Avaya looks to midmarket with IP Office 8.1 upgrade

Avaya IP Office PhoneLet’s face it, point-releases (or dot-releases, depending on how you prefer to word it) aren’t usually huge upgrades over previous editions. But when it comes to channel opportunity, Avaya bucked that trend with the introduction of IP Office 8.1 – a point-release that means whole new markets are opening up for the company’s partners.

The big difference between 8.0 and 8.1 of IP Office is that the company has moved IP Office onto a new Linux-based platform. That’s somewhat interesting unto itself. But where it gets really interesting is in the scalability that new platform affords IP Office. Whereas before 8.1, Avaya targeted IP Office at opportunities of less than 250 seats, the new upgrade makes IP Office an opportunity for partners in customers of up to 1,000 seats.

“There are bigger opportunities out there, and that means more revenues and more profit,” said Mark Massingham, senior product marketing manager for IP Office at Avaya. “The real value here is what you can surround [IP Office] with. The real profit, the real revenue comes from selling the whole solution.”

For partners, that real profit can come from wrapping in a new data networking solution, adding Unified Communications capabilities and management portals. While IP Office itself represents a significant opportunity, that opportunity grows dramatically when those add-ons are concerns. “If you can sell 300 1X Portal users, that represents fantastic profit for a business partner,” Massingham said.

The “better together” message is part of an overall shift on the company’s part towards more solutions marketing, Massingham said. It’s a shift that started inside the company, and now it’s time to take it to the partner base. That means a lot of “buddying up” between Avaya and its partner base to take sales calls to the medium-sized business customers, and some help in educating partners on the different concerns of what may be a new market for many IP Office partners.

The solutions sale is made a little bit easier, at least from the management standpoint, by the fact that the new version of IP Office will auto-configure with the company’s ERS 3500 family of switches – the result of Avaya getting its voice and data networking families in synch.

IP Office 8.1 also includes support for Avaya’s Flare Communicator, previously the interface for the Avaya Aura unified communications platform, and increasingly the interface for Avaya’s communications offerings for all businesses – Flare was, of course introduced with its own Android-based tablet, but also includes support for a wide variety of Android, iOS and other endpoints as BYOD becomes the norm rather than the exception in the business world.

“We want a consistent look and feel, and we decided to do that with the enterprise-supported Flare experience,” Massingham said. That said, the company will be paying attention to the needs of the SMB customers, including grater ease-of-use and simplicity.

Also with the launch, Avaya has introduced a new comprehensive support offering – including the ability to pre-pay for one-, three-, or five-year support plans that include Avaya technical support, software patches and feature updates. Massingham said partners can either co-deliver support and services along with the vendor, or can hand those duties off entirely to Avaya.

Finally, 8.1 introduces border controller capabilities acquired last year when Avaya purchased Sipera, and in another security-focused enhancement, supports SSL VPN at all endpoint, meaning business partners can more easily do remote maintenance and support.

“It will ultimately reduce truck rolls and reduce TCO for the customer,” Massingham said. “And with the services offer, it should drive a great deal of customer satisfaction.”

Avaya Canada is running an IP Office Makeover contest in support of the 8.1 launch, giving VARs and their customers a chance to send in their office communications horror stories to win prizes that include an IP Office installation and a trip to Montreal to see the Canadiens play. The contest runs through October 7, and details are available at avayaofficemakeover.com.

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