Avaya's Latest IP Office Update Is Also Nortel SMB Milestone

Avaya on Tuesday launched version 7.0 of Avaya IP Office, its flagship unified communications offering for SMBs.

It's a milestone release for Avaya, because it completes the integration of Nortel Enterprise Solutions' IP and digital phones fully into Avaya's IP Office platform. Nearly 18 months after Avaya completed its $915 million acquisition of Nortel NES, Avaya solution providers can now offer IP Office as fully compatible with legacy Nortel SMB systems -- ensuring smooth migration to the Avaya platform for their customers.

"We believe we've been very fast to offer the convergence of an acquisition and support the phones," said Isabelle Guis, Avaya's senior director of marketing for SME. "We've also made it a lot simpler for customers to migrate."

The small- and medium-sized enterprise (SME) segment, which is how Avaya refers to the SMB space, is a 100-percent channel business for the vendor. According to Avaya, it now has a customer base of 30 million SME users worldwide: about 14 million of which were former Nortel customers, and 16 million of which came from the "classic Avaya portfolio," Guis said.

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Version 7.0 of IP Office was actually made available to partners in late March, and Avaya is already celebrating customer wins. The vendor is scheduled to be joined by two IP Office 7.0 customers, music booking firm The Agency Group, and Carlo's Bakery of TV's "Cake Boss" fame, at an event in New York Tuesday to announce the release.

Part of the 7.0 release is Avaya's Data Migration Tool, which lets Avaya partners transfer their clients' existing business data, such as phone extensions and voicemails, to their new systems without interruption. Avaya is further launching a number of new desktop phones, including color touchscreen models, using technology it bought through its acquisition of Swedish audioconferencing vendor Konftel in January. Those range in price from MSRP $265 to $590 per phone.

Pricing for the IP Office systems hasn't changed, and deployments usually run between $2,500 and $7,100, depending on users and system requirements. Avaya user packages, which are categorized as mobile worker, teleworker, power user, office worker, customer service agent, customer services supervisor and receptionist, have one-time charges between $89 and $599 each.

According to Guis, Avaya has retained all of the former Nortel service provider partners selling into the SMB segment. From a VAR perspective, more than three-quarters of top former Nortel partners have adopted IP Office in North America, she said.

What'll come next, Guis said -- and which Avaya plans to mention during Tuesday's media event -- is making Avaya's Flare Experience collaboration platform available for SME customers in a way that suits them, as well as a hybrid cloud version of IP Office that moves some of IP Office's applications to a hosted format. Firm details on both of those plans will come later this year, Guis said.

In the meantime, expect continued updates to IP Office every six to nine months.

"Our channel partners want to see more innovation and that's the reason why we've been doing this conversion so fast," Guis said. "We wanted to have this done so we could focus the entire innovation and the entire R&D on one platform."

Next: Avaya Partners See Easy Migration With IP Office 7.0

Avaya partners told CRN that IP Office's 7.0 release is an important step in the Avaya-Nortel migration, because it means they can reassure customers concerned about having to rip out or overhaul their Nortel products to migrate to Avaya.

Avaya hasn't announced an end-of-sale for Nortel's Business Communication Manager (BCM) -- the SMB-focused Nortel solution -- but that writing's been on the wall for some time, said Dan Silverman, owner and president at Telanet, a Toronto-based solution provider.

"We can now take the legacy Nortel or BCM product and link it to IP Office. There's a clear-cut migration path going forward, and it's proven that it works, so we can take this to the market with the rest of our client base," he said. "We can say 'OK, you've got a BCM, we can make IP Office talk to it.' This lets Avaya continue to move the ball forward but lets customers do it at their own pace."

The Agency Group, a music booking agency headquartered in the U.K., is an IP Office 7.0 customer. With six offices worldwide, including three in the U.S., two in Europe and one in Canada, it has about 160 employees. It had been using a BCM 50 VoIP phone system from Nortel in its Toronto office, but the BCM 50's limited capacity -- only 12 SIP trunks -- was no longer sufficient, said Howie Gold, The Agency Group's IT Director.

"We needed at least 30 to 35 SIP trunks, and were maxed out on the BCM 50," Gold said. "With the IP Office, there's really no limit, we could get up to a couple of hundred if we need to. The best part was that Avaya did a really good job of transferring all the feature codes that people on a Nortel set are accustomed to using, so they're able to just pick up with it and it works."

Telanet's Silveman said he's seen a big change, especially among longtime Nortel customers, in how they embrace Avaya solutions. With IP Office, they can see an easy migration path from Nortel to Avaya that won't require massive changes to their infrastructure.

"People are much more receptive to talking about it now," Silveman said. "People had been saying, 'Well, it's not Nortel I'm not sure about that.' But a lot of that perception is disappearing very rapidly. It's not massive buzz, but there is buzz. Customers are asking us about it now."