Flare Ignites: Avaya Fires Up End-To-End Video Portfolio, Complete With Cius-Killer

Avaya on Wednesday confirmed a dramatic update to its unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) portfolio that will give Avaya an end-to-end video and UC offering complete with a collaboration interface called the Flare Experience.

The updated UC&C portfolio will add a number of video conferencing products to its portfolio as well. It also marks the debut of a multimedia endpoint product based on Google's Android mobile OS, making good on rumors that Avaya would release a tablet, or at least, a tablet-like mobile device.

Avaya in the past year has spent much of its energy articulating a UC vision around Aura, its virtualized UC platform and one that makes use of SIP-based architecture. The new releases allow Avaya "to tie it all together on the front-end," said Nancy Maluso, vice president, Avaya Unified Communications Product Marketing.

"What ends up being valuable for Avaya is that the value of SIP and session-based communications hasn't really been seen or felt," she said in an interview with CRN. "If you can enable people to work more effectively together, it becomes very compelling for businesses."

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The key Wednesday announcement is Avaya Flare Experience, which is a user interface and software platform for managing various forms of communication, including instant messaging, audio-, video- or web-conferencing, and social networking.

It includes a touch-and-swipe user interface, drag-andd-drop voice and video conferencing capabilities, a virtual rolodex and the ability to download various productivity and other business applications. It was developed on Google Android, and at launch it'll be seen and used on a desktop video endpoint called the Avaya Desktop Video Device, though Avaya will also also be making Flare available for PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones.

"We built this experience with customers, finding out what it would be like, and we finally have the unified front end," Maluso said.

Avaya's moves come as the competition for UC supremacy heats up from Microsoft, Siemens and especially, Cisco, whose forthcoming Cius tablet is also an Android device and will serve a similar purpose to in the vision Cisco has for UC and collaboration around Quad and other tools.

Going toe-to-toe with Cius, in fact, will be the Desktop Video Device, which itself is the mobile device product that, in the weeks leading up to Avaya's announcement, many had surmised was a tablet. It's a mobile unit, but according to Maluso, "We're not calling it a tablet, because a tablet is really a computational device. If you think of the iPad, it's not optimized for collaboration."

The Video Device (estimated at $2,000, available in Q4) offers an 11.6-inch HD touchscreen display with video and audio capabilities, an HD 720-pixel camera and built-in dual microphones. It's enabled for SIP, 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity, and USB connectivity with an optional keyboard or handset. According to Avaya, future versions will support remote access over VPN connections and also 4G network access.

NEXT: Avaya's Video Lineup Takes Shape

Avaya is rounding out Flare and the new video portfolio with a number of additional products and services offerings. There's the Avaya Flare Experience for Avaya 9600 desk phones (available in Q4), which brings Flare tools, plus desktop integration with Microsoft Outlook, to the phones themselves. There's Avaya Collaboration Server ($27,000 list price with standard Avaya Aura software license, available November), which packs all of the Avaya 6.0 features into a single server with support for up to 50 endpoints using other multi-vendor H.323 or SIP communications systems.

Then there's a range of Avaya videconferencing releases, including Avaya one-X Communicator Desktop Video Soft Client, providing SIP-based video in a UC desktop interface ($0 with Avaya Aura Enteprise and $60 per user with Avaya Aura Standard, plus $42/user to enable video).

Further along, there's Avaya 1010 and 1020 video systems ($3,699 and $4,999 respectively, for workgroups and small conference rooms), Avaya 1030, 1040 and 1050 video systems ($9,999, $16,999 and $21,999 respectively, for mid-to-large conference rooms, including multi-party conferencing features), and Avaya Videoconferencing Manager 6.0, a software package for managing the various video tools. The products themselves use software from Avaya, while the videoconferencing hardware and codecs are under OEM agreement with LifeSize Communications.

Finally, there are professional and managed services offerings. Avaya Professional Services for Video is a series of consulting services around design and planning, video readiness assessments, infrastructure optimization, and implementation with existing SIP or H.323 environments. Avaya Managed Video Services include help desk and end user support for video management and scheduling functions.

There's also a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) version of Avaya web.alive, the company's web conferencing platform intended for business meetings, distance learning and analytics. Sold on a subscription model, web.alive is $600 per concurrent user per year, or premise-based (available now) or hosted (November) under custom pricing.

The Avaya rollout -- set to be made official at an event in New York Wednesday morning -- continues the flow of exhaustive, all-out product and services releases Avaya has made a priority since it first announced its acquisition of Nortel's enteprise business unit one year ago. Expect collaboration and video -- a specific area in which Avaya has not held much sway in the past -- to be key focuses for Avaya and legacy Nortel channels at Avaya Americas Partner Conference in Las Vegas next month.

"To be fully productive, employees need to simply connect via easy-to-use, fully integrated video, voice and text capabilities," said Kevin Kennedy, Avaya president and CEO, in a statement. "This is the heart of Avaya's people-centric approach to collaboration and the means to faster, better results with less effort and a lower total cost of ownership. We're delivering a more potent collaboration experience at one-third the cost using substantially less bandwidth over other solutions on the market today."