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The Avaya/Skype Strategic Agreement

Today, Avaya and Skype announced a strategic agreement for unified communications and collaboration. As part of Avaya’s DevConnect team, I’m always excited to see us expanding our ecosystem of partners and solutions, but this one is especially interesting.

To boil it down to a very simple thought, this agreement’s goal is to enable enterprises in the U.S. market to seamlessly connect their corporate communication systems, including contact centers, with the global Skype community, be they customers, suppliers, partner or employees. This will start with voice, but will expand to full presence-aware video-enabled collaboration capabilities in mid-2011.

Now let me be clear on that last part. We aren’t suggesting that Enterprise end users will use Skype™ software on their desktop PCs. With our existing Avaya one-X® Communicator and other one-X tools, as well as with our newest Avaya Flare™ experience, we believe that we are already offering enterprises the best communication tools and user experiences possible.

Today, IT organizations face challenges. End-users install Skype on enterprise PCs, purchase Skype’s paid communication products, and maintain varying work patterns by communicating with internal contacts in a manner different than they might with external contacts (through Skype).

The objectives of the agreement are to actually deliver greater control to the IT organization, and increased flexibility to the enterprise end-user in several key ways. First, through an arbitrage model, IT organizations can save money by leveraging Skype Connect™ to enable enterprise users in the U.S. to make voice calls to landline and mobile numbers all over the world. And they can also save on in-bound call center toll-free services by enabling Skype-connected users to call directly in to the contact center. All of the back-end enterprise contact center capabilities, self service and intelligent routing to the right agents remain the same, but these incoming Skype calls no longer incur 800-number charges or International rates to support these customers

The capabilities already present in Avaya Aura™, CS 1000, IP office and BCM allow telecom administrators to treat these Skype calls like any other inbound call, applying full control over routing, blocking and other call handling capabilities. Our strategic agreement with Skype is about expanding the reach and convenience of enterprise communications to the whole Skype community

But the bigger, long term benefits of the agreement come from the first-of-its-kind federation model, which will enable a Skype user to appear to the enterprise user as any other enterprise user would today. The rich presence information delivered for Avaya communication services will include Skype presence, so external Skype users can view presence for corporate contacts and vice versa. The multi-modal capabilities available for one-to-one and multi-party collaboration capabilities will include Skype video calling capabilities.

Returning to my earlier point–we are not suggesting that I’d use a Skype client in the office. Instead, it means that I will be able to add non-enterprise Skype users as a personal contact, see their Skype presence and availability through the Avaya Flare experience, and seamlessly create audio- and video-enabled communication sessions with them just as if they were one of my enterprise peers.

In his NoJitter editorial Avaya Dials Up Skype As A Partner, Zeus Kerravala of the Yankee Group also touched on an element that is very near and dear to me:

Here’s another hidden benefit here to Avaya that at the time of writing had not been discussed by Avaya and that’s the impact this partnership could have on its developer community, DevConnect. If you’ve read what I’ve written in the past you’ll know that my belief is that the long term winners in this space will be determined by the vendor’s ability to leverage a software community to develop “UC enabled applications”. To date, Avaya has easily been the most aggressive UC vendor with respect to building a developer community.

As we further deliver on the Avaya-Skype relationship, I certainly hope to see an expansion from both the Avaya and Skype developer communities. Even prior to this announcement, we’ve had DevConnect partners like Empix, whose evolve platform offered Skype integration capabilities for Avaya IP Office.

I’m excited by the opportunities this new strategic alliance will open for our customers, our joint development community, and for both Avaya and Skype.

Due to an error on the my part, an earlier draft was inadvertently published. This is the final version I meant to actually post. Apologies, Jon.

Jon Alperin leads the Avaya DevConnect program--Avaya's global developer and technology partner program--leveraging a background as an application developer, solution architect, and product manager for the telecom and high-tech industries. Since joining Avaya in 2001, he has also supported the company with roles in corporate strategy, marketing and alliance development. more

2 Responses to “The Avaya/Skype Strategic Agreement”

  1. Great insights Jon. It is really an incredibly exciting announcement and the more I read up on it, the greater the appreciation I have for the vast potential business possibilities it opens up for enterprise customers connecting to Skype’s 560 million user community.

    A recent article I read in Network World titled, Q&A: SIP pioneer/Cisco Fellow jumps ship to Skype (published 6.28.2010), provided some very fascinating numbers and statistics which really helps put things into perspective:

    1. From the article, it mentions that of the 560 million registered users, 23 million are online simultaneously at a time

    2. In terms of minutes, they have done about 250 billion worth of minutes of Skype-to-Skype calls since they started.

    3. Skype Currently accounts for 12% of all international calls (not just voice over IP international calls Jonathan Rosenburg points out) but all international calls worldwide – a growth of 50% year-over-year compared to 2009.

    4. Skype is preloaded on eight out of 10 PC’s.

  2. I just ran across this article as well. I do not want to speculate but I find it interesting!!
    Skype has named Tony Bates, a former senior vice president of Cisco, as its CEO and a member of the board of directors……..In August Skype filed for an IPO on NASDAQ. There has since been speculation that Cisco was looking to buy Skype, but this was dampened when Skype announced a strategic relationship with Cisco rival Avaya. Full article at: http://www.itwire.com/it-industry-news/strategy/42256-skype-snatches-ciscos-enterprise-chief-for-ceo-role

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