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Avaya, Skype Partner On Business Communications

Avaya and Skype announced a strategic partnership aimed at boosting their business communications through a closer collaboration of their respective services. Announced Wednesday, the partnership is scheduled to rollout in two phases -- the first a go-to-market campaign to begin almost immediately and the second phase, for Skype-Avaya U.S. solutions scheduled to get underway in a year.

The announcement also served to scotch reports that Cisco is considering acquiring Skype for $5 billion. The VoIP calling company, which has more than 600 registered users, has served notice that is planning an IPO. Skype's focus has traditionally been on the consumer market in which Skype registered users call each other free-of-charge. In recent months, however, Skype has stepped up its efforts to crack the business market and the Avaya deal will help that effort.

In the first phase of its partnership with Avaya, U.S. customers of Avaya will have access to Skype Connect, providing a Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) communications channel between Skype and Avaya communications systems using Avaya Aura Session Manager, Avaya Aura SIP Enablement Server, CS1000, Avaya IP Office or BCM systems. The approach promises to enable substantial savings for users.

"Depending on calling patterns, this could have a huge cost savings impact for customers that choose to use Skype Connect for all of their international calling," said Yankee Group analyst Zeus Kerravala. "Additionally Skype users can call Avaya customers for little (or) no cost."

The second phase of the partnership is scheduled to get underway in the second half of 2011 when the companies plan to deliver integrated unified communications and collaboration solutions for U.S. enterprises with the goal of establishing federation between Avaya Aura and Skype. The plan calls for both user communities to engage and interact via instant messaging, voice and video.

"Avaya and Skype have been working along parallel paths to offer, innovative, scalable low cost, SIP-based communications to our respective markets," said Alan Baratz, Avaya senior vice president, in a statement. "Now, the companies will work together." Baratz is also president of Avaya's Global Communications Solutions.

Primarily using Skype Connect, the VoIP calling firm has targeted business markets in recent quarters. Cisco has a Skype Connect-certified link for SIP PBX calls, for instance, and other companies including Siemens and SIPFoundry have links with Skype Connect. Skype's David Gurle, vice president and general manager of Skype for Business said he expects the deal with Avaya will offer the Skype benefits to a growing number of businesses.

The new partnership also bodes well for SMBs. "For small and medium businesses that use IP Office," said Steve Hilton, head of enterprise and small enterprise research at Analysys Mason, "I'd be very excited about getting access to Skype. It will help them save money on international calling and get access to webcam-style video communications integrated with their Avaya phone systems."


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