Skype and Avaya strike agreement to extend services to any size business

Avaya and Skype are combining their expertise in Internet voice and enterprise communications to penetrate the diverse business services market.

The two-phase agreement includes a go-to-market campaign that will be immediately followed by a joint integration process.

Perhaps the bigger significance of the alliance is that it will put a lid on previous rumors that Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO) would buy Skype for $5 billion. What's obviously spurred such rumors is the fact that Skype has been planning an IPO. Initially focused on the consumer VoIP market, Skype has been ramping up its business capabilities and the Avaya alliance will help advance its efforts in that market.

During the first phase of the joint agreement, U.S.-based Avaya customers will get access to Skype Connect, a product that adds Skype calling via SIP channel between Avaya's systems, including the Aura Session Manager or Avaya Aura SIP Enablement Server, CS1000, Avaya IP Office, or BCM systems and Skype. The two companies claim that the new service will enable businesses to realize savings on international calling.   

Steve Hilton, Head of Enterprise and Small Enterprise Research, Analysys Mason, believes that the alliance would resonate well with Avaya's existing SMB customers as it will extend new SIP capabilities to a very cost conscious segment. "For small and medium businesses that use IP Office, I'd be very excited about getting access to Skype," he said. "It will help them save money on international calling and get access to webcam-style video communications integrated with their Avaya phone systems."

In the second phase of the relationship, which will get underway in the second half of 2011, Avaya and Skype will deliver a unified communications and collaboration (UCC) solution for U.S.-based enterprises by establishing a federation between Avaya Aura and Skype. Avaya and Skype end-users alike will be able to interact via presence, instant messaging, voice and video.

Hilton believes that the benefit for Avaya is that it could spur more service business for the company. "For Avaya partners it sounds like a bonanza to drive lots of additional services work," he said. "I'd like to think all the Skype proposed features (including video) will work out-of-the-box, but I'm a bit skeptical by nature. I think this announcement will help push plenty of additional services work--especially network assessments--to Avaya partners."

For more:
- see the release here

Related articles:
Skype Connect business VoIP launches out of Beta
Skype filing reveals company's worries, strategy
Skype for SIP adds new IP PBXs and gateways for SMBs

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