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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."