Q&A: Avaya's Service Provider Chief, Joe Manuele, on Our Cloud Strategy, Momentum

Joe Manuele is Vice President of Global Service Providers, System Integrators, Alliances, and Cloud for Avaya. I spoke with Joe earlier this week about what’s the latest in Avaya’s cloud strategy, as well as about some major partnerships on the horizon.

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To most businesspeople and even mainstream IT, cloud is still synonymous with the public cloud. In reality, however, there are many flavors of cloud. What should businesses be considering?

I was just at a meeting with a CIO where we discussed this very question. For unified communications, contact centers, and video, these are real-time services that businesses can’t afford to go down. So while our competitors will argue for ripping and replacing everything with a new public cloud infrastructure, Avaya wants to help transform our customers’ infrastructures. So it’s more of an evolution to cloud services, rather than a revolution, so that you can maintain reliability and trust, and without any disruption to their business.

For customers with 2,000 or more users, we recommend a private cloud with a managed service wrap as the first step. With this model, our customers have a foundation so that enterprise messaging applications, for example, that don’t require governance or use sensitive data, can be hosted in a public cloud. This way, you can start getting flexible, utility-based pricing with a managed service wrap. Meanwhile, your core either remains on-premises or hosted by Avaya Operations Service (AOS) in a non-shared manner. AOS already has 700 organizations representing two million communication ports using its services. This would be a hybrid cloud. Of course, whatever particular flavor of cloud that people want, Avaya can offer. Some companies may be happy to add 50 IP telephony users using Avaya or one of our partners via the public cloud. Meanwhile, a multinational firm with 20,000 employees and contact center agents will take a different approach.

 

types of cloud

Source: “The Guide to Cloud Collaboration: Three Clouds. A Million Possibilities for Businesses and Service Providers,” Avaya’s latest installment in its series of guidebooks for Enterprises and Service Providers, will be available in April.

Cloud shouldn’t be an ideology, but simply a tool for businesses. So, it’s really less about cloud, and more about business transformation, which is typically a five-year journey. If you want to learn more of my thoughts about this, check out my article, “Which Cloud is Right for You?” in the new  Avaya, The Guide to Cloud Collaboration for Enterprises and Service Providers.

How has Avaya’s cloud strategy evolved in response to these needs?

The first step in Avaya’s own journey was to virtualize as many of our apps as possible. Today, 95% of our applications are available as virtual machines. . Virtualizing our software enable enterprises to consolidate and collapse their infrastructure. We have customers that have shrunk from 30 data centers down to just two. Or take Forest City Enterprises, the billion-dollar mall operator based in Cleveland. They’ve gone from 150 physical servers to just 50, while upgrading and adding new applications. Coincidentally, this isn’t just about Avaya becoming a cloud provider, but really about Avaya’s successful transformation to a software and services company.

How are our cloud offerings different from our competitors?

There are some vendors who merely create these appliances and call it cloud. You still have to use their proprietary hardware and commit to a bunch of licenses upfront. You’re basically moving from a CapEx financial model to a lease. That’s all it is. Our software can run on any 3rd-party hardware. We aren’t just selling you a piece of software running on our own tin.

Secondly, we don’t just offer you creative financing – we deliver a truly-elastic, consumption-based model. For example, say you work at a government agency that normally has 500 employees throughout the year, except during tax season, when you need to add 200 contact center agents. During those three months, you can pay for those additional 200 users and then go back to 500 users the rest of the year. All on any hardware you want. This is true shared-risk approach.

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Related: What is Avaya’s Aura Virtualization Roadmap?

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Finally, there is no other company out there that has the product and feature breadth that Avaya does, whether you are talking on-premise or cloud-based. All of our on-premise software is virtualized, and on the path to becoming cloud-based service offers. And while some of our competitors can only offer IP telephony in the cloud, the Avaya Aura® platform covers unified communications as well as contact center applications with the same contact center control manager.

For IT, there’s zero difference in the training you need. If you know how to run Avaya IP Office on-premise, then you know how to do it in the cloud.

How is Avaya going to market with its cloud solutions?

Our strategy is to enable targeted global service providers to launch Avaya services in the cloud. We have some very big, respected names in the service provider industry – global providers and system integrators – who we are close to announcing as partners. We are also taking vertical solutions that we are being used by large customers today and extending them to commercial service providers. Stay tuned for announcements.

Besides the Avaya book mentioned above, how else can I learn more?

Talk to us at the Enterprise Connect show next week in Orlando! Avaya will have Booth 1005. For cloud solutions, visit the Avaya Cloud Marketplace inside our booth and meet our experienced team of cloud services professionals.

