Review: Avaya IP Office 500 Phone System

What is the Avaya IP Office 500?

The IP Office is Avaya’s primary product line for small to medium-sized businesses. It is a hybrid PBX that is legacy digital technology at the core, but adds on VoIP and SIP support. The Server Edition is Avaya’s newest addition to the product line, and is delivered on an HP server.  

Avaya IP Office 500 Technology

The operating system is Linux, the preferred choice for telecom systems today. The system uses a mixture of analog, proprietary digital, proprietary VoiP and SIP protocols.  The server hardware is provided by HP, and the PSTN gateways(otherwise known as T1 and station cards) are provided by Avaya.

Avaya IP Office 500 Capabilities

  • Supports analog, digital and IP phones

  • Up to 250 SIP trunks per server

  • Up to 100 Voice Messaging ports

  • 128 audio conferencing ports per server

Avaya Office IP 500 Strengths

  •  Long traditional PBX feature list

  •  Large conference call capacity

  •  Supports legacy Avaya and Nortel phones

  •  Conference call recording

  •  Large number of resellers

  •  Brand recognition

  •  Good multi-location capabilities

Avaya Office IP 500 V2 Weaknesses

  • No call center capability

  • No IVR capability

  • Licenses required for SIP trunking and phones

  • From 1 to 6 servers are required, depending upon size and feature needs

  • Support is expensive

  • Older IP Office systems cannot be upgraded to Server Edition

  • Smaller Avaya resellers have limited data networking and SIP knowledge

Ideal Buyer

The Avaya IP Office Server Edition is ideally suited for existing Nortel and Avaya customers who want to retain the investment in their existing telephones. In addition, the IP Office has a feature set that appeals to a wide range of businesses.

Company Background

In 2007, Avaya was acquired by two venture capital firms, TPG Capital and Silver Lake Partners. In July 2009 they bought the enterprise communications assets of bankrupt Nortel.  The VC organizations have tried to position Avaya to be sold through an IPO.

Avaya’s Financial Strength

Avaya carries 6.1B in debt, 46% of it coming due in 2014 and 2015. The company lost money in 2012. There is considerable concern about the ability of the company to survive without bankruptcy to rid itself of the excessive debt.

My Opinion on the Avaya IP Office 500 Server Edition

The IP Office Server version will replace their proprietary IP Office solution over the coming years. Moving away from proprietary hardware and operating system to Linux and an off-the-shelf HP server is a good move.

However, the underlying IP Office software is still old and complex. A system that supports analog, digital, proprietary and SIP telephones makes for substantial development and support challenges.

Avaya needs to move aggressively towards a more SIP-friendly and open product. Their insistence on supporting their substantial installed base of customers is one of their strengths, but ultimately holds them back. Moving forcefully to today’s standard of SIP is the answer, but doing so will strain their legacy reseller’s expertise.

In summary, the IP Office 500 Server Edition is a fully-featured and developed offering from a company that has a rich telecom history. Buyers should know that this is balanced by Avaya’s hybrid, multi-protocol approach and weak financial position.

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