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5 ways Avaya can stave off irrelevancy

Having lost half its market share, new Avaya data networking chief Randall targets hot growth areas

By , Network World
March 08, 2012 05:20 PM ET
Marc Randall

Network World - New Avaya data networking chief Marc Randall has five focus areas in his sights to help the company sell its Ethernet switches, gain market share ... and perhaps stave off irrelevancy.

Even after buying the Ethernet switching assets of Nortel in 2009, Avaya has lost half of its revenue share in the Ethernet switching market over the past three years, according to Dell'Oro Group. The company's share dropped from 3% of an $18 billion market in 2008, to 1.4% of a $19.8 billion market in 2011.

Yet Randall, an Ethernet switching veteran who joined the firm Jan. 3 as the new senior vice president and general manager of Avaya Networking, is bullish on the company's prospects in five key markets:

• campus 
data center 
• branch 
• edge
• mobility

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"We really are committed to get into the data networking business," Randall says. "Because of the Nortel acquisition, I wasn't really sure what the product portfolio looked like. To my surprise, the portfolio exceeded my expectations."

Avaya's focus for 2012 will be on tightly aligning its networking infrastructure products to applications in those five target markets. Those applications include Avaya's own unified communications and contact center packages, Web Alive collaboration application, and to other general purpose business applications, like databases, ERP, CRM, etc.

"We believe that we've got a unique opportunity to get tightly coupled with applications," Randall says. "Cisco's become so siloed recently that getting a tighter connection to the applications turned out to be a bigger, bigger challenge, and I think that's where the industry's going to go.

"If we can pull off tying the application to the infrastructure, where the applications run better, I thought this was going to be a great opportunity."

In the campus, Randall believes Avaya's Virtual Enterprise Network Architecture (VENA) will appeal to organizations looking to overcome the scalability limitations of Ethernet's Spanning Tree protocol. VENA is based on the IEEE's Shortest Path Bridging (SPB) specification, which uses a link state routing protocol to allow switches to learn the shortest paths through an Ethernet fabric and dynamically adjust to topology changes. SPB also allows Ethernet networks to deploy multiple active paths to overcome the traditional active-passive redundancy of Spanning Tree, in which half of all ports could be in a non-forwarding mode.

There's also an opportunity to ride on the back of Avaya's unified communications and collaboration portfolio in enterprise campuses, especially if the company's switches are optimized for those applications.

"There's no reason that (channel partners) can't attach data (to Avaya UC offerings)," Randall says. "So we've got an initiative -- I call it the first hop into the network. If you sell an Avaya VoIP phone, that phone should be attached to an Avaya switch with an Avaya identity engine doing the policy management. If you have an existing infrastructure you connect the Avaya switch into the existing infrastructure. That for us would be a tremendous port win."

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