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Avaya Aura® Platform—The Original Pragmatic Hybrid Cloud

In a recent InfoWorld post David Linthicum wrote of “an organic movement driven by rank-and-file enterprise IT people who simply want to solve their issues using the best technology and approach.” Linthicum called this the “pragmatic hybrid cloud.” Reading this from the perspective of someone with decades of experience in the enterprise communications market, my immediate reactions was, “Aha, he’s talking about the Avaya Aura® Platform.” He isn’t, but here I’ll explain why this thought struck me.

Linthicum writes, “What this movement has discovered is that you can combine the public cloud and modernize some of your legacy systems to be more cloudlike.” That is exactly what Avaya customers have been achieving in an evolutionary process spanning almost two decades. Long before the term cloud came into vogue, Avaya customers have been able to gain the benefits of the cloud paradigm while avoiding the need to comprehensively lift workloads to a public cloud provider and the need to wholesale forklift and abandon existing investments.

Today, many Avaya customers—including a large swath of the globe’s most notable organizations in industries ranging from financial services, to healthcare, to government, and many small and medium businesses—process their mission-critical workloads using a combination of premise-based solutions and both public and private cloud-served applications. It is a “pragmatic hybrid” approach that since the mid-2000s has provided these Avaya customers with unparalleled reliability, cost savings, and business agility.

The Avaya Aura Platform is the reason why. Avaya Aura had its genesis in a time tested methodology for allowing geographically distributed organizations to link islands of resources to gain economies of scale. Back in the day, to create either a contact center that followed the sun or a single enterprise communications solution that served the needs of a worldwide workface, expensive dedicated circuits were required. As IP Telephony evolved, companies began to use packet-switched technologies to more cost-effectively link together distant resources into single holistic systems. Rather than centralized in isolated locations, communications applications could now be seamlessly and cost-effectively shared across distances. This made new ways to organize communication assets and the work that depended upon those resources possible.

Avaya’s great insight was to take advantage of the session initiation protocol (SIP). Over time Avaya’s customers have “pragmatically” converted the networking connections of their existing standalone investments to create fabrics of SIP internetworked appliances. The Avaya Aura® Session Manager lets companies treat their owned assets as part of a private cloud and combine those resources with public cloud capabilities both from Avaya and from a growing ecosystem of additional providers. It is a strategy that has resulted in significant cost savings while unleashing new innovation.

Today the Avaya Aura Platform has moved far beyond simply a “pragmatic hybrid” for sharing resources. It has become a strategic tool for many organizations. It gives companies a flexibility and agility to adapt and reconfigure at the speed of business. Avaya Aura has also opened the doors to both internal Avaya inventions and new external development.

Avaya Breeze™ Platform is but the latest application development platform that takes advantage of Avaya Aura. Avaya, Avaya’s customers, and an industry of third-party companies are leveraging Breeze with their own creativity for solving business problems. Breeze allows the creation of unique ways to leverage the inherent capabilities of Avaya products in combination with cloud and third-party capabilities. Whether those assets reside in a private data center, on premises-based servers, or in public clouds, because of the Avaya Aura Platform, the only barriers to progress are the limits of human ingenuity.

Linthicum concluded that, the “pragmatic approach is very sensible. It makes the most of what you have, reducing the need for new resources and letting you transition to the cloud at a pace you can handle, both in terms of cost and time.” Your Path, Your Pace, Your Choice, where have I heard that before? Avaya circa 2004 maybe? Nice to see the industry finally following Avaya’s lead.

 

Smarter Cloud Networking is Here, and it Starts with Avaya

The rise of digital transformation, along with growing application and data center needs, has placed more security demands on enterprise networks than ever. So much so that half of CEOs believe their industry is going to become “substantially or unrecognizably transformed by digital.”

These dynamic changes are significant for IT managers, as they are responsible for expertly managing today’s increasingly complex networks. IT resources are entrusted with one critical job: find a way to securely and reliably deploy wired and wireless networks with complete control and visibility—anytime, anywhere.

This of course isn’t as easy as it sounds, especially for companies that lack the necessary IT resources or budget. In fact, “budget and resource constraints” was listed as one of eight top challenges cited by IT professionals in a global survey last year. The average company spent $400,000 on networking equipment in 2014—a number that increased by nearly 20% in 2015.

Here’s the good news: cloud managed networking has emerged as an affordable and efficient network management alternative for many companies. There are a large number of advantages to leveraging a managed cloud solution. First, the technology is easier to operate than an on-premises platform, accelerating time to deployment. The technology also requires virtually no in-house maintenance, which frees up internal teams to handle other high-priority tasks while drastically lowering the risk of manual, error-prone, on-premises deployment work. Perhaps best of all, managed cloud solutions enable businesses to optimize their expenses and reduce costs.

For IT managers, cloud networking translates into reduced day-to-day maintenance tasks (i.e., software upgrades, patches) and improved operational agility—all at a fraction of the cost of traditional solutions. Businesses understand these benefits; in fact, it’s expected that by 2020, 90% of IT industry growth will be fueled by third-party managed technologies.

