In late 2008, Nortel told me about its enterprise networking products and strategy moving forward and I must say that I walked away impressed. Nortel planned to abandon some failed relationships, scale back some product plans, and invest in its strength, switching and routing. Nortel also had a realistic perspective on the market, vertical opportunities, and competing with enterprise king Cisco.
All of these plans blew up when Nortel went Chapter 11 in 2009. I knew that the Nortel enterprise networking assets had value but when HP passed, I was leery about the future for Nortel and a potential acquiring company.
With this as background, it was great meeting with the folks at Avaya yesterday to discuss what has happened since. In spite of incredible competitive FUD, lots of legacy Nortel customers stuck with the company and actually invested in new equipment. Avaya re-structured the salesforce to have a dedicated data networking team that continues to win business. Now Avaya is actually enhancing the product line with 4 announcements here at Interop. For example, Nortel is building its own Wi-Fi equipment and integrated wireless and wired devices and management. Pretty cool technology that will be especially attractive to Nortel customers and prospects in health care, higher education, and government agencies.
Avaya is under no illusion that it can overtake Cisco and admits that the industry has changed. Juniper is gaining strength in the enterprise, HP now owns 3Com and has impressive enterprise resources, and Brocade/Foundry form a strong data center team. Nevertheless, Avaya believes that its technology is as strong as anyone's and it is preparing for the fight.
I always believed that Nortel technology was strong but it needed a more realistic strategy and marketing help. Avaya seems to have similar thoughts and a complementary execution plan. Aside from the industry however, its nice to see that Nortel networking landed on its feet with Avaya. An unexpected piece of good news.