Kennedy at Enterprise Connect: Avaya is Taking Control of the Middle

In games as varied as football and chess, to actual warfare, controlling the middle of the field is not only vital – it begets a winning advantage.

How about the Collaboration Vendor Wars? Avaya CEO Kevin Kennedy gave a keynote speech earlier today at Enterprise Connect in Orlando. This year’s conference has attracted 5,000 attendees, so it was not surprising that Kennedy’s speech, titled “Delivering the Connected Experience,” was so packed that even the audience overflow room I was sitting in was full.

Kennedy began by talking about something near and dear to Avaya, with its historical headquarters in New Jersey: how our communications gear helped New York City government agencies like the MTA subway system and the NYC 311 information services maintain service during last fall’s Hurricane Sandy disaster.

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Enterprise Connect attracts lots of technical experts from IT organizations, and Kennedy’s speech was aimed straight at them. His overarching message: forget that we dominate the market for PBX communications gear, we can also provide the next generation of your communications and collaboration infrastructure, especially what Kennedy called “the middleware collaboration environment.”

Slide41.JPG(You can download the entire presentation by visiting www.SlideShare.net/AvayaInc.)

Middleware may not be glamorous, but it is a total necessity in enterprise environments where there are thousands of moving parts. According to Kennedy, one-third of all unified communications deployments are “misconfigured,” in part because of the absence or poor use of middleware. Companies such as IBM, Oracle, SAP, Microsoft, Informatica, Tibco and the company Kennedy named, Computer Associates, have all profited mightily by filling the gap for enterprise middleware.

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Here’s an example of middleware in action. Take the heavily-hyped technology, WebRTC, which theoretically allows developers to easily create browser-based communications apps. The problem is that many app developers don’t understand how the TDM or SIP-based communications gear used in enterprises today works. And enterprises aren’t going to dump their existing gear overnight. Enter middleware from vendors such as Avaya that connect WebRTC apps with existing communications software. That way, WebRTC can be an “on-ramp or off-ramp” to the today’s unified comm systems, without “obliterating” them.  It’s not just middleware, then. It is middleware–as-a-platform, for communications developers and system integrators to build upon.

Middleware is also key to Avaya’s vision, which is an open stack that gives enterprises the right amount of choice and flexibility without being overly-chaotic nor force you to be locked into a single vendor.

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Kennedy also talked about some of the cool applications Avaya is building on top of that middleware, like real-time speech recognition for analyzing customers in contact centers. He also mentioned Avaya’s recent success in areas such as managed services and how sales of its Radvision video conferencing have doubled since the company was acquired a year ago, and its win to be the exclusive networking provider for the Sochi 2014 Olympics.

Regarding Avaya’s financial situation, particularly its debt, Enterprise Connect conference chair and NoJitter blogger, Eric Krapf, wrote “That issue is under control, Kennedy said, with gross margins at an all-time high and high enough to service the debt, with the debt repayments themselves pushed out to the 2017-2022 time frame.”

“One thing you can’t say about Avaya is that they’re clinging to the visions of the past,” continued Krapf. “They seem to recognize that future communications architectures are going to look very different from the past, and they’re fighting to be as important a part of those next-gen architectures as they’ve been through all the previous generations.”