Nortel Focuses on Enterprise Convergence

By Jim Wagner

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Nortel Networks unleashed its voice and IP convergence strategy Tuesday, aimed at getting enterprise customers to shed disparate communications equipment and rolling them into one product.

The Canadian manufacturer's motto for the marketing push, dubbed "One Network. A World of Choice," embraces that convergence concept. Instead of three or four separate pieces of equipment handling data, voice, e-mail and fax communications, for example, executives said the firm wants to put them all on one server to reduce operational costs.

"Many networks today are a combination of components targeted at serving narrow sets of users, applications and services without consideration of the benefits of a converged communications architecture," said Oscar Rodriguez, Nortel's president of enterprise networks said in a statement Tuesday.

Towards that end, Nortel announced three products aimed at meeting Nortel's convergence strategy: the Succession CSE 1000 Release 2.0, BayStack 460-24T-PWR power over Ethernet switch, and CallPilot Release 2.0.

The Succession CSE and BayStack switch work hand-in-hand on the enterprise network. The Succession is an IP private branch exchange (PBX) product, putting the voice network on a data network and reducing overhead. The BatStack switch ensures the voice signals on the data network doesn't run into any latency or other quality of service (QoS) issues like voice fade, dropped voice packets, etc.

The CallPilot is a unified messaging center for voice, e-mail and fax messages. It features voice-to-text and text-to-speech applications so customers can get their messages in any number of ways, depending on their needs.

Nortel officials are holding a news conference later today to discuss their convergence strategy. The equipment company has a difficult task ahead of them to convince IT department heads to spend more money on network infrastructure at a time when many are scaling back.

Earlier this month, research firm IDC lowered its IT services growth forecast for 2002 by 3.9 percent. While the firm believes in the long-term viability of the IT industry, in the short-term the message seems to be "wait," at least until 2003.

And if shrinking IT budgets weren't enough, the competition among equipment vendors in the burgeoning field of data/voice convergence is growing. On Oct. 7, Alcatel announced its own voice over IP (VOIP) product enhancements for the enterprise, including an IP-based PBX solution involving IP-specific phones.