Avaya: Virtualized Aura Platform, New Pricing Models To Benefit Partners

Simplified pricing structures, a greater midmarket play and healthy demand for Avaya's new virtualized Aura platform are a few of several perks Avaya partners can expect in 2013, the networking and unified communications giant said Tuesday.

Avaya highlighted these anticipated benefits during its second-quarter Executive Partner Update call, hosted by Tom Mitchell, senior vice president of Avaya's global sales, and John Spiliotis, vice president of Avaya's global channel.

Spiliotis kicked off the call by outlining new and upcoming Avaya products that will spur partner growth in the year ahead. The first, and most heavily touted, was Aura VE, the new virtualized version of Avaya's flagship Aura UC platform that launched in December. The platform, which was dubbed a step in the right direction by Avaya partners, enables existing Aura customers to deploy Aura UC applications in VMware-based environments.

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Partners can sell either the fully virtualized Aura platform, the server-based dedicated hardware version, or the Aura UC Collaboration Pod, which bundles the VMware software, EMC's storage, virtualized servers, and Avaya's UC and networking solutions into a single package. According to Spiliotis, this third, end-to-end model will be key to partners selling the virtualized Aura platform into smaller organizations, or those lacking robust IT shops.

"[The Collaboration Pod] brings together everything that a company needs to deploy virtualized UC, from the application to the network to the storage arrays," Spiliotis said on the call. "It offers customer who have limited technical resources or a tight deployment schedule a simple and easy way to deploy UC to the cloud."

Spiliotis also positioned Aura VE as a means to keep partners competitive, citing a Nemertes Research study that found 70 percent of companies have plans to virtualize their UC applications. "We've been gaining a lot of traction with this solution," Spiliotis said.

Jeff Hiebert, CEO of ROI Networks, a San Juan Capistrano, Calif.-based solution provider, said he's excited about Avaya's new Aura VE platform because it appeals to both customers with existing cloud or virtualized environments and those who are still evaluating deployments.

"It's a great product, we love it and we're at the process of actually consummating deals based on that platform," Hiebert said.

Just as importantly, Hiebert continued, Aura VE allows Avaya partners to not only sell UC applications but also help customers on a broader scale, such as with network refreshes or rolling out a virtualization strategy.

"A lot of my sales now are not UC-led; they're actually infrastructure upgrade-led, and then that pulls through to UC," Hiebert told CRN. "So you aren't really leading with a UC sale in many cases. You are leading with a network refresh, an infrastructure build, or a virtualization or cloud strategy -- and then you ultimately get down to ask, 'Have you thought about what you're going to do with your UC solutions?'"

In addition to Aura VE, Avaya's Spiliotis pointed to Avaya's new Flare Communicator solution for the iPad along with its new Scopia Elite 6000 Series videoconferencing solution as sources for partner growth moving forward. He also said the company's new Office IP solution, version 8.1, will give partners a leg up among smaller- and mid-sized companies.

NEXT: Avaya Simplifies Pricing Structures

Meanwhile, Avaya vowed to simplify its global pricing models, making it easier for partners to articulate licensing structures to customers and speed up the sales process.

"I think everyone agrees that the [pricing] structure we have been working these past years has not been optimal," said Avaya's Mitchell. "As of today, Avaya currently has over 200 separate price lists that vary based on geography, partner type and portfolio."

Mitchell said much of the complexity stems from the fact that heritage Nortel products -- which Avaya acquired in 2009 -- are still priced separately from heritage Avaya products. What's more, the price point on these heritage Avaya products can vary depending on regional, national or global pricing lists.

According to Mitchell, Avaya currently has "hundreds of thousands" of SKUs that are bucketed into over 1,400 material price groups for partner discounting purposes. This means distributors have to keep track of more 1,400 discounts to help partners understand what their true buying price is.

"One of the first things I realized when I started my work in channel transformation was that this madness simply had to stop," Mitchell said. "We needed a consistent and transparent structure that would allow all of our channels to calculate buy price quickly."

To do this, Mitchell said Avaya is working to integrate all of its heritage Avaya, Nortel and Radvision products into a single pricing model, making it easier for partners to navigate. The company also confirmed it will roll out Avaya OneSource, a portal that consolidates product and pricing information into a single view for partners, this quarter.

"For the last two quarters, I've been telling you that Avaya OneSource is on the way," Mitchell said. "This is the quarter where the rubber meets the road."

ROI Network's Hiebert said Avaya's commitment to simplifying its pricing structure is already evidenced through its new licensing models for Aura UC solution.

The model is made up of three unique licensing packages: an entry-level "foundational" package, a mobility package and the full collaboration package, complete with video and multi-modal conferencing.

This simplified pricing structure, Hiebert said, makes for an easier sell for partners, and it puts Avaya's pricing model more on par with those of competitors like Cisco and Microsoft.

"If you wanted to implement a unified communications solution, historically, there were multiple apps you needed to purchase and multiple pieces of hardware and multiple pieces of maintenance," Hiebert said. "This [new model] is a lot easier to order and provision."

Hiebert added that the new licensing model does put "slight" pressure on partners to become certified to sell Avaya's newer UC applications, as they will need to be certified for each individual application within the licensed package before being able to sell it.