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Review: Nortel Networks' Multimedia Communication Server 5100 3.0

Claim: The MCS is now a convergence server delivering video, audio, and IM conferencing with integrated presence.

Context: Convergence servers are a hot area closely contested by the likes of Avaya, Siemens, Cisco Systems, and third-party SIP developers. Nortel had an early lead on many of its traditional competitors, but that gap has closed substantially.

Credibility: Nortel might play second fiddle to Cisco in the data space, but voice is another matter. The company brings tremendous experience and edge to the fore. At the same time, Nortel has a reputation of low-ball price quotes, with high-ball implementation tags. Whether that's going to hurt the company in this market remains to be seen.

Four years ago, Nortel Networks quietly revolutionized the telephony industry by being the first traditional PBX vendor to introduce a Session Initiation Protocol (SIP)-based conferencing server, dubbed the Multimedia Conferencing Server (MCS) 5100. Last September, Nortel once again tried to take the lead in convergence capabilities by delivering version 3.0 of the MCS--only this time competition is a lot stiffer.

The latest upgrade to the MCS is the first to enable true triple-threat conferencing, integrating mixed audio, video, and IM into one solution. The new MCS version features multipoint videoconferencing, additional IM capabilities, and Web application collaboration. Nortel has gone down-market with the MCS, addressing offices of as few as 50 users and making the platform more attractive to service providers by encouraging third-party client development.

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