Daily Archives: December 11, 2009

Avaya Must Avoid Distractions in Nortel Integration

If all goes according to plan, Avaya will take possession of insolvent Nortel’s enterprise assets, won at auction for approximately $900 million in September.

It’s at that point that Avaya will face some difficult decisions and daunting challenges. As it integrates and assimilates Nortel products and employees — not to mention its channel partners — Avaya will contend with multiple overlaps and redundancies. In most cases, those overlaps will be resolved in favor of products within Avaya’s portfolio. Nonetheless, as an article at Network World suggests, Nortel products might prevail in rare exceptions.

Avaya will have to decide whether it wishes to prolong the lives of Nortel’s switch and security portfolio. These are the products — minus Alteon load balancers, small-office/home-office gear, and blade switches, which now belong to Radware, Netgear, and Blade Network Technologies, respectively — that Nortel inherited when it acquired Bay Networks for $9.1 billion in 1998, back when the Internet seemed a limitless, gurgling fountain of obscene wealth.

There’s not much of Bay Networks left standing within Nortel. What remains really isn’t worth Avaya’s bother of keeping it alive. The cost to Avaya wouldn’t just be manifest in the bills associated with maintaining, supporting and extending the product portfolio. Additional “opportunity costs” would be incurred in the form of lost partnerships with vendors that sell networking products similar to those, but (in most cases) better than, the Nortel switches and security boxes. (Current Avaya enterprise-networking partners include HP ProCurve, Extreme Networks, and Brocade/Foundry.)

Besides, the Nortel switches would be a distraction, a once-shiny, now-irredeemably tarnished bouncy ball that Avaya executives would be remiss to chase. They’ll get some useful things from the Nortel acquisition, but the ex-Bay stuff isn’t among them.

Avaya would be wise to keep its eye on its core enterprise-communications business. Whether those communications involve VoIP alone, or unified communications, it will face tough competition from Cisco. Avaya has neither the scale nor the resources to compete with Cisco right across the enterprise board.

Accordingly, the company should strive to keep Cisco’s enterprise-networking enemies among its allies as it wades into battle.

Microsoft Finally Announces Opalis Acquisition

I’m not sure what took so long, but Microsoft today finally announced its acquisition of run-book-automation software vendor Opalis.

Although terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, sources told me back in October that Microsoft would pay about $59 million for the Toronto-based software concern.

What delayed the announcement of the acquisition? I’m not sure, but acquisitions involve armies of lawyers, members of a profession that introduced the commercial concept of “billable hours.”

With proven products and technology, Opalis has a roster of blue-chip customers. In a blog post, Brad Anderson, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Management & Services Division, held forth on the significance of the purchase:

This deal brings together the deep datacenter automation expertise of Opalis with the integrated physical and virtualized datacenter management capabilities of Microsoft System Center. I believe Opalis’ software together with the System Center suite will improve the efficiency of IT staff and operations, and customers will gain greater process consistency. Opalis’ software captures the IT processes, in a documented and repeatable way, which can be run over and over again. These capabilities will be added to Microsoft System Center to help customers automate complex IT processes, increase cost savings and shorten timeframes for IT service delivery across physical, virtual and cloud computing environments.

So why is IT process automation so important to us? We know that as customers and service providers use Microsoft server infrastructure, tools and applications in more – and larger – datacenters, these customers require a greater level of automation in their operations. This is especially important as our customers build out highly automated and scalable virtual environments.

Microsoft’s Consumer Entropy

I must be doing something wrong. Actually, I know I’m doing something wrong — a few things, if truth be told.

Still, I never get invited to speak at industry dinners, and I don’t understand why. While I get some things wrong, and will continue to do so, I occasionally get some things right.

Something I have gotten right for a long time about Microsoft is that the Kings of Redmond are woefully unsuited to the pursuit of consumer markets. Microsoft not only lacks “consumer DNA,” but it also fails to empathize or understand consumers to any meaningful extent. To use popular phraseology, Microsoft doesn’t get consumers.

I’ve been saying this for years, sometimes on this blog, and frequently in conversations with friends, family, and strangers. I’ve been assailing and bemoaning Microsoft’s consumer ineptitude for so long, in so many places, that my audience has grown tired of my routine. I, too, have gotten tired of trotting out the same earnest, well-rehearsed arguments ad nauseam.

There’s no time limit on truth, however. Because no matter how hackneyed, hirsute, weathered, and wizened it might get, it’s still the truth, ugly or not — and it must be honored.

Some other folks — industry luminaries, no less — share my views on Microsoft’s inability to grasp the consumer domain. Some of these people get invited to speak at industry events. One of them is Mark Anderson, the sage behind Strategic News Service, which bills itself as “the most accurate predictive newsletter covering the computing and communications industries.”

Speaking with Steve Lohr of the New York Times, Anderson said the following:

“Except for gaming, it is ‘game over’ for Microsoft in the consumer market. It’s time to declare Microsoft a loser in phones. Just get out of Dodge.”

Well, yeah. Windows Mobile is a donkey.

As we all know, even a champion jockey can’t ride a donkey to victory in a race against thoroughbreds. Apple, RIM, Google, even Palm and Nokia have better entrants in the mobile-operating-system derby. But, Anderson’s recommendations notwithstanding, Microsoft will keep riding its donkey until it can make the donkey better and faster — maybe through the application of expensive steroids — or until it retires the donkey after buying a real horse.

Even then, if Microsoft doesn’t bring some much-needed coherence and focus to its mobile efforts, it will fail. It’s all about understanding who it is and where it belongs.

Anderson sees the root of the problem at Microsoft:

“Phones are consumer items, and Microsoft doesn’t have consumer DNA.”

“Walk the halls at Microsoft and you can see it is not a place that gets consumers Just as if you walk the halls at Google, it’s obvious it is not a place that gets the enterprise world.”

He’s absolutely right. I would add, though, that Google has a better chance of adapting to enterprises than Microsoft does of adjusting to consumer needs.

Anderson sees the computer universe splitting into two very different galaxies: one for consumers and one for enterprises. He consigns Apple, Google, and most of the Asian hardware makers to the consumer galaxy. The enterprise galaxy will host the likes of IBM, Dell, Cisco. and Microsoft. Anderson sees HP as the colossus that will straddle both galaxies, at home, though perhaps not equally, in either realm.

This is neither the place nor the time for me to critique Anderson’s broader taxonomy and to quibble over where he has placed individual vendors within the structure he’s prescribed. I will say that I agree with most of what he has said above, with a few cavils and caveats.

He definitely gets it right regarding Microsoft, though. Perhaps, now that he is legitimizing the viewpoint with his gold-plated imprimatur, the formerly minority opinion that Microsoft was (and is) a consumer basketcase will gain currency and maybe even evolve into conventional wisdom.

If it does, I want it remembered that I was on the vanguard, barking and howling the truth at anybody who would listen and even at those who wouldn’t.

By the way, if you want a cheap dinner speaker, I’m available. I promise to forgo the Tiger Woods jokes.