Covered a lot of ground in Israel, and managed to work in a productive site visit to AudioCodes. They're based in Airport City, and as the name implies, their offices are right by the airport, making this a convenient stop for visitors on a short trip. As I learned, Airport City is a cluster of office buildings with a lot of tech, but once you get off that island, it's almost like being in the desert. Israel has a lot of contrasts, so this didn't come as a surprise in the least. It was a 2+ hour journey by bus from Jerusalem, but the visit was definitely worthwhile.
I had a series of meetings there, and it was a great opportunity for in-person briefings to get updates across the board, namely UC, SBC, gateways and contact center. I've always thought highly of AudioCodes, and this was actually my second time seeing them in Israel. Those impressions were certainly validated during my visit, and the company looks to have clear focus on where they fit in this space.
In basic terms, AudioCodes provides a lot of options for any partner competing against Cisco. I've written before about how the telecom/UC market is coming down to two simple choices, at least for North American enterprises. Head-to-head, it's Cisco vs. Avaya, but on a broader scale, it's Cisco vs. Microsoft. Most partners need to go with one or the other now to get ongoing traction, and this duopoly is a far cry from a few years back when there was more choice among vendors of all sizes.
AudioCodes has always had solid technology, but they've also done a great job of evolving their products and expanding capabilities, especially in the gateway/SBC area. They know their strengths - namely voice - and you won't see them dabbling much in video. That's better left to partners like Polycom. I also like how they've built up their contact center reach, and from I was shown, they are currently supporting a number of global, large scale deployments.
Since they're not in the PBX business, you don't normally associate them with UC, but they provide a lot of critcal network elements for both carriers and enterprises. Outside of the telecom vendors - and Cisco - I really can't think of any other vendor who can provide such a complete range of products that enable UC and voice communications in general. Maybe Sonus or Genband, but if so, not by much. AudioCodes may not own the customer the way Microsoft or Cisco does, but it's clear to me they bring a lot to enhance any vendor's solution.
As an aside, in light of today's merger between Mitel and Aastra, it's worth noting how important scale is becoming to survive in this market. Of course, in this case, we're talking about two telecom vendors, and this is the second time Mitel has done a deal like this to get bigger. With Acme Packet now folded into Oracle, AudioCodes is already one of the biggest players in their pond, but I don't see them doing anything comparable to Mitel to get to the next level.
To sum up, both contact center and UC are huge, horizontal opportunities, and I think AudioCodes has the right focus here for long-term growth. Voice still very much matters, and while the telecom vendors are struggling to see where they fit as trends like mobility and cloud are re-defining their place in the value chain, AudioCodes is squarely in the middle of what everyone needs to do well to make voice worth paying for. I hope to get further validation as my post-visit follow ups progress, and will share what I can then.
Otherwise, Israel itself is a whole other topic. This isn't the place for that, but it was a wonderful visit, and until you've been there, it's hard to understand how layered their world is. As much as Israel is a modern democracy, the price for freedom is very high, and as much as we felt safe and welcome wandering about Jersusalem, you just never know what could come around the corner or on the next bus you board. I'm not one to share my personal life online, but we took lots of photos and will just share a couple here. Am happy to chat more any time and who knows, I might write about it further another time - or place.