Adtran Enters UC Market With New Gear, Software Applications


Adtran on Monday debuted four new product lines around unified communications, marking the Huntsville, Ala.-based company's first formal entry into the crowded UC space.

The product lines, collectively called NetVanta Unified Communications, will be available through the channel and according to Adtran can be customized for various business settings with an eye toward services revenue.

The move is a big step for SMB-oriented Adtran, which is continuing to grow its channel footprint after a strong year of channel accolades for its hardware products.

"We've been a VoIP supplier for a long time and been working with carriers for a while, building out SIP trunking and services among other things," said Jeff Wissing, senior product manager for unified communications at Adtran. "The UC products really kind of finalize that piece of well-roundedness for us, and give us a strong, premise-based solution that draws on a lot of experience with IP telephony. It also takes us more into the enterprise channel, working with resellers and solution partners."

The products were designed, according to Adtran, around the idea that definitions of unified communications are loose at best. That is, a UC suite can encompass everything from IP telephony to video platforms to mobile infrastructure needs, and customers want to be able to customize UC suites to what they need for communications tools at a given moment.

"You don't need to use all of it," Wissing said. "Once you get communications integrated with the way the customer does business, that's the real business value of unified communications -- it's business enablement. You don't want to contort the business or change how they operate on a day-to-day basis. Changing user behavior is very difficult. We think it's more important to understand how they work and make the solution about that."

Adtran's UC portfolio includes the NetVanta UC Server, a software-based application designed for Microsoft Windows platforms and for customers who want to bring UC capabilities to legacy PBX systems. It can scale to more than 2,000 users, according to Adtran, and includes unified messaging, fax server, auto-attendants, personal assistant, text-to-speech, customized notifications and other features.

Next is the NetVanta Business Communications System, which as a suite ties together Adtran's NetVanta 7000 Series IP-PBX offering with the UC Server. The overall hardware/software package can support up to 100 users and is intended for new installations and remote offices looking to add a combined voice, data and security platform.

The third debut is the NetVanta Enterprise Communications Server, an IP-voice system that can accommodate from five to 2,000 users on a single server. It's similarly designed to work with Microsoft Windows and Active Directory environments, and is also SIP-based, including features like click-to-dial, paging, a conference server, emergency notifcation and other phone-based applications.

Finally, there's NetVanta Business Application Server, also a Windows-based suite and Adtran's major offering around CEBP (communications enabled business processes). It's software-based and uses graphical drag-and-drop service to manage multiple NetVanta UC products, also offering line of business application databases, fax capabilities and a paging server. According to Adtran, it can be tailored to legacy PBX systems, used with collaboration suites like Microsoft OCS and IBM Lotus Sametime, or be launched as a standalone.

Ted Cole, Adtran's vice president of channel sales, estimates that about 20 percent of Adtran's 2,600-or-so solution providers will be ready to offer its full UC capabilities at launch.

One of the big growth opportunities, Cole said, is that the UC portfolio addresses markets with existing Cisco, Avaya, Nortel or other systems -- an easy turnkey to add UC without a lot of changes in infrastructure.

"It's almost a co-opition," Cole said. "We have a number of partners that are also Cisco partners, or Avaya partners, or Shoretel partners. We've been successful in co-opition and we see no reason to change that because it allows VARs to get to know Adtran better and understand how we can add to what they already have."

Adtran sees big benefit for SMBs that need to rely on UC staples like advanced notification. The opportunity is especially big for VARs with Microsoft practices -- given the Adtran UC products' integration with Microsoft environments -- to add services around deployments.

"I think if you look at how the market is evolving, products like NetVanta UC allow people in the small and medium enterprise space access to things that had previously been only available to large enterprises," said David Schenkel, Adtran's senior technology analyst. "There's huge savings to be gained on all fronts with UC in the small and medium business market. Look at the growth of appointment reminders -- think of any industry that uses appointment reminder technology. For resellers, there's a huge ROI opportunity to offer and a huge services opportunity."

ROI, margins and services, of course, are all music to VARs' ears.

"We're a convergence company, so it's all tied back to the integration piece of voice and data. What that means is applications," said Jim Poull, vice president of sales at CCC Technologies, an Elk Grove Village, Ill.-based solution provider. "Everyone talks turnkey, but in this case you've got a proven organization taking their switches and routers and integrating their NetVanta products and making a UC product that's just phenomenal."

Poull's shop sells Avaya, Juniper, Extreme and Fortinet among other vendors, and he said he admired Adtran's ability to offer products that integrate with a lot of those offerings. In essence, Adtran plays well with others, he explained, and he'd like to see even more effort from Adtran executives in marketing the brand.

"We feel their play works," he said. "They offer aggressive margins, so it's a profitable opportunity. And there's recognition in the branding, too. There isn't anyone we know of that when we speak to them doesn't know Adtran, although most of the time that's a conversation that starts with, 'they do CSU/DSUs [channel service unit/data service unit], yes?' And that's true and that's a heritage and it's a good way to help them enter another space that's definitely crowded."

Poull agrees that video is an important trend to watch in line with the growth of UC solutions, but he sees event notification as being among the the best UC opportunities for SMB customers.

"Emergency event notification is big, but at a basic level, what about just being able to get word out that the school bus is going to be late?" he said. "What we're seeing around the unified communication platform is more business embedded data hooks. Not to make it sound basic or bland, but if I can make computers talk to each other -- if I can do more around communications without human intervention -- I've relieved a stress or point of failure."