Avaya Inc’s Legacy – (Basically) Eight Months Later

Technology companies come and go. You’re hot one day, not so the other.

For some companies, they’ll have an average lifespan of eight years. They ether fold, or be bought by another company, and depending on their fate, they’ll hang around or be vaporized. Twenty years of this writing; Apple (then Apple Computer) was flirting with death, with some claims the company would be out of business within ninety days or “days”, depending on who you talk to.

Apple just celebrated it’s forty-first anniversary on April 1st (no joke.)

IBM also flirted with death in the early 1990s. When John Akers, the very out of touch, barely technical, hard right, family guy type had to be forced out, they hired the ex CEO of RJR/Nabisco to help propel the company back to profitability.

IBM is repeating the same story in a different time with a similar fate, changing technology and competition from the homebrew world for making their own mainframes. And just blame Linux because Linux does everything wrong.

In the networking space, Novell exploited Microsoft’s weakness. For most of the 1980s, Novell had dominance of PC networking, with centralized logins and file and print servers. While their NetWare system was looked down by the mainframe types, the thing was inherently more “secure” then when Microsoft introduced their own fully multitasking network operating system called Windows NT in 1993. Windows NT gained so much market share, that these blatantly insecure operating systems in the name of ease of use, and friendly for developers, enabled people who had no business writing code had an outbreak of malware, viruses, and anything to take these systems down so easily into the 2000s. Novell blew it in the design in Netware in the mid 1990s, and never recovered.

In 2017, the company that owns Novell (the company itself was bought out in the late 00s) has been a victim of private equity syndrome, where any costs (such as R&D) would essentially take out the company’s last breath. In the social networking sense, MySpace was popular for millenials coming to age, as well as younger teenagers and Generation Xers. When Facebook became an open platform (the ones who didn’t need a dot-edu to their email) in late 2006 to 2007, their closed platform, that prevented codes to take down people’s PCs, or cause their laptops to be fire hazards (because MySpace was an open platform), MySpace suddenly became a thing of the past within five years of it’s growth.

The difference of the said companies were in the high tech field. Avaya’s legacy was the old American Telephone and Telegraph Company, better known as AT&T. AT&T for many years before the 1982 Consent Decree was a regulated utility that also had a licensed monopoly. For many enterprises, before the rise of integrated circuits and digital telephony, they were in fact users of the phone company, such as Centrex.

Enterprise technology for a number of years had a different business and financial models. Mainframes and even PBX systems before IPT, were considered to be a profit model of say Caterpillar, slow growth, but you’ll get profits for sure depending on the economy.

As I’ve said PBX systems were not to be throwaway devices. Making phone systems for homes and offices are typically capital investments (i.e. the “piggy bank”) and often make their profits on the services, and maintenance agreements ether directly with the manufacturer or the vendor. Today, a lifespan of an office phone is as short as a home telephone post-Western Electric era. Today, having a ten year old Cisco 7961 IP telephone is considered to be not only “end of life” but “insecure” (what the IT industry really means, is they will not have financial security for licenses) despite anything Internet related is insecure to begin with.

Phone systems or the respected sets themselves are not made in the masses, in fact the plant may even know who the customer is. AT&T had a practice in the late 1980s called JIT or Just In Time manufacturing, where they would build hardware around the time of a large order.

Even at that same time, profit margins were always a focus. PBX and Key boxes had vendors who came and went over the years, Executone, Iwatsu, Toshiba (where in early 2017 they announced pulling the plug for sales and support of their Strata system for the last thirty years) and probably some other vendors other than Nortel or Avaya.

The most amusing thing of this bankruptcy was yet a company files Chapter 11, and the fear, uncertainty and doubt of Avaya’s customer base has even seen drops of existing long time customers in just a single year. Meanwhile, the 5ESS switch made by AT&T, that’s almost old as Avaya’s current legacy PBX code; is been acquired by Ericsson, and essentially been vaporized, but yet the modern central office vendors like Cisco, Arris, etc haven’t really threatened the “Baby Bells” and still 5ESS switches will probably will still be supported by a community for a number of years to come.

For the last thirty five years, AT&T, then Lucent then Avaya had a very secure customer base from small businesses to enterprises , and it wasn’t till 2001 where, at this point Avaya could claim that over 90% of the Fortune 500 had used ether their unified messaging; their contact center (or call center); their IP Telephony or traditional voice offerings; or their baremetal networking equipment (got vaporized over the years before they got Nortel.)

There were clear mistakes as written earlier this year. The company may very well not be able to exit out and regain their credibility. Despite some perspective from a Canadian follower, Avaya in itself in it’s current demise may had been destroyed by the hardware heavy, nerdy driven culture of the old Nortel. Avaya had less than several thousand employees working directly with them before taking on Nortel’s Enterprise unit that included the legacy Meridian 1, the Norstar Key system, and their networking equipment that came from the Bay acquisition of 1998.  Even when Avaya has become more software centric, i.e their “Breeze” platform that my most disliked man has been preaching on social media; coding is not going to get Avaya out and, I’m sorry when a man is so freckin condescending like Prokop is, this isn’t professional and it won’t woo customers. Nerds do not belong in Corporate America, that’s why I make sport of them here.

Over the last five years, I’ve posted a lot of Avaya. A lot of this was a) personal/self interest, b) documenting their history and c) now documenting their legacy. The competition that’s analog to the Windows NT where “Avaya” was the Netware or VMS is happening again. Cisco, ShoreTel, Mitel and even worse “the cloud” have gotten their feet into their customer base. A lot of features get disappeared when you use VOIP. Remember I have referred to basic SIP service as TROIP? Well that’s what Cisco, ShoreTel, Mitel to some degrees and the cloud offer. It’s like downgrading back to Centrex service. And don’t you DARE tell me it’s better than the 1960s. Salesforce, Workday plugins, and handoffs is not “feature rich”. The inability to page, the inability to have priority rings, the inability to have feature access codes to be programmed on set and have the traditional way of an LED show me that I am on DND or a call forwarding is the exact reason how much history in the office telephones have been quickly destroyed by some rich, and out of touch thirtysomething men who created a phone service based on what their mobile or their house phone worked, threw it on an IP stack, and added some “hacks” (like the Saleforce plugins) and claim “Our Hosted PBX is better than your old clunker!”

Of to this bullshit, is why I created The Museum in the first place. Not just to record the entire history of the telephone, but to also keep records of the office telephony, which at the time in the early 1980s was the most innovative. Now we do everything but talk on our smartphones, and the phones in the office are rarely used because it’s just not cool. And they crash, and they do everything but take calls as well.

There is so many stories to how this company declared bankruptcy. The sad thing is there isn’t a clear story. All the end user contributions going back to the early days of AT&T Information Systems will be thing of the past much like how the System 360, Netware, Myspace and Executone faded away.


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