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More than just a phone . . .

I was chatting with a customer this week, and while commenting how communications are radically changing, she asked me what my thoughts were on how Avaya was maintaining pace with modern communications having come from being “just a phone.” I sat back for a minute wondering how this label of being a “telephone company” was placed on us? although we don’t provide carrier phone service to our users, we are still quite often looked at as a “phone company” because we still manufacture and provide telephones.

But if you step back two steps, you’ll see that Avaya also provides the data network and communications infrastructure that those “phones” require to operate. We provide the critical communications services that make those “phones” actually perform some functionality that our users need. It takes a certain company to be able to see that entire holistic picture. Maybe that’s why there are so many players in the low-end market that can never seem to find their way into midsize corporate environments. They don’t have the features, they don’t have the functionality, they don’t have the scalability, and they don’t have the reliability. THEY are really “just a phone.” And maybe that’s why others such as Microsoft find it challenging to displace traditional communications providers, such as Avaya, with their Lync product trying to be a phone, even if it is free.

I asked a colleague of mine, Richard Chin from Vancouver, “Do you frequently hear our customers say, Microsoft Lync voice is free?” I also wondered if our customers were stalling decisions to upgrade their Avaya systems as they evaluate Lync voice features? This made me think, communications today are more than just a phone.

Richard came up with these ideas that would assist our customers and business partners combat the pressure from Microsoft Lync with some very pointed questions. I asked him to put together a podcast that was a brief 5-minute talk on the three things you need to know about Microsoft Lync in an enterprise voice deployment.

We posted this to the Avaya Podcast Network, and you can listen to that podcast here.


Want more Technology, News and Information from Avaya? Be sure to check out the Avaya Podcast Network landing page at http://avaya.com/APN . There you will find additional Podcasts from Industry Events such as Avaya Evolutions and INTEROP, as well as other informative series by the APN Staff.

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Thanks for stopping by and reading the Avaya CONNECTED Blog on E9-1-1, I value your opinions, so please feel free to comment below or if you prefer, you can email me privately.

Public comments, suggestions, corrections and loose change is all graciously accepted ;-)
Until next week. . . dial carefully.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter @Fletch911

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Mark Fletcher is the Chief Architect for Worldwide Public Safety Solutions at Avaya. He is responsible for ensuring the roadmap and strategy of Next Generation Emergency Services in both the public and private sectors. With nearly 3 decades of experience in telecom, he has built and managed some of the world’s largest private networks. Mark is regularly called upon to provide insights to legislators and the industry to drive forward both innovation and compliance. more

9 comments
Kevin Kieller
Kevin Kieller

Mark, Regarding 911, and trying to provide balance ... You make it sound like Lync 911 and E911 will be more expensive. In my experience this is not necessarily the case. Once again the details for a specific customer deployment are what matters -- not the generalities. Even in your own article you describe additional vendors that you may need to work with to make an Avaya E911 solution work: /blogs/archives/2012/03/avaya-announces-e911-select-product-partners.html You are correct in noting that 911 and E911, like most things UC, can be complicated. 911 service via PRIs might be sufficient. SIP trunking introduces more location-independent issues. Lync E911 might work. Other third-party solutions may be required with Avaya, Cisco or Lync solutions. The bottom line from my perspective is that neither Avaya, nor Cisco, nor Lync make 911 or E911 planning easier. All of these fine UC platforms require planning and effort and cost to implement. If listeners to the Avaya podcast infer that Avaya has a competitive advantage in this area then I would suggest they are mistaken. Kevin

flinchbot
flinchbot

Regarding Lync's inability to make 911 calls, I have 2 questions: 1. If I plug a PRI into a gateway, and connect that gateway to Lync and then dial 911, why does that fail if it works with all other phone systems? Doesn't a PRI, by law, have to be registered to a specific address for 911 purposes? Because I have made a 911 call with Lync and I got to the 911 service. If you could clarify my misunderstandings I would greatly appreciate it. 2. Lync should not be used to dial 911 when I grab my laptop and go to Panera because Lync cannot figure out the address of Panera and will send the wrong address to the 911 device, ie, the address of my office and not the address of the Panera where I am sitting. This podcast implies that Avaya can do this as this is mentioned as an Avaya advantage. Could you please provide me with a high level document describing how Avaya Aura is able to properly geolocate me and send the correct address to 911 no matter where in the USA I happen to be?

