Communications vendor Avaya is bringing the functionality of SIP to multi-vendor, multi-location and multi-modal environments through its new Aura architecture layer.

The new offering, which will be available in May, sits on top of a company’s communications network to bring all of the functionality and management of all systems on the network into one, open standards-based layer.

“The way in which communications systems are architected is way out of date relative to the way we deploy other applications – we are system-bound and location-bound,” said Lawrence Byrd, director of unified communications architecture at Avaya. “Whether I get a feature or application depends on my location, and that’s not how we access other applications.”

But having a hodge-podge of communication systems at different locations has up until now made streamlining communications a difficult, if not impossible task.

“Most customers have a mix of different systems from different vendors, but a place where there is money to be saved is in all these different connections,” Byrd said. “Right now they’re not very well optimized: Calls still go over the (Public Switched Telephone Network), each location has a different dial plan, every system has it own trunk, and companies that want to take advantage of SIP trunking capabilities can’t figure out how to connect all the different systems together.”

The idea, he said, is to bring all the disparate systems under one umbrella of management, so companies are better able to get a handle of their communications costs, can more easily manage the communications network as a whole rather than the sum of its parts, and are better able to implement productivity-enhancing technologies such as a unified communications solution.

“This is an incredible cost-saving benefit,” Byrd said. “Companies now can benefit from one enterprise multivendor dial plan for all their locations. It’s simpler to plug in and get the sharing benefits and start to reduce some of the trunks in all the different locations because now the locations are sharing resources from the core. This can represent upwards of tens of thousands of dollars per month. The amount of money you can squeeze out of your network each month is remarkable.”

Users, also, can immediately see the benefits of a unified architecture. The capabilities of Aura free them to move about the network and access the features they need, anywhere they are. “There is one profile that maps users to the right applications. It’s a more web-style architecture,” he said. “No matter where they plug in, their profile gives them the applications they need.”

David Lover, CTO of Cross Telecom, a communications solution provider in  Bloomington, Minn., believes Aura will be an attractive technology for companies that are struggling to control their communications costs.

“Avaya previously had a model they used that was flatten, consolidate and extend, let’s make it one system. It leveraged economies of scale, and for a certain group of customers, that model was fantastic – it revolutionized their world,” he said. “But the problem came for really big customers or those with complicated dial plans, or those that for political reasons couldn’t flatten their communications services.”

The SIP functionality in Aura, however, solves many of those problems, he said. “SIP has been around for a long time and the only sexy thing about SIP was the trunk. People like the idea of SIP, but the feature set has been limited,” he said. “Now with the capabilities of Aura, some things become more interesting. We still have some feature parity to work with, but this really opens the door to having disparate systems work together.”