Avaya's Communication Manager

05 Feb 2004
Back in the 1980s, Avaya-then Lucent Technologies-had grand plans for its PBX. These were dreams of controlling elevators, managing a building's heating and air conditioning, and even offering word processing through the phone system, recalls Allan Sulkin, president and chief analyst at TEQConsult Group (www.teqconsult.com) and a then Lucent employee. PBXs were going to take over the building, and Avaya was going to lead the charge. 
Times might have changed, but Avaya's ambitions aren't any more tempered. In an exclusive interview with Network Magazine, Jorge Blanco, Avaya's vice president of product marketing, and Laurie Birch, product line leader for Communication Manager software, revealed the length and breadth of what's in store for the company's call processing platform, Communication Manager (CM). At a time when PBXs are moving the way of the mainframes of yesteryear, Avaya, arguably the Don of PBXs, is pulling a play from its 1980s playbook for this century. 
And the play boils down to this: Avaya wants to see voice and converged communications infused throughout the enterprise. It's not just about unified messaging or placing phone calls from within Microsoft Word; Avaya expects voice to be incorporated into the very fabric of the enterprise's interaction. As companies look at supply chain automation to connect virtual companies together, voice will be triggered through different real-time events, such as inventory conditions generating a virtual meeting or some other custom-set trigger, explains Blanco. To those ends, the next two years will see Avaya open up CM through standard, high-level APIs, deliver new types of contact applications, and beef up its underlying infrastructure. 
Avaya isn't the only vendor hearing the cry of VoIP implementers  Few, however, can out-macho Avaya's breadth of features. Blanco boasts that the CM has over 700 features, including tidbits such as cellular extension, which stretches CM phone functionality out to regular mobile phones, and interesting end-user functions, such as the ability to automatically highlight phone numbers on Web pages with its soft client and then dial them at a click. No one needs all 700 features, but collectively they address the market's idiosyncratic requirements. 
Part of this breadth and depth comes down to concentration. Most of Avaya's competitors are into other businesses, so they lack the same "laser-type focus," says Sulkin. "Siemens sells lightbulbs; Nortel, data equipment. If Avaya doesn't sell telephony, it doesn't sell anything."