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Microsoft and Nortel Present Alliance Roadmap

Six months after announcing a telecommunications alliance, Microsoft and Nortel this week presented some early results of their efforts and outlined a roadmap for future projects.

The two companies first announced their collaboration last summer.

The road map includes three new joint solutions “to dramatically improve business communications by breaking down the barriers between voice, e-mail, instant messaging, multimedia conferencing and other forms of communication,” according to a statement by the two firms.

Also included in the announcement are 11 new implementation services from Nortel and the opening of more than 20 joint demonstration centers where customers can experience the technology, the statement continued.

In addition, the two companies said they have signed agreements with dozens of customers, and have developed a “pipeline of hundreds of prospects who want to realize the benefits of unified communications.”

From Microsoft's perspective, it is all part of the company's long-term play to merge all types of communications and messaging into a single framework. A year ago, the company announced that it was merging its Exchange Server group with its Real-Time Collaboration (RTC) group, and that it had begun to think of the two technologies comprising a "platform."

The new group was named the Unified Communications Group (UCG) and resides in Microsoft's Business Division. The idea for the new group emanated from a vision of adding continuity to a myriad of communications devices, technologies and modes -- from e-mail and instant messaging to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), audio/video and Web conferencing -- in a unified manner.

The three new joint solutions announced by the alliance this week are named Unified Communications Integrated Branch, Unified Messaging, and Conferencing.

When it is available in the fourth quarter, UC Integrated Branch will incorporate Nortel and Microsoft technology on a single piece of hardware that delivers VoIP and unified communications in remote offices.

Coming somewhat earlier in the second quarter, Unified Messaging will aim to simplify customer deployments, native session initiation protocol (SIP) interoperability between the Nortel Communication Server 1000 and Microsoft Exchange Server 2007. The solution includes Nortel professional services for design, deployment and support.

Also coming in the fourth quarter, Conferencing will extend Nortel Multimedia Conferencing to Microsoft Office Communicator 2007. It aims to provide a single client experience consistent across applications such as voice, instant messaging, presence, and audio- and videoconferencing.

This year, the companies also plan to extend their current unified communications solution — a unified desktop and soft phone for VoIP, e-mail, instant messaging and presence — to the Nortel Communication Server 2100, a carrier-grade enterprise telephony product supporting up to 200,000 users on a single system, according to company statements.

As for the road map, the two companies have equipped more than 20 joint demonstration centers in North America, Europe and Asia, with more than 100 additional centers scheduled to open by midyear.

Nortel has also added 11 core integration services to help customers build, deploy and support joint unified communications solutions, including end-to-end project management. Nortel claims it has already trained more than 2,200 VoIP experts to deliver these services and will add more as deployment ramps up.

About the Author

Stuart J. Johnston has covered technology, especially Microsoft, since February 1988 for InfoWorld, Computerworld, Information Week, and PC World, as well as for Enterprise Developer, XML & Web Services, and .NET magazines.

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