Kevin Kieller
Kevin Kieller

Randy and Richard, Let me perhaps provide some middle ground comments. 1. Neither Avaya nor Lync always have a lower TCO. Like many things "the devil is in the details". Richard, while you cite the Nemertes study, there are other studies that show the opposite. A customer must take the time to do their homework and figure out what their costs will be. (I talk about this in my No Jitter article: Goldilocks Rocks - http://www.nojitter.com/post/240155252/goldilocks-rocks 2. Richard, as Randy correctly mentions you got the mobile capabilities of Lync 2013 wrong. At present, Lync 2013 likely has one of the strongest suite of mobile clients. 3. Richard, you make it sound as though Lync can't provide enterprise grade voice. This is just not true. Lync can be deployed with the same resiliency and scale of either an Avaya or Cisco voice system. 4. Yes, Lync does rely on, or allow (depending on your point of view), you to include solutions and devices from other vendors. Some see this as choice, some as complexity. The truth is that any enterprise communication solution requires working with multiple vendors. You can work with a solution provider, such as Modality where Randy works, to manage these elements. 5. Yes, you should try to minimize the number of vendors. Best of breed does NOT work well in the UC world. However, UC requires integration with the desktop and for almost every enterprise this means Office, AD and Exchange. With an Avaya or Cisco solution your telephony (and maybe network components) can come from the same vendor but your applications from different vendors. With Microsoft your communication apps might come from one vendor but hardware from other vendors. Similar number of vendors. 6. If you just want a voice system then usually a client is better served by Cisco, Avaya, Mitel or a host of other voice first vendors. In my experience, Lync is not a great voice only system (and it was never designed to be.) If your business requirements require a UC system then you absolutely should consider Lync as a viable solution. 7. Lync does provide many site resiliency options and architectures. Like any UC system that provides centralized capabilities such as conferencing, when a site is isolated via a network failure some communication modalities will be degraded. Organizations need to invest in resiliency and redundancy options that make sense. Some organizations choose to implement redundant network connections and then choose not to implement voice redundancy equipment at the branch level. Quite frankly many organizations can't conduct business if they lose connectivity to their central data center. There is no simple or one size fits all answer. 8. In your response you mention the Aura integration with Lync. This would seem to break your own rule related to multiple vendors and in my experience these type of client-side integrations, including CuciLync from Cisco, while perhaps brilliant marketing plays, rarely align with actual needs of clients. When Lync is used for IM and presence and another call control engine is "bolted on" users have confusing click to call, remote, and directory lookup experiences. Often client expectations around conferencing, delegation, team calling and other Office integration features are also not met. I strongly prefer a UC platform from a single vendor - which vendor should be the one that is best aligned to the documented and prioritized business requirements. Kevin

