Avaya Debuts Fully Virtualized, VMware-Ready Aura Platform8:00 AM EST Wed. Dec. 05, 2012
Avaya on Wednesday launched a fully-virtualized version of its flagship Aura UC platform, meaning that Aura customers can now easily enable Aura applications in VMware-based environments instead of needing dedicated servers to deploy Aura.
It's a much-anticipated move from Avaya, whose Aura Virtualized Environment (VE) applications have been designated "VMware-ready." The new platform preserves all of the standard Avaya Aura system functions, including software duplication and redundant session controls for SIP access. Aura VE integrates with VMware's vCenter, and companies that use VMware can access and use Aura applications in their existing infrastructure.
"This is a great way for customers to migrate if they have VMware today and are looking for a better UC solution," Tac Berry, product marketing manager for Avaya Collaboration Platforms, told CRN. "They can now load Avaya Aura directly onto those VM servers."
Avaya's made the full range of its major communications applications available in Aura VE, including Aura Communication Manager, Avaya Session Manager, Application Enablement Services, Aura Presence Services, Flare Experience, Aura Conferencing, Agile Communications Environment (ACE) and Aura Call Center Elite.
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Customers will still have the option to buy the fully virtualized Aura or the server-based dedicated hardware version of Aura. They can also combine servers and virtualize some applications if they choose. Yet another option will be Avaya's recently announced Collaboration Pods -- pre-packaged converged infrastructure solutions that combine Avaya UC and networking, EMC storage, VMware software and Lenovo, as well as other third-party servers.
The pricing scheme for Aura VE is the same as server-based Avaya Aura, with no change in the licensing model, according to the company. Aura software and licenses are offered based on users and application features, with no additional charge for Aura VE virtual appliances the customer wants to download. Existing Avaya customers should be able to upgrade for about $100 per user, Avaya said, while new Aura VE deployments will net-out between $250 and $600 per user.
According to Berry, the Aura VE move will help Avaya deepen its relationship with current UC partners that want to capture more of customers' overall data center spend.
"They need to be part of that discussion," Berry said. "This is the discussion now happening between the UC people and the IT people. They can offer the software and support the implementation and also give customers more options for buying their UC platform while adding services, too. Many of our partners are already VMware resellers, so they see the connection immediately."
Avaya has no immediate plans to offer a similar version of Aura with other virtualization environments such as Microsoft Hyper-V or Citrix XenServer, though it does already offer its One-X communicator platform in Citrix VDI environments.
"It's something we will look at as we hear more feedback and customers see more incentives to move to Hyper-V," Berry said. "We do see it as possible."
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Other UC vendors, such as Mitel, are already heavily integrated with VMware environments. Avaya's Berry said that Avaya wasn't convinced two years ago that customers were ready to buy their UC systems that way, although the market has now reached a point where it's coming up at least one-third of the time in customer conversations.
"We don't see this as being late," he said. "People now have a much better understanding of how real-time communications are doable in this environment, and we went forward when we felt we could do the full-scale version as well as the dedicated server version."
Select partners got access to Aura VE last week, and Berry said the release would be a "controlled" rollout, with 60 having been approved for VE already. Berry also acknowledged partner concern that with a virtualized, software license-centric sale, partners stand to make less money than they might if they were reselling and integrating physical servers.
"But that's not where they should be making their money," Berry said. "They should be making it on the applications. I understand there will always be partners who want to sell hardware, but you have to understand virtualization is here; you can't deny that."
Avaya partners said the Aura VE move is another good step toward making Avaya more relevant to the crucial virtualization conversations happening in the data center.
"I like that I can shift the focus and make the discussion more about the software and application," Jeff Hiebert, CEO of ROI Networks, a San Juan Capistrano, Calif.-based solution provider, told CRN. "That's a discussion about further simplifying their network, and VMware is the market leader here, so that makes sense."
David Nahabedian, principal and co-founder of Integration Partners, a Lexington, Mass.-based solution provider, said it's a key step for Avaya's data strategy, as well. Integration Partners, which was a legacy Nortel data networking partner and added Avaya about a year before the acquisition, is keyed in on converged infrastructure and how customers want to buy it, he said.
"I think it would have been nice if they'd done this a little sooner, but it'll be a good pathway for existing Avaya or Nortel base customers," he said. "It's absolutely a direction they have to go in, and this plays more in our wheelhouse as an integrator and the data expertise we have in that channel."
Avaya's data networking and data center strategy was a big topic at the company's recent Americas Executive Partner Forum in Mexico. Partners generally feel the growth of Avaya as a true networking vendor will be less about competing with incumbents like Cisco and more about getting customers to understand the benefits of an Avaya infrastructure -- and using Avaya's Virtual Enterprise Network Architecture (VENA) -- to support the Avaya voice, UC and contact center platforms they already use.
"I like VENA and what they're trying to do, but there are still a lot of gaps in their data portfolio," ROI's Hiebert said. "Avaya doesn't support the whole system like Cisco can. Avaya will continue to be our UC partner, but it's on us to figure out how to become infrastructure integrators and build the platforms the customer needs."
PUBLISHED DEC. 5, 2012