10 Keys To The Avaya-Nortel Integration

Avaya closed its acquisition of Nortel's enterprise business on Dec. 18, and earlier this week confirmed the integrated product roadmap it will carry -- and use for Avaya and Nortel VARs -- going forward. Of note is the decision by Avaya to maintain Nortel's data portfolio -- a major addition to its practice that will help it even more effectively compete against Cisco. The blending of the channel also represents a change in Avaya's overall indirect business, and should help Avaya, as CEO Kevin Kennedy (left), suggested in October, reach 85 percent or more indirect sales within three years.

The combination of two legacy channels, however, means several changes and plenty of training. Here are the 10 things to know about the Avaya-Nortel road map, Avaya's channel ambitions, and what questions about its services, distributors and other market segments still remain.

If Avaya hadn't made clear its belief in the future of Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) architecture before, it certainly has now. Avaya began upgrading a lot of its IP telephony gear to better support SIP three years ago, and has only continued to do so since. Its migration path for Nortel environments, as well as many of its new product announcements, all have SIP taken into account.

Avaya Aura is Avaya's SIP-based virtualized UC platform, and will be Avaya's de facto method for deploying IP applications going forward. It was introduced in March 2009 at VoiceCon Orlando, made available in an SMB-targeted version in October 2009, and has enticed VARs wondering how Avaya will chart a course for future unified communications architecture while maintaining legacy Avaya, Nortel and other environments. It's migration Avaya's after, not rip-and-replace, and the company has stated emphatically that Aura will be the means to doing so.

"We believe it is equally important that in the future we do not require our customers to rip and replace their current products or even cap growth on their current products," said Dr. Alan Baratz, Avaya's senior vice president and president of Avaya Global Communications Solutions, on a Tuesday conference call for media and analysts.

Avaya Senior Vice President of Global Sales and Marketing and President, Field Operations, Todd Abbott confirmed earlier this week that 80 percent of Avaya's vice presidents joined the company within the last 18 months. That big number has been part of a sea change at Avaya that began when the company was taken private by a $8.2 billion private equity buyout in 2007, and continued with a long and continuing stretch of management changes.

Channel management, in particular, has shifted dramatically, and a number of new faces, including Abbott (May 2008), global channel chief Jeremy Butt (left), (June 2008), North American channel chief Carol Giles Neslund (October 2008), and senior director of channel strategy and development Eileen Corrigan (August 2009).

The roadmap sees Avaya planning to discontinue a handful of products. From Nortel, Avaya will end-of-sale the MCS 5100 media conferencing server, Nortel's SIP-based videoconference offering Nortel Multimedia Conferencing, and the Nortel dialer. Contrary to previous reports, Nortel will not be discontinuing anything in the CS1000 communications server or AS 5300 model applications server lines.

All products being discontinued will be sold for a full year and be serviced for six years, according to Avaya.

Avaya's Contact Center Express will coexist with Nortel's CC 7 -- both products target midmarket call center customers -- but a future version, dubbed CC 8, will be available within six months. That model, according to Avaya, will be an upgrade to CC 7 with elements of Contact Center Express integrated.

According to Abbott (left), Avaya will continue to expand services opportunities for VARs, but will move away from the third party maintenance style contracts favored by Nortel in the past. Avaya maintenance contracts will be able to be resold as partner-branded offerings and as direct Avaya maintenance agreements. The transition, said Abbott, will take place over a year and give Nortel partners time to get up to speed.

"A lot of Nortel partners have a traditional TPM- [third party maintenance] based services go-to-market," Abbott said. "But as you move to the IP world, it becomes much more of a self-serve, 1-800-Tech-Support software and support model where on-site services are less of a requirement. That's part of the challenge for us. But our message to partners is that we're not going to be competing with them. We need to collectively go to work."

Avaya revised several of its services offerings last fall, including changes to its managed services, maintenance services and professional services approaches. New offerings include VARs' ability to offer private-labeled managed services for the first time.

Avaya has opted to preserve Nortel's data networking portfolio -- a new set of products, like the Nortel Ethernet Routing Switch 8600 (left), and a new focus for Avaya -- and it has also created a badge certification for that portfolio.

Having a data practice will allow Avaya to better compete with the likes of Cisco and continue to expand its channel presence -- so long as Avaya makes it a focus and not what one observer calls an "ugly stepchild" of the rest of Avaya's business.

"History will dictate whether it was a good choice," said Zeus Kerravala, senior vice president of enterprise research at The Yankee Group. "Don't forget, they have partnerships with current networking vendors like Juniper, HP and Brocade, and they might be putting those at risk. But there's strength in numbers battling Cisco. For Avaya, a communications-centric organization, can they let the data group go operate as its own group? There are a lot of things driving network upgrades right now beyond UC. Avaya might not reap all the rewards if they have too narrow a focus."

The next big question for the Avaya-Nortel channel is what Avaya will do about its distribution relationships: those distributors that carry Avaya already, and those distributors who don't have substantial Avaya practices but have long been important to the Nortel channel.

Avaya's Abbott told Channelweb.com that only Westcon Group -- which carries both Avaya and Nortel, and did so before the acquisition -- is a sure bet, and that Avaya will have a final distributor decision made by the end of March. Some observers are banking that Avaya will maintain all existing relationships, but for now, what Avaya will do about Ingram Micro, Tech Data and others -- not to mention ScanSource's Catalyst Telecom unit -- is to-be-determined.

"Ingram Micro and Tech Data have been supplying the lion's share of that [Nortel data] portfolio along with Westcon," said Stuart Chandler, president and CEO of Optivor, an Ellicott, Md.-based solution provider. "It would behoove Avaya to open it all up. Would they be spreading themselves too thin and being disloyal to their exisiting distributors? Not at all. Look at it this way: Many of these Nortel dealers have established credit lines and long-term relationships around Ingram Micro and Tech Data. Avaya is going to miss an opportunity if it doesn't [use those distributors] and learn a very painful lesson."

Abbott said existing service provider partners of Avaya's and Nortel's need not worry about the transition. It would help the combined company, he argued, because Nortel's service provider agreements were far further along than Avaya's -- a "key justification" for the deal.

"We're working with all of them pointedly throughout the process, and we're cautiously optimistic we're able to navigate through that," he said.

Abbott and Baratz briefly addressed other potential areas for the new combined Avaya-Nortel to expand its interests.

One was wireless, for which Abbott said Avaya would be phasing out Nortel's five-year-old OEM agreement with Trapeze Networks.

"We want to bring our own products to market going forward," Abbott said.

Further reading on Avaya-Nortel:

VARs Impressed With Avaya Road Map, Channel Execution

Update: Avaya Clarifies Sections of Product Road Map

Avaya-Nortel Confirms Product Road Map

Avaya Completes Nortel Acquisition, Product Road Map Set For Jan. 19

Scenes from Avaya Americas Partner Conference

Nortel Concerns Cast Long Shadow Over Avay's Channel Ambitions