Avaya To Sell Third-Party Apps Through Channel Distribution

Avaya on Tuesday confirmed a new offering in its DevConnect app developer program. Through this program, channel partners and Avaya customers will be able to buy third-party-developed, Avaya-compatible applications either directly from Avaya or through Avaya distributors like Westcon Group, Catalyst Telecom or Jenne.

It's a big expansion for the Avaya-centric developer ecosystem, in that previously, various Avaya-compatible applications were only available from the Avaya developer partners themselves or through those partners' resellers. Now, a partner wanting to sell Avaya products and Avaya-compatible applications can source all those wares from one place.

Developers who gain admission to Avaya's DevConnect Select Product Program -- a new membership tier within the overall DevConnect program -- will be able to sell their applications through Avaya and Avaya channel partners, with an agency fee paid to Avaya for doing so.

Avaya's contention is that a streamlined sales process will eliminate the hassle of multivendor relationships and several layers of transactions for Avaya solution providers and customers, allow third-party developers a broader sales channel for their applications, and create stickiness for Avaya's own products with more applications for those products that are more easily acquired.

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"We see big benefit in having a large ecosystem," said Eric Rossman, vice president of developer relations at Avaya, in an interview with CRN. "We want to take those apps and make them more available in a more streamlined way to customers. Partners can order third-party portfolio products the same way they would an Avaya product."

DevConnect Select will be initially available in the U.S. only, but is expected to expand to other global markets later this year. Avaya has named eight DevConnect partners to the Select program at launch: 911 ETC, Communication Resources Inc., Conveyant Systems, DATEL Software Solutions, Integrated Research, NMS Adaptive, VBrick Systems and Xima Software. Rossman said Avaya expects to add about 10 to 12 new Select partners every quarter, and that Avaya tests between 30 and 35 applications for Avaya compatibility every month.

Avaya has more than 17,000 registered users for DevConnect, meaning users that have signed up can access its APIs and basic training for free. It has only about 400 DevConnect Technology Partners, which are partner companies, strategic vendor partners and commercial ISVs whose products have been put through the paces by Avaya's engineers and validated as compatible for Avaya networking environments.

It's from that pool of Technology Partners that Avaya is evaluating companies for the Select tier, Rossman said. The Select developers themselves will be the ones to provide service and support on the applications, even though they're sold through Avaya channels.

Rossman said Avaya collects an agency fee from Select developer partners of between 15 and 30 percent -- the exact amount of Avaya's cut varies depending on the nature of the agreement, which is on a case-by-case basis with each developer. The base fee for Avaya DevConnect Technology Partner membership is $8,000, and there are fees for testing, though Rossman insisted they are substantially cheaper than those charged by Microsoft and Cisco. Technology Partners then receive a 30-plus page application note that describes how Avaya engineers successfully configured Avaya products with the developer's application -- a "known good configuration" that can be provided to a customer, in other words.

NEXT: Extending Partner Value-Add

Extending Partner Value-Add

Rossman said developers are excited about the idea of added exposure for selling their applications. More than two-thirds of commercial ISVs, he said, employ fewer than 30 people, and so-called "micro-ISVs" -- developer shops of one or a handful of people -- don't have the resources to market their wares through highly visible sales channels.

"We've had no trouble attracting ISVs, and this allows us to provide applications beyond what we would do at Avaya," Rossman said. "They don't have to establish any relationships with the partners or customers, and for us, it creates stickiness for platforms like Aura."

Software has been a particular recent focus for Avaya, which in the past year has sought to broaden its programs for both ISVs and more traditional VARs interested in app dev revenue.

Avaya's Agile Communication Environment (ACE), for example, allows developers to embed communications into business applications -- an experimental technology when Avaya acquired it with Nortel's former enterprise unit in 2009 but one for which Avaya has drummed up plenty of interest.

Rossman said he expects to see continued interest in app development on the part of corporate customers, and by solution providers themselves, a few of whom have acquired fellow Avaya partners to gain app development expertise. Unified communications powerhouse Transcend United, for example, became a DevConnect partner with its recent acquisition of assets from Relational Technology Solutions.

"We've seen several partners acquire DevConnect companies," Rossman noted, also referencing the 2007 acquisition of American Communication Technologies by top Avaya partner Cross Telecom, now part of Arrow S3. "And we've seen others, like [Eagan, Minn.-based] NACR, develop system integration businesses. It's a great way to extend partner value-add, and software development is high-margin. A lot of our savvy partners are moving in that direction."