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Avaya Bets On BYOD With Unified Communications Update

IP Office platform for SMBs gets Flare Experience to better support employee iPad use and other BYOD realities.

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Add Avaya to the list of large technology companies that want to become a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) provider for small and midsize businesses (SMBs).

The company's newest release of IP Office, its unified communications (UC) platform for SMBs, includes the Flare Communicator application for Apple's iPad. The app is an extension of Avaya's Flare Experience and joins the existing Windows version for PCs. IP Office 8.1 also includes the "one-X Preferred for iPhone" app; the Android version has been out since the beginning of this year. Both, alongside new security and networking options, are aimed at addressing the inevitability of the BYOD era. Like HP and others, Avaya sees the trend as something to be managed rather than resisted by SMBs.

"We understand that people are going to bring their own devices," said Mark Monday, VP of Avaya's small and midsize enterprise and collaboration platforms division, in an interview. "Our role is going to be to ensure that it's enabled in a secure way so that the IT departments and partners can offer that capability."

Monday had his personal iPad in front of him during our call. When he wants to use it for work, he does so by connecting--not surprisingly--through the Flare Communicator client, which essentially extends the desktop UC experience to the tablet.

"[Secure BYOD] oftentimes takes a dedicated client environment like the Flare client running on these devices," he said. "We want to be a part of [BYOD], we want to enable it, but we want to do it in a secure and manageable way."

[ Building a Windows update strategy? Don't miss Windows 8: How To Test For SMBs. ]

IP Office 8.1 also marks a significant expansion of the platform's target market. Until now, single-site IP Office deployments maxed out at 384 users. With version 8.1, it will now support up to 1,000 users at a single location.

"Clearly, we're way beyond just the 'small' and all the way through the midmarket with 8.1," Monday said. "Already some of the betas that we've started are much larger deployments than we've seen out of IP Office in the past.

Multi-location deployments already supported up to 1,000 users across 32 sites. That will continue though, unlike in the past, those environments will now have centralized licensing and management capabilities. "It really takes the burden off of managing a multi-sited network and a large deployment," Monday said.

Avaya released IP Office 8.0 in January, which included increased mobility support. Monday said to expect a similar biannual release schedule to continue in the foreseeable future. The 8.1 version put a heavy emphasis on security features to support that mobility, which Monday attributed in part to the increased focus on midsize businesses. Those included secure remote phones, an SMB version of its enterprise Avaya Session Border Controller, and SSL-VPN remote management and maintenance capabilities.

IP Office will no doubt start casting for larger fish thanks to the much higher cap on users at a single site. But Avaya isn't ignoring the truly small business, recently launching AvayaLive Connect, a cloud UC service that delivers voice, video, IM, presence, messaging, mobility, and conferencing features via the Web. It runs $19 per user, per month; Monday said AvayaLive Connect is geared for small companies with five to 20 employees and characterized it as easy, self-service online UC: "It is brain-dead simple," he said.

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