Randy Wintle
Randy Wintle

Thank you for responding Richard. I understand we both have a bias given the companies we work for, and the customers we serve. However, I do still think some of your facts are a bit incorrect, or misleading. The idea of total cost of ownership is hard to prove out. I will say this: in every case I have worked out on, those numbers have not been the way you describe. We can agree to disagree here, because every customer is different, and there will be somewhere Microsoft is significantly more expensive, and some where Avaya is. However, my findings have been opposite of yours, and that of Nemertes. Branch Resiliency- I would imagine you are actually correct here in that Avaya may offer a more feature rich resiliency experience. The fact is that access to certain features such as Call Park and call pick up are limited in a Microsoft branch resiliency scenario. However, I think it is important to weigh out the importance of those features. I would consider this statement as misleading, because the feature set we are talking about is very insignificant (in mine, and my customer’s opinions). 911 Capabilities- Lync has a built in ELIN/E911 solution, no third party required. Now- what they do require is peering with a provider to handle the delivery of those calls to the PSAP for SIP based E911. I am assuming that is what you are referring to. Does Avaya not also require to peer with an E911 service provider if doing SIP? My depth of knowledge in E911 is probably not as great as yours given your job role. However, I did not think any vendor had a direct PSAP connection, instead there is a provider in the middle. As for the ELIN gateway itself- yes this is a third party gateway because Microsoft does not sell hardware. When using Avaya, is the ELIN gateway, even if it is made and sold by you, an extra cost, or is it included at no charge? It would be hard to believe additional hardware and/or software would NOT be required. If I am wrong, please do correct me. Avaya Partner Community- I think we are both saying the same thing here. You cannot say it is a negative thing for Microsoft to have a program that certifies vendor solutions, and then at the same time say that Avaya has this, and it’s a good thing. Point is- both Avaya and Microsoft will certify third party solutions including hardware, services and applications to work with their systems. It’s a good thing. Mobile- I worry that your sales people are misleading customers with data that is well over a year old as far as feature set goes. Be careful! In closing- I think it is very important to not consider Microsoft Lync a PBX Replacement that simply replicates existing PBX services. If all you want is a PBX, Lync is not right for you. However, if you are interested in any other communications capabilities, which is very common in our modern world, you need to take a serious look at what each vendor has to offer for a Unified Communications experience. Microsoft Lync can replace your PBX, but it’s not going to allow you to simply drop a Lync phone on the desk and experience the same thing as your Avaya desk phone, that is just not how it works. I am happy to admit that. It is important to point out again though, Lync is more than a phone, and communications is more than just a phone. I stand by my statement that Microsoft offers a super UC experience for end users. Microsoft Lync also offers superior cost savings for businesses that are looking to deploy UC.

Randy Wintle
Randy Wintle

While I appreciate your understanding that communications is more than just a phone, I listened to the podcast and I am amazed at the misinformation you have presented. TCO- I have done many TCO comparisons of Avaya and Lync for large organizations. When you talk just voice, a phone on the desk, Avaya IS cheaper. Especially if you can reuse existing equipment. However, once you introduce that more than just a phone bit, Microsoft is cheaper every time. Remember, UC is not just a phone, UC is an entire unified experience for all forms of communication and collaboration. Last I checked, that licensing is separate for you and it also runs on separate servers and separate desktop clients. Incomplete Voice Capabilities- I would love to know how you are providing branch site resiliency without hardware at the branch. With Lync you can deploy servers or gateways that provide resiliency in the event of a WAN outage or other connectivity loss to the core infrastructure. If Avaya is somehow doing this without any additional hardware at the branch, please fill me in! 911- It seems you want listeners to believe that you cannot dial 911 from Lync. Let me tell you- you can definitely dial 911, and you can also natively support E911 solutions based on dynamic network locations of your users. Vendor Lock In- You mention the extra costs associated with things like support from a partner, buying third party gateways and support with those. While this is a common sales pitch from Avaya and Cisco, I don’t have much else to say besides experience shows that this does not introduce additional complexity or costs. All or Nothing- You mention that Microsoft allows for All or Nothing with Lync voice. Last I checked, you can choose what numbers you want routing to Lync. Additionally, you can purchase the amount of Lync Voice (Plus) licenses that you need, not the total amount for your organization. Again, misinformation. Other Best of Breed Solutions- You mention that Microsoft only certifies and supports certain solutions. If I wanted to deploy Avaya AURA but use Asterisk as the gateway connecting to the PSTN, would Avaya support help me troubleshoot issues with my Asterisk GW when PSTN calls are not working? Doubt it! Microsoft certifies solutions on their own time with vendors so that customers can be assured a solution they deploy is proven to work, and is supported by all parties without question. Mobile Support- You mention in this podcast that there is no mobile support for android and IOS. That is just flat out wrong, Mobile voice, video, im/p and web conferencing have been available for quite some time now on all mobile device platforms. Look, Avaya does a great job at voice. That is why people call you a phone company. The quality of your voice products, and especially your contact center solutions is not up for debate here. However, when you are forced to spread misinformation about you competing solutions, I think it’s important that the extreme flaws in your UC strategy is called out. Before you deploy Avaya ask yourself- How many clients will I deploy on my desktop? Can I perform IM/P, Voice, Video, Conferencing, Collab and Group Chat in a single client, or will there be more than one? What about Federation? If I want to make a call to a skype user, can you do that in Avaya? What about your business partner who is running OCS/Lync, can you call them seamlessly from your Avaya OneX Client? If you have issues with any of those questions, ask yourself what additional cost your organization will incur with a reduced adoption rate and increased support calls to the help desk because users cannot figure out what software they need to use. Remember- Communications is more than just a phone... --Randy

