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Avaya Upgrades Unified Communications, Contact Center Suites

The new suites integrate Nortel technology acquired last year and add support for standards, virtualization and increased scalability.

Avaya has begun integrating pieces of Nortel Network's former enterprise solutions business unit, which it bought last September, this week releasing suites of contact center and unified communications products this week that use significant amounts of Nortel technology.

The release, which includes Avaya's Aura Contact Center and unified communications suites, begins to deliver on a roadmap outlined in January, heavily leverages Session Initiation Protocol standards, and focuses on unified communications instead of being telephony-centric.

"This is really about trying to help their installed base to make a relatively pain-free migration from where they are to where they want to go," says Gartner analyst Drew Kraus, calling the upgrade one of several steps that it will take to totally integrate Nortel and Avaya's product suites. "It's a movement toward openness, and they are delivering on promises they gave earlier this year."

The upgrades -- including new tools, new applications and a slate of new features -- focus on cost savings and redefining the way people collaborate within the enterprise, Avaya executives say.

The contact center has long been core to Avaya's business, and the company hopes to stay on pace with its competitors and its customers with the latest releases. "The new generation of consumers are looking at new ways for interacting -- more asynchronous, more personal," says Chris McGugan, VP of product marketing for Avaya's contact center business. "Many of them look at voice as the path of last resort, and that population is much more reactive to bad customer service."

With that in mind, the company is releasing products like the new mid-market Avaya Aura Contact Center, which manages multiple communications channels, including voice, video, text messaging, chat, email and XML. It also looks at interactions as SIP sessions, enabling agents to work from consistent information during the interaction with customers, rather than having calls get transferred and information having to get collected all over again.

In addition, Avaya is also releasing Proactive Outreach Manager 2.0 (a tool for executing and managing automated outbound marketing and outreach campaigns) and IQ 5.1 (Avaya's call center reporting and analytics platform).

Avaya is also making a suite of unified communications releases, which bring enhancements to Avaya's collaboration applications and core Aura unified communications platform.

The company's new Aura Conferencing, formerly Avaya Meeting Exchange, brings audio, video and web conferencing virtualized together on a single server. Avaya Messaging 6.0 (actually an initial release) is designed to integrate older PBXs into the IP world via SIP gateways and standards-based instant messaging. The company is also releasing an upgrading its unified communications client, and is consolidating some of its management tools. On the back-end, Aura Communications Manager 6.0, the core UC platform, gets more scalable, reliable and virtualized.

Finally, the Avaya ACE 2.2 communications business applications platform, formerly a Nortel product, allows IT organizations to integrate communications into their business software. New features include out-of-box integration with popular software including Microsoft Office, Lotus Notes and the browser, Going forward, says Steve Hardy, Avaya's director of unified communications, the company will also build new packaged apps and improve ACE's toolkits.

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