Avaya's Top Technologist Touts Strongest-Ever Product Portfolio

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Sixty new products in 18 months.

It was an oft-repeated sound bite at Avaya's U.S./Gov Sales Leadership and Partner Conference last week, but it made a point: Avaya is innovating at a faster pace, and with more sophistication, than it has in its entire history, and has never had as strong a product portfolio as it does now.

Those 60 products, which include everything from its Flare collaboration platform to the Avaya Aura Contact Center, represent more launches than Avaya had made in the entire decade previous. And there's more to come, with plans to expand its Flare Experience collaboration platform onto Apple- and Android-based mobile devices, add full-featured voice, video and web conferencing tools to Avaya Aura Conferencing, and update its Avaya one-X mobile client all on the horizon for the new year.

CRN Senior Editor Chad Berndtson sat down with Dr. Alan Baratz, senior vice president and president, Global Communication Solutions at Avaya, to examine how Avaya's partner base, including its 1,800 U.S. partners, should be thinking about Avaya's product technology progress. With Avaya pushing partners hard to sell more of the overall Avaya portfolio as a way to maximize their -- and Avaya's -- profitability, it's an increasingly more crucial conversation in the Avaya channel.

You're seeing this interest in SIP generate further interest in technologies like session border control. Are there other adjacent technologies you'd put in that same category -- things that will grow as SIP grows?

Well, the important and compelling thing about SIP is that it's all about sessions: it can carry the IP, it can carry video, it can carry IM, maybe other new types of traffic. It means you can have a single control infrastructure supporting all of that communication. That enables a lot of really compelling capabilities for the end customer. First of all, it enables less expensive infrastructure, because you need only one platform instead of two or three. Second, it enables a more unified experience for the end user.

As a result, the things that will become more and more important to us as SIP becomes more pervasive are the capabilities, the application and the tools for non-voice modes of communication. Up until now, for Avaya, it really has been all about voice. But now, on the same platform, we can do video, we can do web collaboration, we can do IM, everything, so we need to start investing in those other modes of communication. Video codecs become more important to us. Screen sharing becomes more important to us. It's really about the different types of communication and the technologies required to support those modes.

So that's where partners should focus, on those technologies?

Or, on applications that leverage the underlying set of collaboration and communication capabilities. For example, earlier [in the conference] I showed a contact center application. We built that one, but partners could built apps like that for contact center or any business function. The thing I really like about that in a contact center environment is that if there is a problem in the queues, I don't have to walk over to an agent and plug in, I can simply conference into their call, and I can do that whether I'm at home, or on the road, or walking down a hallway. I have access to real-time communications infrastructure, and that coms out of Flare, the SIP that's sitting behind Flare, and a value-added application. So we're building that, but our partners could build a similar application.

We're hearing from Avaya about a lot of growth in contact center. Is that because there are more ways to add value to contact center now?

I actually think it's because of the fact that we are at the end of last year's technology cycle. I use the term "last year" loosely -- maybe the last few years, or decade -- because we've been using pretty much the same contact center architecture for the last six, seven, eight years now. It's all CTI [computer telephony integration]-based, which is a very complex protocol, and most contact center customers are now at the point where they're ready to start upgrading. The next architecture is SIP, and leveraging web services on SIP rather than with CTI, and enabling new kinds of capabilities like the ones we just talked about. I think it's an upgrade cycle.

But it's being able to add more granular intelligence to contact center, though?

There are always more applications you can add into the contact center environment, such as the social media management stuff where you can filter specific information, scour social networks and then bring data back to agents on-demand or off-line. That's clearly a new opportunity area that generates upside revenue value. I will tell you it's a lot easier to do all that on a modern SIP-based architecture with web services interfaces. So yes, there will be new applications and new application opportunities, but there's a lot going for contact center growth right now because of that upgrade cycle.

NEXT: Avaya On App Development, Flare Penetration

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