Avaya Government Solutions Introduces New Hosted and Managed Communications Services for Federal Agencies

28 Jun 2012

Federal agencies are caught in a vice. They are under ruthless budget pressure to cut Opex. And the unavailability of Capex to implement change is a forgone conclusion. On the other side of the coin, they are saddled with aging infrastructure including Centrex, ISDN and the like. Such infrastructure is both costly to maintain and impossible to use as a foundation for increasing agency agility and improving individual productivity. Nor can it assist in providing the kind of customer service that households have begun to expect in the commercial sector where trends toward consumerization of IT and implementation of social business are well under way.

Given these realities, agency CIOs are hard at work seeking to resolve the following issues:

  • How can I significantly reduce my cost structure to align with the new budget realities?

  • How can I leverage new collaboration technology to drive performance improvement and support such initiatives as Telework, Mobility and Desktop Video-based Collaboration?

  • How can I position my organization to take advantage of the upcoming wave of consumerization/BYOD?

  • Which technology partners are positioned to help me insure a successful business model and IT transformation?

  • How do I determine the right levers to pull and when to accelerate the required transformation?

In response, Avaya Government Solutions recently introduced Government Outsourcing Solutions (GovOS), a new family of hosted and managed services that will facilitate the modernization of the government's aging infrastructure with modern UCC, contact center and data networking services. These services are based on the Avaya Collaborative Cloud framework announced at the end of March. The new Avaya GovOS services are offered in two configurations. They can be delivered as private, hosted services with local survivability over Avaya Government Solutions cloud-based infrastructure or as a private managed service over the organization's own network. In both instances, a dedicated Federal Network Operations Center (NOC) delivers 24x7 service and support for the new applications and underlying infrastructure.

Avaya is primarily targeting projects offering deployments of at least 5,000 lines, though they will engage on projects deploying at least 1,000 lines. The 5K user level is a Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) tipping point wherein the TCO of a cloud-based solution is in the range of 10% to 20% lower than a premise-based solution.

Both civilian and defense agencies are charged for these solutions on a per user per month basis. And all GovOS services comply with all security certification standards established by the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) and with standards for Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) accreditation. GovOS pricing is approximately a 10% premium to the commercial Avaya Collaborative Cloud UCaaS driven primarily by the additional security controls and business continuity requirements.

GovOS Solution Components

GovOS services are sold in tiers from Bronze (basic VoIP) through Platinum (full UCC). All federal agencies require at least a service level objective and in over 90% of the instances they require an actual SLA. SLAs can cover uptime as well as response to trouble tickets. These are generally negotiated by the parties and, from a vendor perspective, dependent on the results of a network assessment. The apps perform as well as the data network that supporting them. Vendors' willingness to commit on SLAs is directly proportional to the reliability of the client's data network and both quality of service (QoS) and experience (QoE) it can be expected to deliver. From a hardware perspective Avaya has monitoring tools in place to assure that they meet either the 5 or 6 "9s" application uptime requirement. They also proactively monitor the network QoS and QoE through timely SP transmittal of information on packet loss, jitter, latency, noise, etc.

Today, Avaya has clear service definitions, SLAs and pricing around UCC. Contact Center feature sets and specifications are a work in progress. In terms of UCC, without question, government agencies are interested in P2P video. The Avaya Flare Experience features can be delivered through the Avaya Desktop Video Device (ADVD) or iPad, which a number of agencies are adopting. Next in importance is Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC). Agencies are looking for ways to leverage iPhones, Android devices and Blackberries as their communication device of choice. Here mobility is supported with the one-X client. In fact, one agency believes that a combination of smartphone and a laptop softclients will permit it to forego deskphones altogether. They are very focused on this possibility because endpoint costs tend to be one of the larger cost drivers when it comes to budgeting for UCC solutions.

