Partners To Avaya: Be Clear On Radvision Integration, Channel Sales Plans


Avaya and Radvision partners see positives in Avaya's planned $230 million acquisition of videoconferencing specialist Radvision, but are cautioning Avaya to make clear to partners right away how they expect those video products to be sold through channel partners.

Avaya confirmed the $230 million acquisition Thursday: a pickup that gives Avaya an in-house option for video endpoints and infrastructure to complement its unified communications dominance and be a fully integrated part of its Aura UC platform, instead of relying on third-party OEM or strategic video partnerships.

The deal bolsters Avaya's ability to compete with Cisco, Polycom and LifeSize Communications in the enterprise videoconferencing space -- even if it means dumping partner agreements with Polycom and LifeSize down the line.

It's a statement move by Avaya, most solution providers agreed, especially as Avaya heads for an initial public offering. And it's especially good for Radvision, which has struggled to recover from the loss of a lucrative OEM agreement with Cisco two years ago.

"Avaya had been dabbling in video and not really committed to it," said Mike Brandofino, executive vice president, video and communications for Tampa-based solution provider AVI-SPL. "They had the LifeSize OEM and the Polycom resell relationship, but to go head-to-head against Cisco and Polycom, if you don't have a complete solution that's yours, you're at a disadvantage. So it's good for Avaya. And for Radvision, they needed to find a home after they were used and then kicked to the curb by Cisco. It's a great technology and a great platform."

[Related: Where's The Puck Going In Enterprise Videoconferencing?]

AVI-SPL, ranked No. 48 on CRN's 2011 VAR500 listing and one of the country's top video integrators, has been a Radvision partner for two years, and doesn't resell Avaya PBX products but has been brought in to support Avaya in deals where video integration work was required, Brandofino said.

When Cisco acquired Tandberg in 2010, it too readily opened up Tandberg video products to UC and data networking-focused Cisco partners that didn't have video backgrounds, Brandofino said, and also had a host of initial problems with distribution of the products.

The same thing could happen at Avaya, Brandofino warned.

"Cisco kind of messed up that distribution in the beginning by allowing folks who didn't really sell video to sell it," Brandofino said. "Avaya is a whole lot of audio and voice integrators that don't know know a lot about video. It will be interesting to see how they get those folks up to speed. I hope they set the bar for the people allowed to sell that technology high."

Brandofino urged Avaya not to ignore Radvision's channel partners and use the input of those partners to determine how it will certify partners to sell Radvision video.

"I'd much rather see us partnering with Avaya resellers," he said. "We don't sell your audio stuff, but if you have video opportunities, bring us in, and we'll do it, especially if it's a managed services component. It'll be a while before Avaya resellers are able to do that on their own, so Avaya should foster relationships with the prior [Radvision] reseller channel and make sure they keep that expertise."

Avaya needs to come up with a clear plan and communicate that as soon as possible to partners, VARs said.

"The key is Avaya's ability to integrate and get the playbooks and support structure out to the partners as soon as possible," said Ed Wadbrook, vice president, applications and collaborative solutions for Carousel Industries, an Exeter, R.I.-based solution provider and one of Avaya's top national partners.

Wadbrook said Radvision brings a number of strong products to Avaya's portfolio and would also be fit for Avaya's expanded efforts around DevConnect, Avaya's program for third party app developer partners. Radvision's holdings include BEEHD, a suite of voice and video developer tools.

"What they get is room systems, telepresence, Radvision's Scopia [line] -- which includes a pretty dynamic mobile client -- and a good development environment, which goes with what Avaya's been doing with DevConnect," said Wadbrook, a former director of Avaya's Aura product group and a longtime UC executive. "It's not dissimilar to what Cisco has done in terms of pulling together more of the video assets. What Radvision has is a scalable video coding (SVC) technology that offers a more advanced approach to videoconferencing and a more judicious use of bandwidth."

Next: Was Avaya's Move A 'Knee Jerk' Reaction?