Nortel announced today that it is shipping Multimedia
Conferencing 5.0, software co-developed with Microsoft and aimed at
enterprises who want to host their own audio or video conferences
without necessarily migrating to Nortel's VoIP products. Bringing
conferencing in-house could be a money-saver for heavy users who
currently pay service providers per-minute rates for every attendee.
However, the most interesting thing about the launch is that it's the
first standalone product from the ICA (Innovative
Communications Alliance), the partnership that Nortel and Microsoft
formed in July 2006.
The two vendors have been working together on both technology
integration and marketing since they formed the Alliance, announcing an
roadmap in January this year. Since then, they have delivered on
SIP-based unified messaging that combines email from Microsoft Exchange
with telephony from Nortel's CS-1000 (Communication Server.) Other
products such as a Nortel branch-office router that runs Microsoft
unified communications software are slated to ship in the first quarter
of next year.
Conferencing 5.0 can be used without any Microsoft products, enabling
teleconferences through any kind of phone, including external and analog
lines as well as SIP and PC clients. It also supports videoconferencing
through any client designed for the CS-1000. Combining it with Microsoft
LCS (Live Communications Server 2005) and Exchange enables it to be
accessed through Microsoft's software clients and adds support for IM.
However, the product does not yet integrate with OCS (Office
Communications Server 2007), the replacement for LCS that Microsoft
launched in October. Support for this is planned next year.
To run the software, customers need an IBM
x3550 server, which could make Microsoft embarrassingly dependent on
a competitor: IBM's SameTime and Domino are the main rivals to LCS/OCS
and Exchange. Nortel also has a close relationship with IBM in other
areas: Last month, it announced a SOA
partnership with IBM that was largely focused on server-side
interoperability (compared to the client-side focus of the ICA) but also
included integration between SameTime and the CS-1000.