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Eye on the unified communications market: Nortel

Every month, we are profiling a different unified communications (UC) vendor. This month, we take a look at Nortel and discuss its UC strategy and how it may fit into your own UC plan.

Unified communications is a rapidly growing and evolving market, with new products and solutions announced on what seems to be a daily basis. The unified communications (UC) market is composed of various elements and components, provided by a variety of vendors. There are several groups of players in the enterprise UC arena, all coming from different directions: the switch, enterprise IM and presence, messaging, mobile devices, conferencing/collaboration, applications and so on.

The vendors are approaching UC from various angles, and enterprises need to figure out which approach makes the most sense for their particular environment. For example, most of the switch vendors view the IP PBX as the starting point for UC capabilities. Cisco's approach is based on the converged IP network, while IBM views presence as the starting point, and Microsoft sees the desktop as the heart of UC. All of these approaches make sense and have pros and cons, and companies need to determine which fits best with their philosophy.

Each month, will profile a key UC vendor to help you better understand the company's business model and how it may fit into your UC strategy.

Nortel views UC as presence-enabled communications and collaboration systems featuring integrated telephony, instant messaging (IM), conferencing and email, providing a consistent, unified user quality of experience over any device, anywhere, anytime -- whether fixed or mobile -- and through multimedia applications for a richer collaborative experience. The next step is application convergence, the communications enablement of business applications and processes through UC, which Nortel refers to as communication-enabled applications (CEA).

Nortel leverages service-oriented architecture (SOA) and Web services to extend UC into business applications. At the heart of Nortel's SOA solution is the Agile Communication Environment (ACE), extending UC to business applications and exposing key communications capabilities and integrating them into business applications and processes. The Nortel ACE works with switches from Nortel and other vendors and also integrates with video servers. Through an alliance with IBM, Nortel provides communications-enabled applications capabilities fully integrated with IBM's Lotus Sametime client, providing a single communications-rich graphical user interface. Nortel is also leveraging IBM channels for go-to-market advantages.

Other UC products include the Multimedia Communication Server (MCS) 5100 and the Software Communication Server (SCS). The MCS 5100 integrates IP telephony, multimedia conferencing, IM, presence and other collaboration tools and can be seamlessly integrated into existing Nortel voice environments and other environments. The SCS is an open, SIP-based UC solution for SMBs that provides VoIP and UC capabilities on a single platform, distributed by IBM, Dell and Nortel partners.

Forming a unique partnership, Nortel and Microsoft have joined together in the Innovative Communications Alliance (ICA), bringing to market a single client for mobility, IM, telephony, conferencing, contact center and so on, as well as consistent business-grade telephony and a single presence engine. Converged Office is a software-only solution that integrates the Microsoft UC platform with Nortel telephony.

Nortel has also formed an alliance with IBM that includes joint marketing, product development, and services.

Read the latest news on Nortel's Chapter 11 filing:

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