Avaya, Skype Team For Integrated UC Infrastructure

Avaya and Skype are finally making good on long-held rumors of a strategic partnership -- one intended to give Avaya another tool in its UC arsenal while driving Skype adoption in business settings.

The partnership, unveiled Wednesday, is a two-phase integration that will bring Skype interoperability to Avaya UC and infrastructure products. Avaya's UC products will support Skype Connect, the tool Skype unveiled earlier this year as a means for sending and receiving Skype communications through existing IP PBX infrastructures. An Avaya infrastructure user could make calls using Skype, for example, but the Avaya products can also assign policy, such as who can make Skype calls and how often they can be made.

The first phase of the agreement extends to Skype voice capabilities only, and will be ready this quarter. The second phase, expected to be completed by the second half of 2010, will integrate Skype video, messaging and presence technologies as well. Routing, conferencing, messaging and contact center functions will be interoperable with Skype applications, said Alan Baratz, Avaya senior vice president and president, Global Communications Solutions.

"Customers on Avaya infrastructure will be fully federated with complete Skype services," Baratz said on a Wednesday morning conference call announcing the deal.

Sponsored post

The Avaya infrastructure products and platforms that will support Skype interoperability from the outset include Avaya Aura, Avaya CS1000, Avaya IP Office and Avaya BCM, giving the vendor a full range of UC options for enterprise and SMB customers alike.

Avaya customers will still need to set up a Skype Connect account directly with Skype to use the service, and it will only be available in the U.S. for the time being. Baratz said that Avaya's direct sales force and its channel partners will be important for helping customers understand the value and benefits. As part of the agreement, Avaya Connect channel partners can earn service fees for referring customers to Skype Connect.

Next: Big Incentives For Both Companies

An Avaya-Skype strategic alliance has been long-rumored, not least because the two companies are both part-owned by private equity investor Silver Lake Partners.

For Skype, it allows the popular consumer VoIP service to continue making inroads into business enterprise settings, while also drawing on Avaya's sizable community of channel partners. Skype earlier this month introduced a formal channel partner program, hoping to create a network of channel partners who can incorporate Skype into networking and infrastructure solutions. According to David Gurle, vice president and general manager of Skype for Business, Skype boasted 124 million average monthly connected users in the second quarter of 2010.

In late August, Skype released Skype Connect 1.0, an updated version of Skype for SIP that allows users to connect Skype to their existing PBX infrastructure to make outbound and receive inbound Skype communications. Skype Connect will work not only with Avaya's SIP architecture, including its virtualized UC platform Aura, but also with PBX and UC systems from Cisco, ShoreTel, SIPfoundry, Siemens and Freetalk, as well as connect older PBXes using various gateways.

For Avaya, the deal gives the networking titan another UC booster shot, following this month's debut of the Avaya Flare Experience and an expansion of Avaya's video portfolio. Last week, Avaya also confirmed the hiring of former Polycom video solutions chief Joe Sigrist as its new vice president and general manager, video.

Both Avaya and Skype profess interoperability with other vendors' platforms, too. Gurle said that Skype "will look into other partners who may want to benefit from these interfaces."

When asked about whether Avaya and Skype would join the recently created Unified Communications Interoperability Forum (UCIF) as a way to promote interoperability among platforms, Baratz said Avaya had held off joining because of "governance issues" and Gurle said Skype was looking into it.

The financial arrangements between Avaya and Skype as part of the alliance were not disclosed.