Talking up a storm

Simon Woollett, vice president of Avaya’s Unified Communications Solutions R&D sat down with Imthishan Giado during the telephony vendor’s recent partner conference to discuss how the Nortel acquisition has bolstered its research team.

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Talking up a storm Wollett: One of the benefits of good communications would be to avoid having to move people around the region so much.
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By  Imthishan Giado Published  April 19, 2010 Arabian Computer News Logo

What are the key trends you expect to see emerging in the unified communications (UC) space over the next year?


We see more integration coming in, more video, as well as an expectation of integration with third parties and Microsoft coming on-stream.

How are you working with Microsoft on jointly-developing future UC technologies?

We’ve been working with them collaboratively, but they keep changing their mind on how people should collaborate with them. We integrate with their OCS product line – they’re interesting because they’ve had several initiatives in the market. Those initiatives have changed over time. We’ve obviously inherited some relationships with the Nortel acquisition and we’ll do our best to make them work.


Has the recently-completed acquisition of Nortel significantly affected your development strategy?


It’s actually been very good. There was a lot of commonality in the objectives they had and we had. As we were able to do our planning last autumn and they were into more detailed engineering work, these things actually blend together quite well. We’re going to use the Avaya Aura reference architecture but many of the Nortel technology components plug into that very well. It’s things like the ACE product and the AS 5300 that have the same fundamental principles that we have for Aura and things like SIP.

They’re refitted into our environment. I wouldn’t say that we’ve changed anything in terms of our strategy. We’ve been able to benefit from some of their technology components and have been able to offer their customers a roadmap which clearly they did not have as a bankrupt company. We’re able to offer them some continuity but there was a lot more synergy in the way these things actually turned out than we originally expected when we started the exercise [of acquisition] last summer.

How much R&D capability did you acquire in terms of human assets from Nortel?
We have a very significant number – it was in the range of a 1000 R&D people who joined us out of a total of 6000 enterprise people who joined Avaya at the end of last year, so quite a reasonable number.

How do expectations differ across enterprises in the emerging market landscape?

In some of the emerging markets, a lot of the focus is on mobility. People are very mobile-phone centric so here in Asia we see a lot of expectation for mobile integration, probably as much as any other market.

The US has changed and caught up in the last few years. Expectations are global; internet technology has pervaded the globe and we don’t see as much differentiation as we used to a few years ago.

UC is often not seen as part of a larger mobile strategy but instead seen as an single element in the mobile space. How do you address this perception?

We’re trying to address this from an end-user perspective with regards to simplification and unification of the unified communications experience to the end-user. Another aspect that we’re driving is really trying to make video a more universal experience. People are focused right now on high-end, very expensive communications systems like telepresence.

It’s still quite difficult to use video effectively throughout the business.  As an organisation, we’re really not overly focused on that sector of the business. We think video conferencing and video in general needs to be a lot more ubiquitous to be useful to people.

Is cost a major obstacle towards widespread adoption of video in UC?

The cost [is one factor]. Some of the technology is not really matured – there is a lot of existing H323 technology out there – that’s really sort of yesterday’s IP technology.

We expect with the take up of SIP technology that it will be more straightforward for people to deploy these things. Our challenge is now to run with that emerging wave and make sure people have got a range of affordable SIP video devices that people can use in their enterprises from PC to low-end appliance to the bigger group systems.

How much role does video play in the overall UC strategy?

It’s difficult to say right now. It’s an expectation that people have got. Obviously there are people in their home environments using video both for collaboration and for long-distance communication. We expect to see more of that type of deployment in the enterprise environments as it becomes easier for people to roll out the technology and manage the bandwidth in some of these networks – that’s one of the other problems of course.

Most organisations, the way that certain technology works, it either hogs the bandwidth in the networks, it’s not very efficient, or there are security risks in P2P technologies like Skype. The sort of thing that we’re trying to do is take the best of the concepts of those technologies and turn it into enterprise-class capabilities that people will feel comfortable about deploying because we can help them manage the bandwidth, make it secure and easy to use. Those are the objectives that we’ve set ourselves and those are the things that we’re working on behind the scenes.

Has take-up of UC technologies increased among enterprises in recent years or is it still seen as something of a luxury?

I’m not sure that I would say it’s a luxury. It depends on how you deploy it. We have all-inclusive packages so if people buy our IP telephony solutions, they can get all-inclusive unified communications solutions. Some of the aspects of the deployment as opposed to licensing costs – I would agree that those have been problematic. We’re doing a lot of work on packaging, using virtualisation techniques to make those additional servers easier to put in the environment.

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