Catalyst Telecom: Avaya Voice VARs Should Expand Horizons To Tackle Cisco


Though many Avaya partners have made the switch to IP telephony, they often have left the network infrastructure, security and video pieces to other resellers. If they don't act now to defend their turf, voice-focused partners will start to lose out as data resellers, systems integrators and audio/visual partners enter the convergence space, said John Black, president of Catalyst Telecom, a division of distributor ScanSource, Greenville, S.C., during a keynote address at the conference in Hilton Head, S.C.

"You need to retrain the mind-set of your salespeople. When you do move to the converged reseller model, you insulate yourselves from other competitors," Black said. "[Partners that don't expand their scope are] going to expose their voice business to the data reseller that's also going to sell voice," he added.

Black touted a "quadruple play" converged solution based on technology from four of its vendor partners, including VoIP products from Avaya, infrastructure and security wares from Extreme Networks and Juniper Networks, and video gear from Polycom.

It's an idea that resonated with Ken Mitchell, account manager at Advanced Communication Technologies, a Florence, Ala.-based Avaya partner that's looking to expand into networking. "We're seeing that we're leaving a lot of money on the table," he said.

Sponsored post

The investment in training and certification will be significant, Mitchell noted. "It's going to take time, but time is the hard thing. There are certifications for each of these folks," he said, adding that such investments should quickly bear fruit, however.

Jeff Hiebert, president of Avaya partner ROI Networks, said it took his San Juan Capistrano, Calif.-based company six months to get up to speed with Extreme and about one year for Juniper. But now that those pieces are in place, ROI's multivendor solutions are winning deals against Cisco Systems, he said.

"You need to force objectivity in these decisions, force a side-by-side comparison. Don't be afraid to do a bake-off," Hiebert said.

To further such efforts, solution providers are calling on the vendors jointly to develop training, deeper discount programs and product bundles plus step up marketing efforts and unified configuration, management and support offerings. "I would like to see a bundled discount program," said David Giangano, president of Juma Technology, a Farmingdale, N.Y.-based solution provider. Juma consistently wins deals against Cisco with Avaya, Extreme and Juniper, but such a discount program would help counteract the additional discounts Cisco partners get for VoIP deals through Cisco's Value Incentive Program, he said.

Neal Stanton, president and CEO of Consultedge, Whippany, N.J., said joint marketing from the vendors will be a key piece to compete with Cisco's proclamations that a one-vendor solution is best. A channel program specifically built for convergence partners also is key to helping customers find skilled partners, he added.

"You need to keep those without the knowledge out," Stanton said.

Catalyst Telecom and its vendor partners say they are working on all of those issues. On the training front, for example, the distributor is mounting road shows to provide partner training on combining vendors' products to sell converged solutions.

In addition, Catalyst Telecom has brought executives from Avaya, Extreme, Juniper and Polycom together to talk about the possibility of creating a common "alliance" certification that would differentiate solution providers as certified convergence partners. Vendor executives also said their companies are working jointly to build tools such as configurators to ease the deployment of multivendor solutions.

The "quadruple play" gives partners a way to compete with Cisco as it touts its end-to-end convergence portfolio, said Lou D'Ambrosio, group vice president of global sales, channels and marketing at Avaya, Basking Ridge, N.J.

"Cisco is a beatable competitor. It's not a competitor that anybody here should fear," D'Ambrosio said. "The problem is when we're not showing up."