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Networking Vendor Avaya Gets Serious About Software

Avaya just recently introduced new services based on communications-enabled business processes, for which the company holds 22 patents.

Avaya, a company driving a lot of innovation in the Internet Protocol telephony market, is getting serious about software, CEO Louis D'Ambrosio told InformationWeek during an interview at Interop.

"Three-quarters of our research and development spend will be in software this year," he said. "Our leadership teams all have software backgrounds." Around 38% of Avaya's business came from software in the recent quarter -- a big shift from a few years ago.

As Avaya makes the transition, its competition will be redefined as well. "There will be more competitors and more partners," said D'Ambrosio. With its new portfolio of software-based voice-over-IP products, Microsoft also is expected to fundamentally change communications. Instead of buying a phone system, businesses can buy software that voice-enables their desktop applications.

Avaya's big leap into service-oriented architecture, or SOA, in April further shows its commitment to software. Avaya's SOA offering combines software and services, runs on a Linux server, and uses Web services standards.

D'Ambrosio, however, believes business customers should have choice. Whether they choose software, hardware, hosted services, or services that reside on the network, the end goal always should be to improve business processes using everyday communications. Avaya just recently introduced new services based on communications-enabled business processes, for which the company holds 22 patents. It's a tough concept for businesses to grasp, but "it's really straightforward," D'Ambrosio said.

Simply put, it's about embedding instant-messaging or a phone call into a business process without detailed telephony knowledge. Think about a retailer that needs to keep a certain level of stock in its stores. The retailer can manually monitor the stock or automate the process by embedding communications in it and receiving an alert when levels are low. At the same time, the retailer can choose to get in contact with its suppliers right away using presence information and a communications method that will reach them the quickest. "You're talking about saving hours a day in productivity and that could result in millions of dollars a year," said D'Ambrosio.

Communications-enabled business processes require software applets to tell business applications what to do. This is where the significance of software comes in. Avaya acquired a company called Ubiquity and its Session Initiation Protocol server that divides IP telephony into a set of services and embeds them into business processes.

D'Ambrosio claimed Avaya is the only one on the market doing this, and he's not far from the truth. Automated communications is a golden opportunity for business apps. "The move from IP to communications-enabled business processes is not less significant then the move from TDM (time-division multiplexing) to IP," said D'Ambrosio. "We won't get into creating business apps because that's the job of our partners like SAP and Oracle. But we will communication-enable them."

The key to change is in hands of businesses themselves, said D'Ambrosio. The telecom managers and the IT managers need to have competencies in each other's fields, which means marrying different departments inside a company if necessary. That's the kind of unconventional thinking that's required. D'Ambrosio concluded: "Customers are empowered to catalyze the transformation in their organizations."

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