There’s only one problem: cloud solutions of the past will never effectively meet today’s next-generation networking needs. Businesses require a managed cloud solution that explicitly addresses today’s core IT issues of reliability and security; a solution that enables them to not just survive, but thrive in today’s smart, digital world. That’s exactly why Avaya is announcing its all-new Cloud Networking Platform Solution.

Our advanced solution for large enterprises and medium-sized businesses is inherently built to address security and reliability head on, with a strong underlying focus on simplicity and ease of use. Here’s how businesses will uniquely benefit:

  • Deploy wired and wireless networks with minimal resources:

    Users can seamlessly centralize network management, visibility and control without the complexity of controller appliances or overlay management software. That means hardware (like switches and access points) that are installed on premises can be easily configured and managed in the cloud.

  • Add, change or modify network services on the fly

    : The agile nature of our solution allows IT managers to easily add, change or modify their network services via an easy-to-use dashboard, enabling them to meet their business needs as they inevitably grow and change. For example, zero-touch activation enables managers to automate software upgrades, patches and licenses in order to relieve maintenance burdens. The solution also boasts built-in guest and BYOD on-boarding.

  • Guarantee data isolation among cloud tenants with true multi-tenancy:

    This key security component of our solution guarantees that user traffic will always remain on your firewall-protected LAN. This way, cloud connectivity is only required for out of band management functionality. Meanwhile, standards-based encryption prevents visibility of communications between a customer site and the cloud.

  • Guarantee service availability with data center redundancy and data replication:

    Avaya’s solution helps ensure wireless access points act autonomously, even when the cloud connection is lost. Furthermore, the technology enables high availability by always processing traffic locally and providing security directly at the network edge in each access point.

As companies face insurmountable pressure to reduce IT resources and budgets, it’s clear that the market needs a smarter networking solution. Our new Cloud Networking Platform Solution allows businesses to enjoy the native benefits of the cloud that they have come to know and love, with the critical level of networking reliability and security they has been lacking—until now.

Learn more at our webinar “Debunking the Myths of Cloud Management” on October 26 at 10 am PST. Sign up now.

Service while you wait – eGain innovates to turn hold to gold

My first exposure to self-service IVR application development was back in the early 1990s. Over the years, I’ve participated in the evolution from simple menu-based interfaces (“Press 1 for sales, 2 for service…”), to full-blown natural-language interactions driven by intelligent, automated back-end capabilities (“Open the pod bay doors, Hal…”).

It’s still not perfect, and I find myself having to opt out and wait for a human agent more often than I care to. In fact, a study by Marchex released earlier this year estimated that I and my fellow Americans will be on hold in 2016 for more than 900 million hours. That’s a lot of wasted time.

So what do I end up doing? Mostly checking Facebook, responding to emails, and playing solitaire on my phone. Seems like my smartphone isn’t being used very smartly, and it’s certainly not making me happy when I’m sitting on hold and waiting for an available agent.

Since the launch of the Avaya Breeze™ Platform, we have been advocating the value of the Breeze platform to solve problems. Give us a use case (problem) and with Breeze, an innovative, scalable, secure solution can be developed in days to weeks. On hold time appears to be a major use case in need of an innovative solution.

In January, Forrester reported that 73% of customers say that valuing their time is the most important thing that companies can do to provide them with good customer service. So why make them waste time on hold (even if they are keeping up with their Instagram and Pintrest feeds) instead of actually helping them during that transition time from self-service to agent-assisted?

This is why I think eGain Corporation, one of our 2016 DevConnect Innovation Award winners, is onto something really big.

By creating the eGain Knowledge Snap-in for Avaya Breeze, Avaya customers can improve the overall experience and satisfaction of their own customers by making relevant information quickly available in a self-directed manner. In other words, eGain has innovated on Avaya a solution to the on hold problem.

How? By recognizing that an IVR user is calling with a smartphone, the Breeze-based workflow will work with eGain’s cloud-based knowledge base whenever the caller is queued between an IVR interaction and a contact center agent, presenting relevant content to the caller’s smartphone via SMS, based on the context of the information already collected via the IVR interactions, and allowing the user to self-select additional materials that are more visual in nature (such as basic repair-and-troubleshooting instructions, documents, or even video clips).

As a result, users can more often find their own answers before the agent becomes available. At a minimum, the customer will likely be better informed when talking to the agent, creating the opportunity for a shorter call overall.

Smartphone users have lots of ways to keep themselves busy while on hold. And while there is a certain enjoyable aspect to completing another level in whatever newest game you’ve loaded, nothing beats actually being productive when you have an issue you’re trying to solve. eGain’s Knowledge Snap-in and Avaya Breeze don’t just let end users mine for virtual coins in their spare time, they actually help turn those on-hold moments to gold for everyone.