Avaya Buys Esna - Continues Cozying Up to Google

8 Jun 2015

Last week, Avaya, the IP PBX product and services company, acquired Esna, a successful innovator of integration of Unified Communications with "business applications." So, what's the deal and what's the big deal?

Since Esna is a private startup company, the terms of the deal aren't disclosed. We can only expect it was good enough to motivate the founders and the investors to sell, so certainly in the range of tens of millions of dollars, if not more.

We do know that the purchase was announced by Gary Barnett, Avaya Sr. VP and GM of Engagement Solutions (their new name for UC and Contact Centers). This is a good indication that the Esna solution will become one more user experience option in the ever wider, but unrationalized, Avaya portfolio of soft clients for UC.

The big deal, seems to me, is that Avaya is continuing to cozy up to Google, in hopes that Avaya will benefit more than Google and more than Avaya's IP PBX competitors. There is definitely a sizable gap in the Google for Work portfolio, and Avaya hopes to fill that. Sure, there is click-to-communicate via Google Hangouts, but anything to do with business telephony is left up to Google partners.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is making great progress in delivering cloud-based telephony, starting several years ago with telephony access to Office 365 conferencing as well as hybrid integration with business telephony via on-premises Lync systems. With the announcement that Office 365 will be delivering Microsoft's entire enterprise voice stack including public switched telephone network (PSTN) connectivity, the game just moved to another level.

Microsoft and Google are competing mightily over the market for business productivity applications, with Microsoft Office as the dominant product and Google Docs as the cloud-only challenger.

Which brings us back to Esna. Esna realized that the UC software clients being produced by the IP PBX companies were not being adopted. Email was, and continues to be, the overwhelming leader in business communications and workflows, increasingly in tandem with instant messaging, such as provided by Microsoft Lync or Google Talk. Esna saw that the future of business communications would be "communications-enabled applications" since the applications would provide the interface and the contextual data that users would need to start or to conduct communications - whether collaborative or transactional. The most pervasive application is, of course, email and instant messaging, so Esna saw the gap in Google's product line and filled that gap, very well.

Esna jumped into that market and built a leading position, joining the developer alliances of Avaya, Cisco, Unify, and many others. If you wanted to connect your IP PBX to Google Docs, Esna was the answer, wherever you looked.

Which brings us back to Avaya. Avaya has no differentiation with the Microsoft Office 365 and Skype for Business suites, since all of Avaya's competitors also offer plug-ins to the Lync client whether for on-premises or O365 use. But perhaps it is not too late for Avaya to carve out a leadership position as the "best" telephony partner for Google. With the acquisition of Esna, Avaya disrupts the Google integration option for most of Avaya's competitors. Maybe Avaya can even convert some of Esna's non-Avaya customers back to Avaya's platform.

The timing is good. Google is certainly ramping up their emphasis on Google for Work. Our consulting clients have been heard discussing this thrust as an option to Microsoft Office on the basis that, "Google is good enough and is cheaper." Often both parts of that statement are false (another article in the works on that topic), but Google for Work is certainly getting attention.

We have known the Esna group for about five years and they are great folks who deliver an innovative, functional and reliable product. We wish them well at Avaya.


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