Partners: Avaya Data Business Will Be Slow, Steady Climb2:52 PM EST Fri. Nov. 16, 2012
When Avaya acquired Nortel's former enterprise unit in 2009, one of the pressing questions was how Avaya would grow a data networking business that had little market share to begin with, with an ecosystem of solution providers overwhelmingly inclined toward telephony and unified communications, not network plumbing.
Three years later, there's been slow and steady progress for the business now known as Avaya Networking, which includes everything from switches and routers to VENA, Avaya's virtualized converged infrastructure framework. And what's changed in the past year is a subtle but important shift in the way Avaya wants partners to think about attaching data products to UC and contact center (CC) sales.
Whereas a year ago, Avaya heavily emphasized cross-portfolio sales and urged partners to evangelize Avaya as a data networking contender, now the approach is to talk to customers first around the areas they're already interested in making significant Avaya investments -- namely, UC and CC -- and then back their way into the data conversation by talking about taking costs and complexity out of their underlying infrastructure.
"The strategy is not to go toe-to-toe with Cisco in data. That's a losing strategy," said Tom Mitchell, senior vice president and president, Avaya Go-To-Market, in an interview with CRN at Avaya's Americas Executive Partner Forum in Cancun, Mexico, this week. "But we have a unique slice of the data center, and in the midmarket, you have two major benefits: one, that the customer gets it all in the same rack, bought from the same place, and two, a very favorable price and removing costs to the partners."
According to what internal Avaya sources told CRN, fewer than one-third of Avaya UC and contact center partners also sell data at present. But there has been continued progress; Alan Hase, vice president of Avaya Networking, said overall attach rates on data networking sales, particularly in the small and midsize business segment, have doubled in the past year.
Avaya is attempting to show partners that data networking increases most deal sizes by four times when it comes to contact center sales, and as much as six times when it comes to unified communications sales, Hase said. The traditional wisdom that voice and communications create tremendous drag for underlying infrastructure still holds.
"There are tectonic shifts going on in networking," Hase told CRN. "Consumerization, BYOD, virtualization, mobility, things likes that. Most of those shifts are happening in two spaces: the data center edge, as it works with applications, and then the network edge, interacting with devices. The key is to build networking technology to stitch that together that allows users, who move, to interact with applications and storage, that move, in ways they did not move before."
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Avaya's mission has been to build both channel support programs that make it easier for partners to sell the data networking portfolio as well as more technology and integration features into the products themselves. Avaya's Hase said to expect Avaya to continue with successful promotions and to add extra margin points on certain types of data deals, as well as to emphasize channel offers like Networking Angels, a program through which Avaya provides staff data networking experts to partners that help design infrastructure solutions, provide engineering feedback and close deals.
"In the end, there has to be something to motivate the partner to sell that bundle of technologies," Hase said. Specific to the technology, Avaya recently built in capabilities to both its UC and data products that make things like provisioning and the creation of VLANs that much simpler. Avaya customers that have its IP Office system and IP Phones and also Avaya's ERS 3500 Ethernet switching, for example, can deploy all necessary settings and implement QoS and VLANs using one command, where in a different system it might require tens or hundreds.
Another useful technology Avaya's using is called SLA Monitoring -- a network management tool for converged voice and data networks that, Hase explained, works in the background to measure things like latency, jitter and loss. That technology will be built into its switches as a performance-monitoring tool over the next six months.
In the data center, count on Avaya to play up its Collaboration Pods, which were announced at VMworld in August and tie together Avaya products and virtualized infrastructure frameworks with industry servers, EMC storage and VMware software. It's Avaya's version of the converged infrastructure model most of its data networking competitors, from Cisco and HP to Brocade and Juniper, are pushing. Hase said the Collaboration Pods are in beta trials now and will be orderable by the first quarter of the new year.
Hase said Avaya understands partners will still want to work with other data networking vendors on Avaya UC and contact center deployments, but synching the strategy around one vendor both reduces costs and limits complexity.
"Take HP working with ShoreTel," Hase said. "That's months of legal documents passed back and forth just to get a feature done. Who wants to do that?"
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Avaya partners said the company still has an upward climb when it comes to growing its data networking business, but that the story has improved a bit every year.
"Avaya's put some good programs in place and trying to get the right support here. It's not the type of thing where we can go into a Cisco environment and say 'change your network.' Replacing a Cisco network is not our game," said John DeLozier, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Arrow S3, the Irving, Texas-based solution provider business of distributor Arrow. "We have to play at the edge and position it that way. You can sell them on that and then say 'You're going to need a switch, you're going to need a router and why would we leave you with an incomplete solution?'"
Dan Ferguson, president and CEO of AdvanTel Networks, a San Jose, Calif.-based solution provider, said AdvanTel is seeing a slowly increasing attach rate on data sales.
"You're not going to go in and be able to do a net-new rip-and-replace of a Cisco environment, but there is more of an opportunity there than there was five or six years ago," Ferguson said. "Cisco is not getting the automatic nod they used to."
Avaya's gotten stronger on messaging, partners said, particularly on how they see UC and CC sales as a pathway to attaching data and why the technologies working together, all from Avaya, make more sense for customers.
"Education is such a key piece of it," said Ed Dolan, executive vice president of DJJ Technologies, an Islandia, N.Y.-based solution provider. "The transition for the [Avaya] attach is a lot easier for us now, instead of just selling the Adtrans and the Extremes to get there."
"We need data to be part of a total solutions approach," said Steve Leidholdt, president and CEO of STL Communications, a St. Louis-based solution provider. "We'd approach it not as a lead product but a part of a solutions package offer that we make to the client."
Avaya's Mitchell predicted that in the next year, data networking would be a compelling story for Avaya, particularly with partners adding technologies such as Radvision video that necessitate a more efficient underlying infrastructure for customers.
"You're going to see those attach rates go way up," Mitchell said. "It's a flanking strategy, not a frontal assault to Cisco. Within our business envelope, it's a terrific win for us for the partner and customer."
PUBLISHED NOV. 16, 2012