IM and presence are, of course, standard UCC components. The principle issue is what interface to use. Does the agency standardize on Microsoft and use that as their GUI and IM/P interface? Or do they decide to leverage Flare or one-X communicator and/or One-X mobile? This is an issue because a good number of government agencies have deployed Lync.

AvayaLive Engage, formerly known as web.alive, has been leveraged as a training vehicle. Government agencies, under intense budget pressure, do not want to travel for training purposes. Yet they want to monitor the training experience so that they can see that the users are actually going through the material and participating in the sessions. To meet these needs Avaya delivered AvayaLive Engageweb-based training in a FISMA-moderated environment. The use of use personalized avatars in a 3D training environment proved successful in engaging the participants.

Avaya's two primary competitors are Microsoft and Cisco. Key Avaya differentiators have been lower TCO, a willingness to engage in multi-vendor solution delivery and ease of interoperation. In fact Avaya Aura Session Manager has an API built into it that enables other vendor's solutions, such as Cisco's Unified Communications Manager to register with it.

GovOS Implementation

A key element of winning a government contract is implementation of a successful Proof of Concept (PoC) pilot that demonstrates a measurable and acceptable gain in business agility and end user productivity while addressing budget constraints. PoC findings must, of course, align with key agency CIO concerns:

  • Agile and flexible path to upgrade infrastructure and improve access to data

  • Operationalize expense to remove capital and resource constraints

  • Maximize collaboration alignment to mission and support consumer device proliferation

  • Leverage software apps to increase scalability and decrease complexity

  • Demonstrate robust backup, restore and failover capability

  • Assure compliance with security guidelines

  • Deliver faster time to market for new applications at granular level

  • Utilize industry standards - especially SIP

  • Leverage software apps to increase scalability and decrease complexity

  • Demonstrate robust backup, restore and failover capability.

What This Means to You

To Customers: Avaya, today, supports about 2.7M lines in its Collaborative Cloud across both commercial and government sectors. This is a clear indication that they are an experienced provider of cloud services incorporating SLAs.

Fundamentally, BDMs and TDMs want to understand how UCaaS changes the relationship between business models, operational models, the services that those models deliver and the costs and benefits involved. Some of the key questions that customers need to have answered are:

  • Security: Can the same security available to applications be applied in the cloud?

  • Compliance: Can applications in the cloud meet the same regulatory compliance requirements?

  • Reliability and QoS: Can the same SLAs for reliability and QoS be met in the cloud, especially given the multi-tenant use of the underlying IT infrastructure?

  • Control: Can application owners still have the same amount of control over their applications and the infrastructure supporting them in the cloud?

  • Fear of vendor lock-in: Will use of a particular vendor for cloud services or infrastructure prevent use of a different one in the future, or will the enterprise's data and applications be tightly locked into a particular model?

  • Change in Productivity and Business Agility: How will UCaaS serve to increase the productivity of my mobile workforce, increase my supply chain effectiveness and strengthen relationships with my customers?

These questions still need to be asked and answered whether the prospective customer is thinking of going with Avaya or one of its many competitors. The experience of Avaya GovOS, however, would lead one to anticipate that Avaya would score high in these areas in the commercial space. The trick is to act as federal agencies do and negotiate competitive bids including SLAs. Then follow up with a PoC pilot. As always, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

To Partners: Avaya GovOS is currently working with partners in meeting agency solution requirements. One of the solutions that they're setting up, for example, is being deployed in a FISMA-compliant Terremark datacenter (DC). And they are in negotiations on similar deals with other partners. Equipment can reside at a partner's DC, the customer prem, an Avaya DC or a combination of all three as long as security and business continuity compliance requirements are met. At present most partners are providing managed services.

In an ideal model that Avaya is trying to establish, the partner would be able to resell the entirety of the solution - both the circuits as well as the apps. In several instances Avaya has submitted proposals to specific Avaya Connect Partners to resell solely the service. And the customers are going to another contract vehicle to procure the circuits.


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