Avaya CEO Likes 'Legacy' Burden

by Erin Joyce

Don Peterson says company's roots in the phone business give it an edge over VoIP competitors.

Avaya's networking legacy may feel like a burden at times, but the CEO of the software communications giant wouldn't have it any other way.

With origins that trace back to AT&T's Bell Labs research division, Avaya is sometimes viewed solely as a networking and infrastructure company that knows how to plumb some VoIP connectivity for business customers.

That's fine with Don Peterson. The chief executive told internetnews.com that history only informs its ability to help customers build smarter applications that run on top of an IP-enabled telephony network.

Once customers start upgrading to next-generation messaging platforms, they see how one foot in the old world and one in the new is a burden any competitor would envy.

Don Peterson
Don Peterson
Source: Avaya

"That's our sweet spot," Peterson said.

Peterson spoke to internetnews.com during this week's SpeechTek conference and trade show in New York, where Avaya unveiled its latest Voice Portal platform, which can integrate with a company's next-generation Service Oriented Architecture .

The idea is to simplify the design and deployment of voice-activated systems for helping customers help themselves. Peterson said the new Avaya Voice Portal significantly reduces the costs of deploying speech self-service by using a company's existing Web services .

Avaya notes that integrating voice and business applications on top of IP-telephony systems has to be the guiding principle behind a company's VoIP rollout, Peterson said.

Take its "click-to-call" functionality. Avaya and IBM recently struck a deal to integrate Avaya's Meeting Exchange audio conferencing abilities with IBM's Lotus Web conferencing platform.

The click-to-call functionality will allow IBM's Lotus Sametime, Notes and Domino users to seamlessly place a VoIP call directly from their instant messaging or e-mail clients. Conferencing multiple users ("click-to-conference") is also enabled, allowing users to select multiple contacts for a conference call.

So it's more than deploying VoIP just for cheaper calls.

"What people are looking for are solution building blocks that can be used to deliver value process improvements and combine many applications," he said during the SpeechTek conference.

Peterson said he expects to see a forward growth rate of about 20 percent a year for IP telephony software and services, reaching $30 billion by 2006, which breaks down to about $13 billion for software and about $17 billion for services. That's not even counting the IP telephony hardware.

This year, IP telephony equipment shipments will overtake older, TDM -based communication equipment, he added. "We think this is a tipping point at which the whole opportunity accelerates."

Though the underlying infrastructure to help IP-enable calls and voice-enable more applications while integrating messaging across more applications may be developing quickly now, the base of telephony -– the legacy systems already in place -- will still faithfully work and work well for businesses. Many will see no need to bypass those systems for IP-enabled messaging and applications.

At least, not yet.

"With enterprise communications, it's about making sure those opportunities are not missed," Peterson said, as companies move from one world to an IP-enabled world of messaging, applications and services.

This article was originally published on Thursday Aug 4th 2005