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IDG Contributor Network: New day or déjà vu

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In July of last year, I believe that became the first to publicly suggest that Avaya should divest of the company’s data networking business. The one-year anniversary of my ”Cajun redux?” post is approaching and in a coincidence, around this same time Avaya will complete the sale of that part of the company to Extreme Networks. With this confluence of milestones, in this post will ask, does this signify a new day for Avaya or will, at some point down the road, we again be struck with that strange feeling of déjà vu?

Let’s not go there again

I don’t wish to again arouse the emotions caused by the original publication of “Cajun redux.” Living through that once was enough. 

As I have said many times since, I never meant to cast aspersions on the technology or the product line’s marketplace potential. I simply traced the history of several attempts by the company that is today Avaya to succeed as a player in the data networking markets. From that history and a look at where the company makes its money, I made the case that data networking has never been core to Avaya’s reason for being.

Avaya today

The best of companies today need laser-like focus. Given Avaya’s struggles, my only point was that the data networking business has never been core to Avaya’s success. Although I had hoped with my suggestion to see the assets divested under better circumstances, divesting remains the right decision for Avaya. This is not only true as a positive step in the company’s efforts to emerge from current difficulties. It is also true for the reasons I previously pointed out. The question is, what’s next?

Will Avaya truly embrace the reasons for which the company’s most loyal and important customers value the role that Avaya’s solutions play in their business? Will Avaya adopt an unwavering, maniacal focus on what they do best? There are many positive signs.  

As I have written in other Network World posts, much is at stake not only for Avaya and the many people, companies and other entities influenced by the company’s gravity.

Collective amnesia 

One of the more puzzling things about Avaya’s recent history is how company personnel feel they need to proselytize about a transformation to becoming a software and solutions business. To many of us who have an imitate understanding of the Avaya catalog, this effort has seemed a quizzical waste of energy.

Since the retirement of mechanical telecommunications switching, more than half a century ago, Avaya has been on a solid trajectory as a software and services company. Beginning with the Lucent Technologies Definity private branch exchange (PBX) which over two decades has evolved into today’s the Avaya Aura Platform, the contribution of software as opposed to hardware in Avaya’s solutions consistently skewed towards software.

What’s this hardware of which you speak

Today there remain few, if any, hardware dependencies. At some point in the company’s recent history, this fact seems to have been lost from Avaya’s collective memory.

Other products such as the Avaya Aura Experience Portal, came to define the concept of a platform long before the idea captured industry imaginations. For more than two decades, Experience Portal and that products’ antecedent incarnations including the Lucent/Avaya Voice Portal, boasted a robust community of developers who created entire industries based upon writing applications for and creating solutions with the platform.

Before those of you who may get upset by these words lash out, please chill. I am not saying that the Avaya developer community does not exist today. It most certainly does. I am just saying that compared to the ecosystem for developers that once existed coding solutions on the Experience Portal, there are far fewer today than there once were. Buy me a beer some time, and we can debate why I think that this is true.

Lest I digress 

On the broader topic, Avaya seems to have suffered from a collective amnesia about the role that the company has always played in the industries in which it competes. With the data networking excursions, though, Avaya has been like some version of a tech industry Don Quixote, tilting at windmills in non-adjacent industry follies.

Today, with new platforms including Breeze and Zang, and like another famous cinematic figure, I hope the company has rediscovered something industry veterans and customers know that it has had all along.

No competitive analogs

Part of the challenge for Avaya is that the company is different from most every other vendor that has been traditionally been compared to it as an analog/peer. Many I am sure will disagree, but come on. If we are honest with ourselves, the closest comparison was Nortel Enterprise Solutions which Avaya acquired in 2009.

Today there are no other companies that can compare to what Avaya delivers on all the levels for which the company is most valued. Like no other, Avaya provides advanced communications applications that are interwoven and deeply engrained in the value chains of the world’s most iconic brand names. Supported by one of the most successful professional and customer service operations in any industry, Avaya really has no peer.

And Toto, too

So, Avaya, welcome back to Kansas. Stable your faithful steed Rocinante. Never again leave your observers and the ecosystems of companies and individuals that depend upon your success with that strange feeling so aptly described by Monty Python.

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