Avaya today announced the latest version of its unified communication (UC) software, IP Office 8.1, which the company says brings UC features typically reserved for large enterprises to smaller ones.
Features in the latest version of the software include: scaling the platform to handle as many as 1,000 users per site -- up from the previous limit of 384; management tools that allow UC platforms at multiple sites to be managed from a single console; and support for the company's Flare Communication tool, which allows IP Office 8.1 to be accessed via smartphones and tablets.
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For back-end infrastructure, IP Office 8.1 comes in two forms: The server edition doesn't require any Avaya proprietary hardware, instead it uses gateways that enable standard servers to support UC tools, such as SIP trunking. The other version runs on Avaya hardware and enables SIP trunking and other UC tools without the need for gateways. "This gives great flexibility to our partners and customers to take really any architecture approach they'd like," says Gary Barnett, senior vice president and general manager for Collaboration Platforms at Avaya.
IP Office 8.1 also includes support for Avaya's session border controller, which is the security feature that Avaya enhanced with its acquisition of Sipera last year. A version of the session border controller specifically for IP Office 8.1 will be released later this summer, Barnett says. Until then, the current version of the Avaya session border controller will work on IP Office 8.1.
IP Office 8.1 follows up Avaya's announcement last week that its UC platform is now generally available through a cloud-based delivery model. The system allows users to download soft clients that will run the UC platform in the cloud, eliminating the need to install the software on the company's own infrastructure. AvayaLive Connect cloud-based service starts at $19 per user per month.
Barnett also says that IP Office 8.1 will be a platform to launch more vertical industry-specific applications on in the future. "Not only is it a great UC platform for the small to medium market, but it will also for that market become an application platform for us moving forward," he says.
Rob Arnold, a program manager in the UC and collaboration division of consultancy Frost & Sullivan, says Avaya's IP Office 8.1 offering is not alone in serving the SME market, but it is one of the strongest. "This product is developed specifically for the small to mid-market," he says. "Now that they've scaled it up to reach the high end of that market, it has compelling market reach." The "beefed up" applications and networking functions, combined with Avaya's established channel partners and install customer base, further solidifies the offering, he says. One of the best features of the 8.1 version, Arnold says, is the ability for users to manage separate sites from a single console.