Microsoft-Nortel See Unified Communications Gains

A one-year-old partnership between Microsoft and Nortel on unified communications technology, known as the Innovative Communications Alliance, is bearing fruit. The two companies announced this week that they have sold more than 430,000 joint-solutions licenses to date.

The Alliance recently gained three new customers as well, including Indiana University, U.K.-based Worcestershire Health Information and Communications Technology Services, and an IT and telephony provider called 4ward.

Microsoft and Nortel formed the Innovative Communications Alliance in July of last year with the aim of delivering unified communications solutions to businesses. Under the Alliance, the companies initiated joint research and development efforts. They also created customer demonstration centers and engaged in joint sales and marketing.

In the Alliance's initial press release, Jeff Raikes, Microsoft's Business Division president, stated that the joint unified communications solution would enable a "single identity across e-mail, voice mail, voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) call processing, instant messaging and video."

The Alliance's principal product is called Nortel Converged Office, a unified communications system that integrates Nortel's VoIP telephony system with Microsoft's server technology.

The main components of Converged Office include:

  • Microsoft Office Communicator 2005 soft client
  • Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2005, and
  • Nortel Communication Server 1000 Release 4.5 or higher IP PBX.

There's also a Nortel Application Center component that supports optional capabilities, including Web integration, interactive voice response and contact center functions.

Unified communications gets defined in various ways, but according to the IEEE, it typically encompasses "unified messaging, collaboration and interaction systems." These systems also typically enable real-time and near real-time communications. Moreover, mixed media (voice, e-mail, fax, etc.) can be accessed from a single application, independent of the access device.

Competition in the unified communications space is thick with big names. In March of this year, IBM and Cisco, announced a collaborative effort on unified messaging client technology called Unified Communications and Collaboration (UC2). UC2 is based on open technologies, such as Eclipse development environment and the Open Services Gateway Initiative framework. Citrix Systems and Nokia, among others, have expressed support for the UC2 platform.

Under the IBM-Cisco unified communications partnership, Cisco plans to sell IBM's Lotus Sametime collaboration solution and IBM plans to sell Cisco's Unified Communications Manager, Cisco Unity and Cisco Unified MeetingPlace products. The whole unified communications solution is designed and delivered by IBM Global Technology Services.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.