's global location--a process that reduces the amount of off-network communications used and drives costs down further.

New one-X 9600 Deskphones A few weeks ago Avaya pre-announced several new IP desktop telephone instruments to supplement its existing portfolio of one-X 9600 models. The new models include the 9670G, 9620L, 9620C, and 9650C. The 9670G assumes the mantle as the new premier model of the portfolio. It includes a large color-based touch-screen display with one-touch access to people, information and user tools. Enhanced attributes are integrated Bluetooth and Gigabit Ethernet interfaces, high quality audio and speakerphone, and simplified access to Web services applications. The 9620L is a cost effective professional model with unique class 1 power requirements (2.2 mwatts). The 9620C and 9650C are color display versions of the original grey-scale display models. New software productivity features for the 9600 family include MyPhone USB, photo display, rings tones, edit-dial, and an enhanced call log.

Avaya one-X--UC All Inclusive Most likely the most important Avaya announcement of last year (though not receiving the attention it deserved), exclusive of the change in corporate leadership, was a new bundled pricing plan for a collection of UC desktop and mobility applications included at no cost with Enterprise Edition Communications Manager software (and only $50 per station user with the Standard Edition package). The UC All Inclusive pricing bundle includes station user license fees for: Avaya one-X Communicator (desktop client); Avaya one-X Portal (Web phone); VPN remote; Extention to Cellular and one-X Mobile; Intelligence Presence; and interface operability to Microsoft OCS and IBM Lotus Sametime. Previous to the bundling announcement the collective cost for these six UC options was several hundred dollars. Including the station license fees at no cost with Enterprise Edition (or even at only $50 for Standard Edition) helped Avaya set a new low benchmark price level for implementing a variety of desirable UC applications and capabilities. Avaya was motivated to bundle the licenses for no cost by the Cisco Unified Workspace License (CUWL) offer. The recently announced new price bundles by Siemens for its OpenScape UC Server solution followed the same trend of highly discounting once-expensive UC options.

Closing Comments Avaya rarely receives credit for product innovation, despite the perception by many (see my No Jitter feature article 3rd Annual TEQConsult Group Consultant Survey) as possessing the strongest overall enterprise communications solutions portfolio of any competitor. I include myself among those crediting Avaya for the widest and deepest portfolio of products and software applications. Avaya's annual shipments and installed customer base easily place the system supplier among the top tier global competitors, and it is currently the undisputed leader in total annual revenues ($5.7 billion FY08) for enterprise voice-centric communications products and services. When Avaya does pioneer a new product innovation it should be heralded as such, and Avaya Aura Session Manager appears to be qualify. Session Manager takes a significant step forward in leveraging two industry standards, SIP and SOA, for simplifying the integration of multi-vendor networks for purposes of call routing and applications fulfillment.

Recognizing that few customers have a network consisting of one vendor's voice communications system platform, Avaya developed Session Manager expressly to operate across vendor boundaries to benefit large enterprise customers with national or global networks. It is product that satisfies customer needs with "everything and everywhere" requirements using SIP signaling standards and a SOA standards framework for applications design and operation. Session Manager leverages SIP trunking to minimize customer transmission costs by reducing the number of inefficient trunk circuits, centralizing operations management with fewer staff, and deploying applications across a larger universe of potential stations users can result in hard dollar savings to customers at a time when every dime and quarter of expense outlays are being analyzed. Many customers are currently wasting vast amounts of money by failing to take advantage of recent (and some not-so-recent) developments in optimized networking configurations. These customers need to take a look at Avaya's product portfolio, especially the new Session Manager, and re-evaluate their networks at the earliest possible moment.

Allan Sulkin's two review articles covering this week's VoiceCon RFP tutorial, which he designed/moderated, and the market review session he presented will be published here in April.