communications
communications

This is a good article & good site. Thank you for sharing this article.

Mark J. Fletcher, ENP
Mark J. Fletcher, ENP

Kevin, I agree with you on many of your points, but I have to disagree on a few. "Neither Avaya, nor Cisco, nor Lync make 911 or E911 planning easier. All of these fine UC platforms require planning and effort and cost to implement." Yes they do require planning and effort to implement E911. However Avaya does have an advantage with their implementation. We provide API connectivity to our DevConnect partners who can utilize alternate methods to interact with emergency calls in a much different manner than our competition. This enables a customer to deploy a more cost-effective solution by not being mired down by the legacy emergency services mantra that a "telephone number must equal the location."Rather than focusing on an external database that is nearly impossible to keep updated at a reasonable cost, we focus on providing information from our voice and data gear that enables an intelligent routing decision to be made, and provides extremely verbose localized reporting of emergency calls in progress. For users within the enterprise brick-and-mortar, this provides a very functional and cost effective E911 deployment schema. For those workers external to the enterprise network, but attached through a VPN client, our DevConnect community provides add-on solutions for Avaya as well as our competition. The biggest value that Avaya brings to the table is thought leadership in the industry. Avaya was one of the first to promote zone-based E911 routing logic, and worked hard to promulgate that within the industry. Avaya participated on the Federal Communications Commission's Emergency Access Advisory Committee, whose charter was to promote multimedia services and next generation 911 functionality for those persons who are deaf, deaf-blind, and hard of hearing as well as individuals with speech disabilities. At Avaya, we have our focus on the future. That includes enterprise deployments of 911 that will be feeding extremely verbose information into an intelligent emergency services IP network, and answered by NG 911 control room and dispatch centers. So today, when customers purchase Avaya gear, they get Avaya architecture. The sad part about it is that even without Avaya gear, our methodologies solve today's problems at a significantly lower cost than our competition. They would rather just push a "box" on premises to deal with emergency calls in the enterprise, yet have no vision or strategy on where the network and NG 911 are going. Quite often, you could argue that E911 functionality and certainly NG 911 functionality, are not really a part of the PBX. The communications infrastructure, however, is certainly part of the emergency services communications architecture both now and in the future. I appreciate your comments, it's obvious that you have done your homework and have a handle on the topic. I think this type of discussion held openly allows others to do their research, make up their own minds, and ultimately be more valuable to their employer. Thanks for enabling that! Fletch Avaya.com/APN

