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Avaya's new roadmap advances SIP

Avaya recently announced a roadmap following the formal completion of the Nortel acquisition to combine various offerings into a single product line for each of its different markets. It’s a complicated, lengthy plan of necessity, and will no doubt require modification over time, but it’s already clear that the SIP protocol receives a significant boost.

In the WLAN business we like SIP because it is open, and has the best opportunity to become a universal choice for the client-to-server signaling protocol. And since connecting dual-mode cellular/Wi-Fi phones over a WLAN to a communications server (PBX) is a mix-and-match multi-vendor proposition, more support for the standard protocol offers more opportunities for smooth integration.

Avaya was already a pretty strong proponent of SIP. We started with the SIP Enablement Server (SES) in the Aruba internal voice network about four years ago, and while there have been a few implementation mismatches between, for instance, the early Avaya and Nokia SIP options, it has worked well. But we always sensed that Avaya would far rather use its own signaling protocol to digital sets (CCMS), that SIP was a poor relation and that we were pushing outside the comfort zone of our integrator’s support team.

The announcement of Avaya’s new Unified Communications strategy, Aura, in mid-2009 offered the first significant vote of confidence in SIP. In simple terms, Aura sets up a central call server for a multi-site network, allowing consolidated SIP trunking to the outside world, and also using SIP trunking to connect the sites internally, crucially allowing Avaya to project its UC services to clients behind other vendors’ PBXs around the network. I think of this as a trend to commoditise the ‘call completion’ layer of the network in order to provide a larger market for value-add UC services over the top. Aura gave SIP trunking a massive shot in the arm, forcing competitors to follow suit.

The recently announced roadmap encompasses Aura and SIP trunking, but also increases the use of SIP on the station side. Allan Sulkin’s analysis offers some more detail: to rationalize the overlapping product lines of server (e.g. Nortel CS1000) and station sets, essentially all will have a SIP option going forward. With this common protocol, it will be possible to match Nortel deskphones with Avaya call servers, and vice versa.

This is significant for WLAN-based voice. We have already seen the SIP tide rolling in, but to date it has been slow. Polycom offers a SIP option for their popular SpectraLink single-mode Wi-Fi phones, for instance, but it can’t be used where the PBX or call server has no corresponding SIP capability. Avaya’s roadmap will hasten the migration to SIP in two of the major product lines, and we can expect the rest of the industry to be swept along in the flow. Readily-available SIP services on PBXs and call servers will allow wide adoption of the SIP-over-Wi-Fi clients we see on most dual-mode smartphones (Nokia, Apple, Android for example). As I noted last week, not all are ready for the more unforgiving of our users, but they are rapidly improving. Keep an eye open for updates to the roadmap, and those of you with Avaya or Nortel infrastructure and a WLAN, be sure to ask about support for station-side SIP.
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