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Nortel to Get Serious About SOTA, SMBs

Nortel formally announced its plans to bring it's telephony software to IBM's Systems I (AS/400 for those of us who've been around for a few years). System I has its own virtualization technology built in at the hypervisor level so now you can have a single physical machine running your CRM application, your corporate database, and now your IP PBX for small organizations of up to 100 users. IBM has had a similar relationship for some time with 3Com on the Systems I for organization of 100 to 1000 users while Global Services has recommended Cisco's CallManager for more than 1000 users.

The move comes at a time that leading VoIP players are taking notice of the burgeoning SMB market, delivering unified communication-based telephony switches targeted at the small office / business. In March, Microsoft, announced the ResponsePoint IP-PBX software in partnership with several hardware vendors. In April, Cisco added the Cisco Smart Business Communications System, which brings together the Cisco Unified Communications 500 Series, Cisco Catalyst Express 250 PoE switch, the Cisco Mobility Express Solution for wireless communications, the Cisco Configuration Assistant for simplified configuration, and Cisco Monitor Director enabling channel partners to troubleshoot and manage the network. Just last month, Avaya announced that its Distributed Office, a distributed IP PBX that targets branch offices of up to 40 and 120 users.

The partnership with IBM is just the latest move in what Nortel sees as its four-pronged strategy. At the most basic level Nortel's strategy begins with application-aware networking, where the underlying infrastructure is optimized for delivery of particular applications. Routers, for example, come with configuration rules to configure them for Microsoft's Live Communications Server (LCS), for example.

On top of that infrastructure is the second direction, unified communications. For Nortel this means the integration of all communications, fixed or mobile, real-time or non-real time, from any device at any time, relying on the partnerships forged with Microsoft and IBM. The third direction is application convergence through the integration of messaging, contact center, and IVR with vertical applications using SOA. Lastly is Nortel's push into professional services for closer work with the applications.

We've been saying for some time now that the future of telephony is closely tied to the vendor's ability to embed telephony capabilities within their applications. Of the major telephony providers, Avaya's been the most vocal in this regard with its push towards Communication Enabled Business Processes (CEBP) highlighted by its Ubiquity acquisition. Siemens. Startups Bluenote and Sphere Communications have delivered SOTA environments for generalized telephony and contact center environments.

However, Nortel has been remarkably quiet on this front " until now. The company publicly acknowledged that it will publish a SOA interface to the base functionality of its telephony server September. Nortel also hinted that more sophisticated capabilities namely the ability to insert events within the business process would be forthcoming in that timeframe as well. Executives would not confirm whether this technology would be developed in house or not, but most likely look for them to deliver through one or both of its major partners, Microsoft or IBM.

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