From the information that I have reviewed, it appears that Merrill Lynch is getting smarter. Cisco phones only work with particular Cisco switches. Further, they operate in an IP only environment. With all of the attacks on IP networks, it makes sense to have something that will work with both IP, with traditional services as backup. This was not possible with their Cisco implementation. It is more a function of not having all of your eggs in one basket than anything else. By using the Avaya gear, they can use IP telephony and have TDM as backup in case of a failure on their IP side.
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