Changing the Channel: Networking VAR news

Sep 17 2009   4:31PM GMT

Helping your customers with Nortel-Avaya integration

AmyKucharik Amy Kucharik Profile: AmyKucharik

It’s official: Nortel has approved a $915 million bid from Avaya for its Enterprise Solutions business.

What this means for customers, and channel partners, is a gradual merging of the two companies’ unified communications (UC) portfolios, with eventual phase-outs for redundant products. But there’s no rush to rip and replace any gear just yet, as Jessica Scarpati reports on SearchUnifiedCommunications.com. As quoted in the article, Henry Dewing, a principal analyst at Forrester Research said “I don’t expect to see [Avaya CEO] Kevin Kennedy walk out on the day after the deal closes and say, ‘We’re no longer going to manufacture X, Y and Z products.’ …I think there will be incremental changes.”

But channel partners can still help Nortel customers get through the transition more smoothly, since those customers may be uncertain what move to make next, as analysts told Scarpati:

“Those organizations that work with VARs [value-added resellers] should really rely on their VARs to walk them through the process,” said Vanessa Alvarez, an industry analyst at Frost & Sullivan.

It’s unlikely there will be “any immediate threat” to Nortel products, meaning users should use this time to plan, said Zeus Kerravala, a senior vice president at Yankee Group.

“[Users should] do whatever they could to find out either from the VAR or from Avaya directly what stays and what goes because that’s an important part of the decision process. I wouldn’t make any large purchases right now,” he said. “Just stay the course, and as soon as you can, try to find out how these two product lines are going to be integrated.”

Avaya may also be offering valuable incentives for customers to shift from Nortel to Avaya products. Earlier this year, Avaya introduced a program, in effect until May 2010, offering Nortel partners an opportunity to earn an additional 5% on deals in which they sell Avaya products. But Lazar didn’t think Avaya would withdraw support for Nortel any time soon:

“I would suspect that Avaya will provide very attractive options for Nortel’s customers to think about migrating to Avaya systems,” Lazar said. “But they are constrained by the economy. Companies don’t have money to spend on new systems, so Avaya will need to support Nortel systems for a long time. I’d expect most of the cuts would come in project management and development.”

Nortel’s enterprise customers may also be feeling anxious about their routers and switches being supported by a telephony vendor, which is another opportunity for the VAR to step in and offer support or advice on where to go next.

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