10 Key Events In The Avaya Channel This Year

The Year In Avaya

When the Avaya channel last convened, in Las Vegas in October 2010, Avaya executives were talking about Avaya's ongoing strategy for the channel post-Nortel integration and post-channel program reconstruction. In the 12 months since then, Avaya's made a number of interesting moves relevant to channel partners, from acquisitions to product launches, not to mention that it officially confirmed its intention to be a public company again.

Here's a look at 10 key events that helped define Avaya and the Avaya channel in the past year, from acquisitions to partner programs to executive moves to channel strategy.

January 2011: Konftel Grab

Avaya at the beginning of the calendar year plunked down $15 million for Konftel, a Sweden-based maker of audio collaboration technology. It seemed like a fairly cut-and-dry tuck-in acquisition at the time, but Avaya quickly made good on a promise to integrate Konftel technologies into its collaboration portfolio, and also tapped into growing interest in the Konftel brand in North America.

April 2011: Exec Changes Stack Up

Executive turnover has been a constant in the Kevin Kennedy era at Avaya -- frequent and often surprising moves throughout the past three years. Much to the frustration of Avaya partners, and probably plenty of customers, that trend didn't change this year, and major executive changes at Avaya have once again been a constant. Among the big exits were Carol Giles Neslund, Avaya's U.S. channel chief, and Joachim "Joe" Heel, senior vice president, who was brought in to shape Avaya's services strategy but was gone in about seven months.

Of course, there have been major hires and promotions, too. Mohamad Ali replaced Heel as senior vice president and president, Global Services. Brett Shockley became senior vice president, corporate development and strategy. And Phil Graham, a well-known VP of engineering for video products and CTO for TelePresence at Cisco, joined as vice president, product development and engineering for Avaya endpoints.

May 2011: IP Office 7.0

Avaya IP Office is the company's flagship unified communications (UC) offering for SMB customers, and in the IP office 7.0 update, completed the integration of Nortel Enterprise Solutions' IP and digital phones fully into the IP Office platform.

Avaya solution providers were then able to offer IP Office as fully compatible with legacy Nortel SMB systems. It's an important milestone for Avaya, which sells 100 percent of its SMB products through channel partner. Partners are also looking ahead to promised updates such as Avaya making its Flare Experience collaboration platform available for SMB customers and also offering IP Office applications in a hosted format for hybrid cloud environments.

May 2011: VENA Bulk-Up

VENA, or Virtual Enterprise Network Architecture, is Avaya's dog in the data center fabric fight -- a key piece of Avaya's virtualization and data networking strategies and the means by which it intends to grow the data networking business it acquired with Nortel in 2009. The last big update to VENA, which launched in November 2010, came in May -- new products that extend VENA to the data center edge -- following a campus core extension launched in February. The major products involved with the May launch included the Avaya VSP 7000, a 24-port, 10-GbE top of rack switch enabled for 10 Gbps SPF+, 40 Gps or 100 Gbps, along with other bells and whistles.

May 2011: Arrow Acquires Cross

Distributor Arrow for many years marketed itself as the only enterprise distributor that didn't sell to end users. But with two swift moves -- an August 2010 acquisition of Shared Technologies, and then the May 2011 acquisition of Cross Telecom -- it established itself as a surprising new power in the Avaya channel, seeing as both Shared and Cross were among the top Avaya partners in the country.

Arrow has been a little cagey on what motivated building such a large Avaya footprint, but in mid-October, it rebranded the combined Shared and Cross businesses as Arrow Enterprise Computing Solutions S3, a wholly owned Arrow subsidiary headquartered in Irving, Texas. More to come from Arrow, presumably?

June 2011: The Truth Is IPOut There

It was always the plan to be a public company again ever since Avaya went private in 2007, but Avaya in June of this year finally put the wheels in motion for an IPO, filing a form S-1 with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that laid out its IPO plans and also laid bare the truths about its debt and net losses.

Avaya has offered frustratingly few details on the IPO since then, even though at last check the company was still committed to going public in calendar 2011.

August 2011: Support Advantage

Most major networking vendors are fine-tuning their services strategies, and for Avaya, that meant a new program launch dedicated to smarter maintenance services.

Debuted in May and launched in August, Avaya Support Advantage offers 24/7 remote software and hardware support for customers at two levels: Essential Support, a basic package offering remote technical support and standardized response times, as well as Web-based customer support tools, and Preferred Support, which adds to that package a remote monitoring solution that alerts Avaya about a potential break. With Preferred, Avaya claims to be able to offer response times of 15 minutes or less for major incidents. It's been well-received; more services options for partners to sell generally means a cheerier channel.

August 2011: Staying Ahead

Many analysts see the battle for PBX supremacy tipping back and forth between Avaya and Cisco -- depending on how the numbers are cut -- but Avaya's place among the top PBX vendors in the world since acquiring Nortel's enterprise business unit is cemented. According to Infonetics Research, Avaya laid claim to about 25 percent of the worldwide PBX revenue in the second quarter of 2011, keeping slightly ahead of Cisco in market share.

October 2011: Sipera Snap-Up

Session border controller (SBC) technology is a hot play these days thanks to the growth of UC and continued adoption of SIP-based communications by enterprises. With its October acquisition of security specialist Sipera, Avaya now has an in-house SBC option, though it will continue to partner with Acme Packet for carrier-class and large enterprise SBC needs.

The Sipera pickup also indicated Avaya's willingness to continue to round out its portfolio via acquisition. Shortly after buying Sipera, Avaya picked up Aurix, a speech analytics and audio data mining company.

October 2011: New U.S. Channel Chief

For its new U.S. channel chief, Avaya picked an executive with a substantial data networking pedigree: Karl Soderlund, who was recently senior vice president, worldwide sales and business development at Certeon, but was perhaps best known to partners as HP's former Americas vice president and general manager for sales and marketing, and various executive roles at Fortinet. With Avaya partners seeking more clarity on Avaya's channel programs and partner incentives, especially following the integration of Nortel, Soderlund will have his work cut out for him.