Editor's note: This article is part of a buying guide on unified communications. The features in this series describe the evolution of UC, its use cases and the important criteria to consider when buying a UC product. The series also compares the top UC products in the market. This article gives an overview of Avaya UC products.
Along with Cisco, Microsoft and Mitel, Avaya is positioned in the leaders' quadrant in Gartner's Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications. Avaya's UC product is the Avaya Aura Platform, which includes several UC components designed to add specific functionality to the enterprise communication and collaboration infrastructure, enhancing the UC experience for users of any company size.
The Avaya UC platform is a flexible and modular solution, integrating voice, data, video, Web communication applications, mobility and many more services.
Communication Manager provides UC foundation
The Avaya Aura Communication Manager is a core component of the Avaya UC platform and the foundation for delivering real-time voice, video, messaging, mobility and other UC services.
The Communication Manager registers and maintains all Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) endpoints, call routing, call queuing, prioritization of voice and video calls and much more. The product also has built-in conferencing and contact center applications -- suitable for companies with call centers and demanding conferencing needs.
The Communication Manager offers more than 700 features that are available to all users, no matter where they are working from, including office users and remote users working from home or on the road.
With this product, SIP and H.323 are fully supported, along with other industry-standard protocols. Connection with PSTN and ISDN services is possible using Avaya's media gateways, such as the Avaya G250. These media gateways work pretty much the same way as most vendors', connecting to the Aura Communication Manager and providing inbound and outbound call routing to PSTN and ISDN services.
Critical environments can also have a second Communication Manager installed, providing high-availability and uninterruptible service in case the primary server is down. Extending this redundancy model further, in the unfortunate event that both servers are down, users will automatically register to the media gateway -- if available -- and have access to basic telephony services until the servers are restored.
The Communication Manager is offered as a standalone hardware Application Server or a virtualized application. It runs on a Red Hat Enterprise Linux operating system, offering increased reliability, speed and smaller hardware requirements, as opposed to other non-Linux-based systems.
The Communication Manager can support up to 36,000 endpoints and 24,000 SIP trunks, making it a scalable solution for small to larger enterprises.
Session Manager controls calls and costs
The Avaya Aura Session Manager is the core of Avaya's SIP-based architecture, unifying all Avaya UC services. Aura Session Manager integrates with Avaya's Aura Communication Manager, media gateways, messaging services, session border controller, conferencing, contact center and more, creating a centralized infrastructure that helps lower the total cost of ownership and administration costs.
Avaya's Aura Session Manager has the unique ability to allow enterprise-wide dial plans across multiple vendor PBX environments. It can create systemwide network routing rules to route calls in a cost-efficient manner using least-cost routing methods, alternative routing, time-of-day routing, toll avoidance and more.
Session Manager is truly an enterprise product, as it can support up to 250,000 SIP users, 350,000 SIP devices, 300,000 dial patterns, 1,000 SIP domains and many more. It supports connectivity to Cisco, Siemens, Alcatel-Lucent and other third-party PBXs, making it flexible and easy to integrate with existing infrastructure.
With a tolerance of up to 1,000-millisecond (ms) round-trip delay -- from the source to the destination and back -- it is suitable for almost any network environment, even satellite connections, which typically fluctuate between 600 to 900 ms round-trip delay.
Presence Services looks to enhance collaboration
Avaya's Aura Presence Services is an Avaya UC server designed to help users collaborate more effectively by collecting and broadcasting presence information across all users connected to the Aura Platform. Using the presence information, users can see who is busy, away from their desk, on the phone, doesn't want to be disturbed, or simply not available, therefore saving time.
Aura Presence Services are primarily used to power other Avaya presence and instant messaging clients, adding more value and functionality to them and delivering full UC services. Some application examples include Avaya Communicator (softphone); Avaya Aura Agent Desktop; Avaya one-X Communicator; Avaya one-X Attendant; and Avaya IP phones, such as the 96X0 Series and 96X1 Series.
One important feature is that Avaya's Aura Presence Services provides full support of both the SIMPLE and XMPP protocols, which means companies can use the presence software of their choice.
Like most of Avaya's servers, Aura Presence Services runs under the Red Hat Enterprise Linux operating system, though the system requirements are slightly higher. Avaya recommends a 3 GHz Intel Xeon X5670 6-core CPU or better, 32 GB of memory, and around 1 TB hard drive space. The system supports virtualization via the VMware platform and allows up to eight Presence Service nodes to be present at once.
Each Presence Service node can support up to 16,000 SIP users and H.323 users, while this number can increase to 250,000 SIP and H.323 users with a dual cluster of eight nodes.
Messaging server converts voicemail to text
Avaya's Aura Messaging server is another component of the Avaya UC platform. With Aura Messaging, companies can have fast and easy access to messages. Critical new messages can alert employees and help maintain high customer service standards in any type of business.
Aura Messaging is more than a simple messaging and voicemail server. It carries advanced functions, such as Speech Auto Attendant, which allows callers to say a name instead of entering an extension; Notify Me, which sends text messages and email notification while calling the user; Voice Recognition, which allows users to say names to address voicemail messages; and many more functions.
Some other neat features include Speech-to-Text, which converts voicemail to text and delivers it to a user's email; Self-Administration so users can manage their options via a provided Web portal; Internet Message Access Protocol support, which allows companies to use their preferred email client; and Avaya one-X Speech, which gives users the power to manage their voice messages, email and calendar via verbal commands.
Aura Messaging can run on a standalone server or a supported virtualized environment such as VMware. Redundancy is also available using the N+1 redundancy configuration.
Deployment of Aura Messaging provides two paths: Standard Messaging server where a single server combines the role of an application and storage server, or high storage capacity Messaging server where it serves as a large storage server that can support a larger number of mailboxes.
Aura Messaging can support up to 20,000 users and 300 ports, depending on the deployment configuration.
Virtual Application Manager available at no cost
As with most UC solutions, Avaya's Aura platform and components fully support virtualization to ensure hardware consolidation and minimize hardware investment. However, Avaya also offers its Virtual Application Manager -- a management interface that allows the installation and maintenance of Avaya VMware-powered virtualized applications.
With the Virtual Application Manager, administrators are now able to install and maintain Avaya virtualized applications (OVA files) without the need for vCenter. The Virtual Application Manager is offered at no additional cost. It's installed with the vSphere client and provides an interface to manage and support the Avaya virtualized applications.
Avaya's products are available through its website or channel partners. With its range of core add-ons and extensions, the Aura platform can fit companies of any size, but seems well-suited for large enterprises with multiple sites and a variety of VoIP equipment.
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