Avaya Beefs Up Aura Conferencing Collaboration Platform

Avaya Aura Conferencing 7.0 provides session-based unified voice and web collaboration enabled for both desktops and mobile devices, and can support up to 7,500 active, concurrent conferencing sessions. Included in the 7.0 platform update are Avaya's Collaboration Agent client, which interfaces seamlessly with the Avaya Flare Experience to streamline how a conference is accessed, and a number of visual controls, including the user's ability to zoom in on pieces of a presentation, filter out background noise, eliminate attendee announcements or identifications or jump back in slides at will.

Avaya's seen strong customer adoption of the Flare Experience since its introduction nearly two years ago. Collaboration and UC-centric enterprise releases since then have focused on how to tie various communications functions - voice, web collaboration and video -- together on single Avaya interfaces that use its virtualized UC platform Aura and leverage SIP technology.

[Related: Avaya Extends Flare Collaboration to iPad, More Platforms Coming ]

The connectivity costs of using collaboration and rich media are a consistent pain point for customers, argued Jorge Blanco, Avaya vice president of contact center and UC marketing.

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"The main objection we hear from clients is: what is this going to do to my network," Blanco said. "So we spent a lot of time on the architecture to be able to answer the question positively."

The Avaya conferencing system uses what's described as a "cascading media architecture," starting with a hosting media server at a central location that serves other media servers at other locations, which in turn provide media streams for local users. The effect, according to Blanco, is to reduce the number of media streams that need travel across the WAN, and for the customer, bring down overall connectivity costs.

"It's very distributed," he said. "We can make the media services location sensitive because in the topology, they're placed as close to the end user as possible."

Aura Conferencing 7.0 is priced at $140 per user with the basic Collaboration Agent browser interface, and $190 per user with Avaya Flare Experience for Windows or iPad. It's supported by Avaya Aura 6.2 and connects to either Avaya Aura Communication Manager or Avaya Communications Server 1000 PBX systems.

The CS 1000 update is significant, Blanco said, because Avaya CS 1000 customers can use an Avaya Collaboration Pack -- basically, a single server that adds Aura's SIP capabilities to their CS 1000 systems -- to now add Avaya Flare Communicator and Avaya one-X Mobile SIP for iOS. Forthcoming Collaboration Pack updates will include H.264/scalable video coding-based videoconferencing for Avaya collaboration tools, Blanco said.

Allen Burch, senior sales engineer at Black Box Network Services, the Lawrence, Pa.-based networking solution provider, saluted Aura Conferencing for being both usable and feature-rich.

"When you can unite large groups of people without the distractions and disruptions commonplace to other conferencing products, you've got something that isn't just practical but enjoyable to use," Burch said in a statement e-mailed to CRN.