Avaya has found another use for virtualisation. The company has launched what it claims is the first unified communications product based on virtualisation technology - the company said that this enable small and mid-sized businesses to benefit from enterprise-class communications.

The Avaya Aura is a single-server,unified communications product aimed at enterprises employing 100 to 2,000 users and 250 locations. What's new about the product, said Jirina Yates, Avaya's director of field marketing EMEA is that it uses Xen's open source hypervisor to deliver a virtualised environment, saving considerably on the cost of hardware deployment. "This is a considerable saving," said Yates. "We include everything on one server , saving on about 75 percent of the hardware, that's particularly attractive in today's tough economic conditions."

The main saving is on servers. "In traditional unified communications, you need three servers; one of the application, one for storage and one for email and each of those physical servers needs to be connected to a gateway. With the Aura, you don't need the three servers and we use a software gateway - it doesn't just save on the cost of the servers, it also cuts down on power and cooling costs," said Yates.

Yates said that the company looked all hypervisor providers before settling on Xen. "We looked at all the alternatives and decided that Xen best fitted our needs. We're committed to use open standards so that was in line with our openness."

She stressed that neither customer or partner needed to be a virtualisation expert to install the software, adding that that another key feature of the new product was the ease of installation. Previous unified comms products have taken days to install fully, Yates said, the Aura can be rolled out in a couple of hours.

The Avaya Aura comes in Standard and Enterprise Editions. The Standard edition is pricedat $60 per user. However, although Yates lauded the cost savings that were possible, she would not be drawn on the possible return on investment. "It's impossible to say, it's not just about the size of the company, it's how many international calls they make or whether they make a lot of mobile calls," she said.

The company has already signed up one UK customer for the product. Managed office supplier,Beaumont Business Centres, needs to accommodate all sizes of business.

"The Avaya Aura ensured that our tenants would have the high reliability and modularity they require to conduct their business successfully, without the need for extensive administration and maintenance," said Christine Walcher, centre manager, Beaumont Business Centres. "Companies that make use of business centres tend to make more use of technology, so the IP and desktop integration features provide extra value and help us to make the centre even more appealing for prospective tenants."