Avaya/Juniper partnership merits further evaluation

* Juniper to put competitive pressure on Cisco in branch market

The impetus to implementing VoIP can range from opening a new office to streamlining phone features to reducing operational costs. In the branch, we often see a key driver being an overall network upgrade.

When organizations budget for a WAN network upgrade, only one vendor - Cisco - has made it easy for them to include VoIP in that project. Cisco’s Call Manager Express, implemented on its ISR router series, brings IP telephony to branch locations without the need to buy, install, and house separate PBXs.

I’ve conducted detailed interviews with hundreds of IT executives in the past four years regarding their VoIP implementations. Many companies weren’t even thinking of VoIP when they launched into their WAN upgrade, and Cisco convinced them that it would make sense to implement the technology with the new routers. Others said Cisco was their only choice to easily extend VoIP to the branch.

Although competitors, such as Avaya and Nortel, have branch office products, they’re not integrated into any routers.

Next year, that will change. Avaya and Juniper have teamed up to address this market - and this level of competition is needed at the branch office. Juniper plans to offer all-in-one, branch office devices that include VoIP (via voice cards based on Avaya’s G350 product), as well as MPLS routing and WAN optimization capabilities.

So what does this mean for IT decision-makers? It’s all good news. Juniper will put competitive pressure on Cisco with lower prices and alternatives for those who do not want to be locked into a Cisco environment. Also, those who favor Avaya will be able to get it - and in an all-in-one product, which helps reduce management time in the branch.

I recommend IT staffs consider both options when evaluating network upgrades or VOIP to the branch office. What likely will emerge as a result are more multi-vendor networks. For example, organizations with Cisco Call Managers at the headquarters may opt for the Juniper/Avaya solution at the branch. And with that will come issues about management…a topic I’ll discuss next week.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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