Mark J. Fletcher, ENP
Mark J. Fletcher, ENP

Hey Flinchbot, I'll respond to the E911 side of this, as that is my specialty, while I'll let Richard respond to the other comments. 1.) Plugging in a PRI to a gateway will absolutely let you dial 911, and you will be routed to a PSAP someplace. Routing you to the RIGHT place is the issue. The PRI is not registered to a specific address for E911 purposes. The Caller ID sent is what controls the routing in the network, and the screen pop of information displayed at the PSAP itself. At no time does ANY PBX TODAY send anything more than Caller ID. There is no mechanism to send anything else, nor is there infrastructure to route based on anything else, nor is the PSAP capable of receiving anything else today. NG911 will change that, but today it is what it is. PERIOD. Understanding the user location in the enterprise and sending an 'appropriate' caller ID is the key, as well as getting it to the correct 911 network that is local to the caller. 911 networks are VERY geographically specific, and rarely can route to each other. So a call from a user in California, needs a trunk resource in the right one of the 45+ 911 Service areas where the caller is to get a call to the right 911 center. The only other way around this is to use a VoIP Positioning Carrier (VPC) and send the call to them. They then provide nationwide umbrella coverage for E911in 98% or more of North America. 2.) Your Panera Bread example is a good one. Since Lync (or any PBX) does not know you are in Panera Bread, they cannot route your correctly. Again a VPC can help remediate this problem, but it is a complex one. I have a whole series of YouTube videos and podcasts on the subject at http://YouTube.com/Fletch911TV and http://Fletch.TV as well as my blogs on http://Avaya.com/APN E911 is not as plain and simple as it looks from the onset, and it does not have to cost a fortune to remediate. The way MS Lync has implemented E911 is a very specific implementation that requires very specific PIDF-LO enabled carriers and services, which are not always the most cost effective solutions. True that the industry is moving in this direction, but it is the implementation of this new NG911 protocol that they use that does not meet my standards. They could have done it a bit differently and significantly reduced the cost of the implementation, and still delivered the functionality they have today, plus a bit more. That is just the outfall from not having in-house product management that is active in the Public Safety Community. While both MSFT and Avaya do not have in-house development of E911 solutions, Avaya does have a Product Management team that can focus on the requirements as well as manage the DevConnect partners fulfilling those solutions. Avaya takes a very active part in several industry committees, and we understand what we need to build. On the other hand MSFT is at the mercy of their partners, and the direction those partners want to take them in. They do not see when they need to push back hard on an issue or let it slide, at best, they can make an educated guess. Winning or loosing now becomes the luck of the draw. Fletch

Mark J. Fletcher, ENP
Mark J. Fletcher, ENP

Randy, I have asked the article's original author, Richard Chin, respond to your observations. Thanks for commenting. Richard wrote: Thanks for your passionate input – completely understandable from someone who makes their living implementing Lync. This segment was built from real-life customer feedback and industry analyst observations. Let me add some facts. Nemertes Research – Operational Cost Drives Stark Differences in First Year Telephony, UC Costs “Those operational costs are a significant contributor to Microsoft’s highest total first year costs of $2,482 per endpoint - triple NEC’s costs and more than double first year costs for Avaya, Cisco, and ShoreTel.” “Though Microsoft touts the ability of its solution to cut costs, companies in this benchmark are spending more on operational costs than those who use other vendors.” Branch resiliency Avaya Aura systems achieve 100% telephony feature survivability with a single, low cost, embedded blade server contained within the branch gateway. All user database, features, and call control can be handled without additional servers located at the branch. This server requires zero admin, as updates are automatically pushed from the core server on a scheduled basis. 911 Capabilities Avaya does not require additional 3rd party gateways or service providers for 911 capabilities. Avaya Partner Community http://www.avaya.com/devconnect - With nearly 200 compliance-tested solutions from our Technology Partners the DevConnect Marketplace is a "one-stop information shop". You will discover third-party compliance-tested solutions, including DevConnect Select Product Program (SPP) applications. Mobile Support http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh691004.aspx - I had inadvertently used a Lync 2010 reference; my bad. MS Lync offers an easy-to-use, IM and Presence solution that is broadly used and widely adopted. However, I’ve talked to dozens of customers that have investigated using Lync for enterprise voice, and have discovered the complexities of trying to replicate their enterprise voice services, which drove their operational cost model beyond the point where they could continue. Additionally, they found that the Avaya Aura entry-level Foundation Suite software includes integration to MS Lync for free, without requiring the Lync Enterprise or Plus CALs. This client-side integration allows users to leverage their Lync client to initiate/receive voice and video calls, but using their robust Avaya Aura system for transport, minimizing costs and risk, yet delivering a rich user experience. Richard Chin