Avaya's Randall: Sorry, Cisco, It's About Applications, Not Networks

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Marc Randall, the new senior vice president and general manager of Avaya Networking, says there are two schools of thought on the current convergence of networking, collaboration, the bring-your-own device trend and cloud computing.

One approach favors the network as the center of the architecture, with the applications and devices as components of that all-important network. The other suggests that the applications themselves are central to business and the customer experience and that the network architecture should be rethought to make applications run more successfully.

While Cisco Systems favors the former, Randall said, much of the emerging user experience points to the latter: an ecosystem approach where the application -- access, speed, reliability, mobility and security -- is king. This debate is why he left Cisco and came to Avaya, he said.

"The company that I came from is very siloed on, 'Just sell this product and this particular space.' It's, 'Sell this product in the access [layer], sell this product in the campus core, sell this product top-of-rack in the data center,' " Randall told CRN. "But I look at it differently. I see this shift in the user experience, and you have to a very tight linkage to the application to do collaboration. My prior company, that wasn't their focus, but I believe that is going to be the next inflection point."

Randall, who joined Avaya in January, is no networking rookie. He spent the past year as vice president and general manager of Cisco's Core Routing business unit, and before that about a year as senior vice president, products and offerings, at Brocade. From 2000 to 2008 he was president and CEO of Force10 Networks, which was acquired by Dell in 2011, and from 1993 to 2000 was a vice president of engineering at Cisco.

Randall said he has known Avaya CEO Kevin Kennedy since the mid-90s and the two saw eye to eye on a strategy for communication and collaboration sales that favors the application-centric approach to networking. His responsibility is to further position the data networking business Avaya acquired through Nortel as a prominent piece of that value proposition.

[Related: Avaya Channel Strategy Tilts Toward Full Portfolio Partners]

Avaya's most recent executive reorganization was done with cross-portfolio sales in mind, he said. Gary Barnett was promoted to senior vice president and general manager, Avaya Collaboration Infrastructure, and Brett Shockley became senior vice president and general manager, Applications and Emerging Technologies. Steve Bandrowczak, former vice president and general manager of Avaya Data Solutions, moved to a sales role working directly with Avaya customers.

According to Randall, he, Barnett and Shockley will continue to run their units as three separate product groups. But they're also all part of a new group that Avaya is calling Enterprise Collaborative Solutions, which looks at ways to manage the whole Avaya product line and develop solutions marketing and a go-to-market strategy that includes full portfolio Avaya sales.

Randall said he discussed the idea with a number of partners at Avaya's recent Technology Forum, a gathering of 500 Avaya partners held in early February. While Avaya has been steady in its annual channel partner conferences and partner council meetings, the Technology Forum was the first time since the Nortel acquisition that Avaya had hosted a formal partner discussion focused specifically on engineering and Avaya's technology road map. Several partners who attended told CRN that the data networking piece received particular attention.

"The question they kept asking me was, 'How do I put a value proposition that I can sell as a solution to my customers that includes Avaya networking and management?' " Randall said. "A lot of partners still do a lot of business on the VoIP side."

NEXT: The Answer Is Targeted Bundles

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