Avaya Expands Midmarket Push With Scaled-Up IP Office

Avaya on Tuesday confirmed a new version of IP Office, its UC system for small and midsize businesses (SMB), that makes the system's single-site user capacity more than two and a half times larger and enables Avaya to better target midmarket users that are too small for its enterprise-grade UC products.

The 8.1 release of IP Office, which is sold by Avaya 100 percent through the indirect channel, can serve small businesses as tiny as 5 employees or scale up to 1,000 users in a single location, up from the previous software's 384-user single-location capacity.

The lines have blurred between the types of midsized customers best served by IP Office and mid-to-larger enterprise customers investing in Avaya's higher-end Aura Communication Manager and other Aura products, Avaya executives said.

"This is now something more relevant to sell to midmarket customers," Brad Gifford, Avaya senior director, SME Go-To-Market, told CRN.

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New to IP Office as of 8.1 is the Avaya Flare Communicator for Apple iPad or Windows-based laptops, an option previously available only to large enterprise Avaya UC customers.

IP Office users also get centralized management and licensing capabilities for managing their multi-site communications infrastructure, a number of new security options for IP Office, including a version of Avaya's Aura Session Border Controller tailored for SMB use, and automated network setup for IP Office when paired with Avaya's ERS 3500 data switches. Interoperability between IP Office and the Scopia video endpoints Avaya acquired with Radvision is also coming.

A majority of Avaya's partners that sell IP office only sell that Avaya platform, according to Mark Monday, Avaya vice president of collaboration platforms. But, they are also unlocking larger-capacity opportunities in the traditionally defined midsized enterprise where IP Office would be a fit.

"The truth is that a lot of these CEOs of [SMB] customers, they don't always define themselves by the number of seats, so we have to look at how to give partners the option to take this line and be comfortable selling it to any of these types of customers," said Karl Soderlund, Avaya vice president, U.S. channel sales. "We need to be able to adjust accordingly."

Chris Atha, director of business development at AdvanTel Networks, a San Jose, Calif.-based solution provider and Avaya Platinum partner, said AdvanTel is already selling the 8.1 release and that Avaya was right to target a larger slice of the midmarket with IP Office.

"We've seen a strong interest in the product from what you might call everyday enterprise: customers that aren't small but aren't yet Fortune 2000-size," Atha said. "This is a feature set appropriate for them -- they can get their arms around it, whereas sometimes the applications in the enterprise platform can be too complex for them."

NEXT: Avaya's UC Portfolio Targeted To Provide Partner Options

Avaya's Monday said that Avaya's overall UC portfolio is now structured to give partners the most options, even for customers that aren't clearly small business or midmarket.

On the low end, there is AvayaLive Connect, an all-in-one UC package for small businesses that is sold directly from Avaya but for which partners can earn a referral commission. IP Office will cover more sophisticated SMB and midmarket UC needs, and then there are the various Avaya Aura packages, such as Avaya Aura Midsize Enterprise (ME), intended for bigger customers.

Avaya has continued to update IP Office, with the most recent release, January's launch of 8.0, having focused on extending enterprise UC features out to mobile devices. The release of 7.0, a year ago, saw the full integration of the former Nortel IP and digital phones with the IP Office platform.

In addition to the 8.1 IP Office upgrade, Avaya will be offering a branded support service specific for SMB customers that can be offered through the channel in wholesale and co-delivery models, as in other Avaya maintenance service programs. Avaya partners will be able to sell the service in packages of one, three or five years, and service can be provided over SSL/VPN, meaning less time required by the partner or Avaya technician onsite at a customer business.

"Up until this point, we have offered partners only a block of hours that they'd purchase and then get support from us as a backup," Monday said.