Enterprise Connect: Winning at the Game Of CIOs

I’ve probably been to 50 tech conferences in my career. So things have to be pretty….different in order to surprise me. So the failed keynote demos I witnessed at Enterprise Connect 2013 didn’t shock me, nor did the shirt that Microsoft’s Derek Burney donned for his Lync keynote.

One thing that WAS new to me was the Mock Request for Proposal (RFP) sessions at Enterprise Connect. Geared for CIOs and other IT buyers who make up a huge proportion of the 5,000 Enterprise Connect attendees, these sessions simulate the process of enterprises putting out a bid for a new collaboration deployment or service, and let multiple vendors put their best technical and financial feet forward. To rip off a favorite TV show of mine, let’s call it the Game of CIOs.

Despite being 3 hours long each, the RFP sessions were all well-attended. TCO+whiz bang technology – what more can an IT buyer ask for? For in lieu of reading the actual bids submitted to another CIO, this is as detailed and realistic as it gets.

There were three RFPs that vendors could participate in:

·Deploy an all-new IP telephony on-premises solution, including Unified Communications (UC) and collaboration, to 2,000 employees today, eventually growing to 4,000 workers

·Deploy UC via the cloud to the same number of employees;

·Deploy UC on-premises WHILE keeping the existing PBX system (not of your own choosing), also to the same number of employees.

Each Mock RFP was organized and judged by a well-known independent consultant or industry analyst: David Stein, Brent Kelly (read his blog about the Mock RFPs here) and Marty Parker (read his blog here). All of the top vendors participated with the exception of Microsoft.

Avaya placed very well in each of the RFP competitions. In the first Mock RFP, in the scenario in which companies deployed voice and UC to all of its users, the Avaya Aura-based solution running in virtualization on top of VMware beat eight other competitors, including Cisco, Alcatel, Shoretel, Siemens, NEC, Aastra, ININ and Mitel with a score of 96.5 out of 100.

According to Rob McMaher, a Consulting System Engineer at Avaya, Avaya’s winning design featured Avaya Aura Conferencing 7 with Flare Experience and Client Enablement Services to allow employees to get UC on their mobile devices. Avaya’s bid also included Avaya Aura Contact Center for 70 customer service agents, supported by virtualized dual servers running other Aura components such as Communication Manager and Session Manager in a low-cost, reliable virtualized configuration. Also, the electrical efficiency of the Avaya phones and audio conferencing gear – which have all earned the Class 1 Power green certification – helped.

In the Cloud UC competition, Avaya placed in the top 3 out of 7 competitors for features and functions. Where Avaya stood apart was its 99.999% high availability and value. Out of the four financial measures – total cost including capital expenditures and operational expenditures, one-time capital costs, recurring 5-year capital and operational expenditures and recurring cost month/user – Avaya placed first.

The final competition – deploying UC on top of existing PBX systems – was key. Many companies are looking to gain the benefits of collaboration without dumping perfectly operational PBX boxes or well-running, heavily-used telephones, as some vendors would prefer that you do. According to McMaher, Avaya submitted a bid running our Unified Comms and Collaboration solution, including advanced features such as One-X Mobility (softphones for smartphones and PCs) to Avaya Flare Experience with AAC7 conferencing, on top of a legacy Cisco CUCM 4.x telephony switch. Avaya ended up outscoring Cisco 86.06 to 82.99.

Avaya’s strong showing for both its technology and cost shouldn’t be surprising. Avaya ranks number one in many communications and collaboration markets, including global enterprise telephony (Dell ‘Oro), global unified communications (Dell ‘Oro), global unified messaging (T3i Group), global contact centers (Gartner), global fixed-mobile convergence (Frost & Sullivan) and global voice maintenance services (IntelliCom Analytics).

Meanwhile, several recently-published independent reports by well-regarded analyst firms – Constellation Research and Nemertes Research – both came to the same conclusion, that Avaya offered some of the best bang for the buck for enterprises today. The Nemertes report (get it here) by Robin Gareiss surveyed hundreds of enterprise IT managers on their actual, real-world costs from deploying IP telephony from various vendors. Avaya Aura cost less than half of Microsoft Lync.

Constellation’s Brent Kelly (download here)  focused on the total cost of video conferencing, taking into account
not just list software prices, but, crucially, the amount of network bandwidth you’d need to buy to support the same number of users. Avaya Scopia turns out to be more efficient, due to its codecs and its distributed architecture, meaning that its TCO is far lower than most rivals, especially Cisco.

The moral? If you’re interested in technology and value, you could do far worse than to take a look at what Avaya has on offer.


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