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Virtualization: Article

Avaya Uses Xen for Unified Communications

The widgetry is a version of the Aura solution the company brought out for the large-scale enterprise in May

Avaya, the telecommunications outfit spun out of Lucent in 2000 and taken private by Silver Lake Partners and TPG Capital for $8.2 billion in 2007, the company that's buying Nortel's Enterprise Division for $900 million, a move that will recombine Northern Electric and Western Electric, entities that haven't been together since 1949, means to announce a virtualized unified communications solution today targeted at SMBs.

The widgetry is a version of the Aura solution the company brought out for the large-scale enterprise in May.

It's supposed to be one of the first solutions to use standards-based virtualization for real-time communications - and Avaya thinks so much of virtualization - the use of software to run multiple applications on a single piece of hardware at the same time - that it says it will be its de facto method of deploying applications from here on out.

Avaya has rolled its own middleware based on Linux and the open source Xen virtualization projection to make unified communications and collaboration more practical and affordable for the mid-sized company. It says its new mid-size Aura can support 2,400 users and 250 locations on a single high-end Intel Nehalem server at prices starting at 60 bucks a seat.

Besides saving money, the widgetry is supposed to reduce complexity and power consumption and, compared to rival systems, obviously needs a whole lot less hardware, which explains why it's cheaper.

Avaya calculates that Aura takes 80% less hardware than Microsoft, which isn't running communications of its Hyper-V hypervisor, and 65% less than Cisco, which isn't doing real-time. The less machinery, the less power, cooling and maintenance is needed, making the widgetry more environmentally friendly and lowering its total cost of ownership.

The so-called Aura System Platform will underlay unmodified versions of Communications Manager and Voice Messaging, Avaya's main telephony widgetry; its SIP Enablement Services, the engine that talks to devices and outside SIP services; its Application Enablement Services, the API engine for third-party apps, Utility Services, which lets the widgetry be monitored and fixed remotely; and Media Services. Avaya has replaced the typical hardware gateway with a software media gateway.

Altogether Ayava uses its homegrown Xen to create five virtual machines, one for each of the applications. It adheres to the Open Virtualization Format (OVF), the hypervisor-agnostic open standard for packaging and distributing software in VMs.

Avaya says the solution, due out next month through Avaya channels, can be completely deployed remotely in an hour or two and uses powerful wizards and self-use administration. There's no single point of failure and an optional backup server is available for redundancy.

Customers can add Avaya's Contact Center Express (CCE) multi-channel contact center solution for mid-sized companies. CCE offers a unified desktop display, advanced multimedia tools and integration with CRM software such as Microsoft's Dynamics CRM.

Down the road Avaya expects to enhance the CCE common administrative tool so users can manage contact center-related data and capabilities of Aura Communication Manager from inside CCE.

There's a Standard Edition of Aura midsize and an Enterprise Edition. The Enterprise Edition is available on a single license that provides access to corporate communications from consistent "follow me" interfaces whether the user is mobile, at home, in remote office, a hotel or at work. It provides for a portal, video, presence and thick and thin clients.

Beta sites say the virtualized solution dispenses, say, with the monthly charges incurred with hosted solutions, offers more control and pushes them closer to a total SIP environment.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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