Avaya has announced a new server that can connect disparate SIP-enabled PBXs into a single system to help customers struggling to integrate multi-vendor communication infrastructure.

Announced at VoiceCon Orlando, Avaya Aura Session Manager can enable centralised control of voice, video, messaging, presence and web applications that the company says can be rolled out quickly to the largest corporations.

Aura can link individual user profiles to sets of communications applications to extend the benefits of unified communications across the business, the company says.

But initially, businesses can use Aura Session Manager to save money by unifying their disparate multi-vendor PBXs. As long as they are SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) capable - and this includes TDM PBXs with SIP gateways - they can use SIP trunking to connect all corporate sites. The Aura server can route calls across the network, generating savings on inter-site toll calls.

It can also centralise communications applications so businesses can remove application servers from individual corporate branches, further reducing costs, Avaya says.

"I think the announcement and embracing of SIP by ourselves as well as our competitors provides a tool to go in and ... in fact give ROIs that are measured in quarters rather than years," says Avaya CEO Kevin Kennedy. Aura will work with certain Cisco and Nortel PBXs, Avaya says.

He says Aura can help customers meet four goals: saving money, reducing power consumption, integrating multi-vendor infrastructure that comes with mergers and acquisitions, and improving productivity with new applications that are available on any device.

Tied in with Avaya Communication Manager (now Aura Communication Manager) the new Aura Session Manager server can coordinate voice and video features and make them available via SIP across the business network. "You will have everything available wherever you are," says Lawrence Byrd, Avaya's director of unified communication architecture.

Aura is a blend of SIP, presence information, management of sessions and access to a growing list of communications applications, Byrd says, such as a single corporate voicemail system and corporate-wide conferencing.

Avaya is working on testing its SIP session management to ensure it works with SIP trunking services from AT&T, Orange and Verizon, he says. Aura, which is in part a software upgrade to Avaya's Communication Manager, is available in May.

Avaya is also upgrading Avaya Voice Portal software to improve call handling in contact centres. Improved self-service logic enables better customer service, the company says. So rather than an after-hours call going to voicemail, Session Manager routes it to a voice portal where the caller can order supplies, for example. This type of capability generally requires extensive computer-telephony integration, but with SIP, this can be enabled quickly and to all branches, Avaya says.

Avaya is also better integrating its consulting services so customers can get the appropriate skills from its three services offerings: executive consulting, line of business consulting and direct IT planning. It is calling the streamlined services Avaya Strategic Communications Consulting.