Avaya Aims to Address the OTT Threat, Declining PBX Space with Zang, Breeze

By Paula Bernier March 10, 2016

Avaya is taking a page from GENBAND and Kandy in an effort to stay relevant in a rapidly changing communications environment. The PBX leader this week announced a new Avaya subsidiary called Zang Inc. to offer a communications platform as a service that can enable companies to quickly bring real-time communications to a variety of applications and to introduce new stand-alone applications.

Mohammad Nezarati, the leader of UC applications at Avaya and former CEO of Esna Technologies (which Avaya bought last year), has been named general manager of Zang.

Also new this week from Avaya is the third generation release of an automation and workflow platform, which the company is now calling Avaya Breeze. Breeze is the platform Avaya and its customers can use to write custom Snap-Ins to create communications applications, explained Gary Barnett, senior vice president and general manager of engagement solutions at Avaya. For example, Michigan State University has used Breeze to build about 40 applications, including one that allows its bike shop to text students when their wheels are ready, and another that people can leverage to report problems with on-campus elevators.

For years now the industry has portrayed customer and employee engagement solutions (meaning contact center and unified communications solutions) as being complex, hard to get up and running, and inflexible, Barnett noted. Now, he said, it’s all about simplicity and speed – meaning companies need to get their applications up and running in two days or weeks, as opposed to two years.

“Now, Avaya delivers on the promise of open, mobile engagement with a platform that allows companies to easily design and embed applications into workflows via a powerful, simplified, software-defined architecture and infrastructure for communications,” said Barnett. “This game-changing technology is built for digital business where companies need the flexibility, speed, and the freedom to easily create unique value for their customers. Avaya Breeze liberates them from the confines of monolithic, vendor-locked platforms.”

The Snap-Ins can now be uploaded by developers and accessed (for free or for purchase) at The Snapp Store, which Avaya also launched this week. The store now has around 20 companies selling applications on it. Among those companies is eGain, which offers a knowledge cloud solution.

Avaya has also concurrently introduced the AURA 7 communications platform, the Elite 7 customer engagement application, and a session border controller called SBC 7. All three are software-only solutions, which Barnett said makes them easier to integrate and more scalable than what Avaya offered in the past.

And, he added, OnAvaya on the Google Cloud Platform now delivers not just contact center but also UC functionality for employee-facing communication, and users can run it on any browser on any device. The company integrated its contact center and UC functionality in recognition of the fact that the customer and employee engagement worlds are starting to converge, Barnett said, adding that Avaya expects to announce its analytics strategy within the next three months.

All of the above are moves by Avaya to respond to the quickly changing communications arena – in which over-the-top players like Facebook, fring (now part of GENBAND), Google, Slack, and so many others are stealing the thunder of the old guard; in which business customers are becoming more focused on breaking down communications silos and erecting customer and employee engagement solutions; and in which the global enterprise telephony and UC market is in decline.

According to IHS, the global enterprise telephony and UC market space closed down 4 percent in 2014, to $8.7 billion, as businesses continued to hold off new purchases and upgrades of PBX equipment despite improving worldwide economic conditions. However, the firm noted that despite this larger decline, the evolving UC applications segment is healthy, having jumped 20 percent in 2014.

“The enterprise telephony market continues to be tough,” said Diane Myers of Infonetics Research, an IHS company. “Just as we see one area begin to improve, it’s offset by slowdowns in geographies or market segments. Underscoring the declines are not only slowing businesses’ purchases but also competitive pricing, which has created unpredictable swings. The move to the cloud is having an impact in certain markets, particularly North America.”

Meanwhile, Facebook is positioning to be the new phone company, in effect, as Phil Edholm discussed in his March INTERNET TELEPHONY magazine column. In a recent blog post, David Marcus, vice president of messaging products at Facebook, reported that Messenger usage has reached 800 million users per month.

“In the post, Marcus talks about ‘the disappearance of the phone number,’” Edholm noted. “He suggests that the phone number and system are hopelessly antiquated and ripe for change. His position is that communications from within Facebook is easier, works across a range of devices, and can be seen as a simple continuum of capabilities, replacing the phone number with your Facebook identity. In fact, he goes on to point out how business interactions are possible within the social platform and are much better than by the phone.”

Marcus wrote: “At Messenger we’re thinking about how we can help you interact with businesses or services to buy items (and then buy more again), order rides, purchase airline tickets, and talk to customer service in truly frictionless and delightful ways. It is so much easier to do everything in one place that has the context of your last interactions, as well as your identity – no need to ever login – rather than downloading apps that you’ll never use again and jumping around from one app to another.”

GENBAND was among the telecommunications infrastructure providers that was early to understand and respond to the changing nature of the communications space, having purchased fring in 2013, introduced its Kandy platform as a service offering back in 2014, and launched The Kandy App Store and various pre-packaged applications to get things rolling.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

Executive Editor, TMC

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