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Avaya as a networking vendor

Avaya has tried to be a networking vendor in the past (Anyone remember Cajun switches? I think you can still buy one in Thailand). The market has not been friendly to it.

And yet, with this week’s news that Avaya won the bidding war for Nortel’s enterprise division, the company is now on its way to being the owner of a significant data networking market share.

According to Gartner’s quick-take on the Avaya-Nortel deal, Avaya has committed to continue Nortel’s data portfolio as its own. I haven’t seen that corroborated anywhere else. In July I asked Todd Abbot, Avaya’s senior vice president of global field ops, about Avaya’s plans for Nortel’s switches and routers. He said the company wasn’t ready to discuss it.

Chances are that Avaya won’t be ready to discuss the future of the data portfolio for awhile, at least until the deal is closed. Then perhaps Avaya will make a go of it as a networking vendor. It’s not out of the question, given how many former Cisco executives the company has on board. But it’s also entirely possible that Avaya will eventually flip the data business to another vendor.

As Garter’s Bob Hafner et al noted in the firm’s quick-take, Avaya has a poor history with data products and Nortel’s product line needs some updating and rationalization (Although Nortel would disagree with that assessment). Gartner worries that Avaya “may not be able to spare resources for this task while it focuses on integrating and supporting the combined [Nortel-Avaya] voice portfolios.”

So Avaya’s Nortel agenda looks like this:

  • Retain an extremely rattled voice customer base.
  • Make amends with a very unhappy channel community.
  • Integrate two huge voice and unified communications product portfolios.
  • Figure out what to do with the data networking business.

Gartner is right. The first three bullets in this list look like tall tasks. The last one might sit in the to-do file on CEO Kevin Kennedy’s desk for awhile.

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