April 15, 2008
Participating companies included:
Alcatel-Lucent, Microsoft Mediaroom, Forrester Research, and IP Prime
Network equipment vendors, software firms and service providers are all promoting UC to their business customers. Some vendors position it as an evolution of traditional voice services, while others position UC as an evolution of the IP network. Either way, voice and data converge over a single network, and the IP infrastructure, VoIP infrastructure and UC applications must be well integrated. There are multiple hardware and software choices, but it all comes down to what best meets business requirements for functionality, security, scale, interoperability and reliability and ultimately how employees will be using the services.
Jorge Blanco, Vice President of Product Management for Unified Communications at Avaya, states, “The technologies themselves are mature, but ultimately the question is, how do you roll it out and what will be the impact on the organization?” When determining the best approach for acquiring and managing UC technology, each business must thoroughly assess its requirements. For example, many law firms have a requirement to track call minutes, and many large businesses track Internet usage or time spent handling e-mail. Other businesses have a majority of users that have both desk and mobile phones and thus require a single mailbox or even a single phone number. Call quality and user experience metrics must also be specified. It is not safe to assume that just because there has never been a problem with voice service before that there won’t be a problem now. Detailed service-level agreements are a must. Some large enterprises have the systems, processes and personnel in place to manage both the network and the UC applications. Other enterprises, even large ones, have chosen to utilize a managed-services provider for some or all of the network and/or applications management.
Operations and Support
Networking and communications service delivery are not the core business of most enterprises. However, implementation of VoIP and the networked applications critical to UC change that. Without a service provider managing the services and ensuring quality, the responsibility is left to the enterprise. The difficulties that enterprises face when implementing VoIP and UC solutions are primarily in the operations and management of the network infrastructure, the VoIP infrastructure and the quality of the voice service delivered to the user. The hardware and technology issues that affected early VoIP implementations have been largely solved, but the service management challenges remain.
As an enterprise takes on the challenge of managing UC applications in addition to VoIP infrastructure, it faces all the challenges of managing an IP-data network, combined with specific requirements for ensuring voice service quality while controlling integrated UC applications. Existing enterprise network operations and administration systems cannot adequately manage UC. The choice is either additional investment in operations management or outsourcing, and many enterprises turn to managed-services providers. “The IP network is the foundation for deploying UC. And maintaining the secure, consistent operation of UC applications over networks worldwide is critical,” observes Verizon Business Executive Director of Global Voice and UCC (Unified Communications and Collaboration) Roberta Mackintosh.
Once known primarily as a provider of traditional PBX systems, Avaya has emerged as a leader in Unified Communications applications and integration expertise. With a diverse portfolio of solutions, world-class service organizations and key relationships with, among others, Microsoft and IBM, Avaya is a consistent leader in every market it serves worldwide. Avaya focuses on business customers and provides support for small, medium and large corporations in every region of the world.
Avaya’s focus is less on technology and more on the business use of the technology. For Avaya, it is critical to understand how its customers work, to be able to fully integrate users and technology into the workflow. According to Jorge Blanco, Vice President of Product Management for Unified Communications, “One of the biggest and most compelling arguments for UC that many end users and their companies have is the need to integrate mobility.” Mobility has become central to how many workers perform their job. With UC that implements mobility, remote employees stay connected to the business and improve productivity.
Avaya Customer Profile: Redback Networks
Avaya’s customer Redback Networks use mobility to enable workers at every level. Redback is an Ericsson company that makes video-centric routers for 75% of the world’s largest triple-play networks. A global company with a large mobile workforce, Redback needs efficient communications and greater connectivity so employees can reduce business cycles, provide better service for customers and lower costs.
With help from Avaya, Inc., and Avaya BusinessPartner, BrantTel Networks, Redback integrated its Avaya Unified Communications applications and infrastructure with the Microsoft Office Communicator desktop application. The new solution gives information workers access to a broad range of integrated communications from their PC, without sacrificing voice quality or richness of capabilities. Users can click to call from any desktop application, streamlining the way they communicate. Tight integration with desktop phones allows users to quickly and easily join conference calls, for example, without having to wait for their PC to boot up.
For technical support employ-ees, the new UC capabilities enable associates to quickly see if an expert is available to help in any of the centers worldwide. For mobile workers, Redback deployed the Avaya one-X™ Mobile application to transform their smart mobile phones into fully functional office phones. If a call to the office number is missed, workers can see on their mobile device that a message awaits them, and by tapping the screen they can play the message from the corporate voice mailbox. Users can also set handling rules that determine which calls ring through when and where.
With the majority of businesses having made the shift to VoIP, they are ready to evaluate the best use of integrated applications and assess what is best for their specific operations, employees and customers. Blanco is bullish about the growth in the space, saying, “UC has seen much hype in the past few years, and deservedly so. What is important now is to fully understand how unified communications can help drive efficiencies and productivities throughout your business. With a strong track record in delivering Unified Communications solutions, Avaya is a leader with a unique depth of understanding of the infrastructure, applications and implementation required to make it work.”