Microsoft and Nortel Update ICA Progress

The two vendors will bring out four new joint offerings to bring the total to 10.

Microsoft and Nortel Networks on March 11 will continue to move their Integrated Communications Alliance ball forward with the launch of four more joint offerings.

In advance of the spring VoiceCon conference March 17-20, the two vendors took the wraps off a joint unified communications suite, multimedia conferencing, branch office routing integrated with UC services and hosted UC for service providers.

The new Nortel Converged Office integrates the functions of Nortel's Communications Server 1000 IP PBX with Microsoft's Office Communications Server 2007. The UC Integrated Branch integrates Microsoft's OCS 2007 mediation server functions and Session Initiation Protocol gateway into Nortel's Secure Router 4134.

Nortel Multimedia Conferencing 5.0 integrates reservationless audio conferencing into OCS 2007. The Nortel and Microsoft Hosted Carrier Unified Communications Solution allows service providers to create hosted UC services based on Nortel's Communication Server 2000 softswitch and OCS 2007.

The four new offerings bring the number of products developed by Nortel and Microsoft under the 2-year-old ICA to 10, according to Ruchi Prasad, vice president and general manager of the ICA at Nortel in Dallas.

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Although there is increasing overlap of functions between the Nortel CS 1000 and Microsoft's OCS 2007, customers benefit from the integration within the Nortel Converged Office by having a single client, a single architecture, and carrier-grade scalability and reliability, according to Prasad.

"A seamlessly integrated single client makes it very efficient to go from one thing to another for the end user," Prasad said. "Our software brings enhanced reliability, so that if a call goes down, it can deflect it to another server. That is the reliability Nortel brings to Microsoft.

"And with one architecture, it's all integrated in a single presence server to truly reflect the presence of that person based on multiple applications they could be using."

The UC Integrated Branch is based on Nortel's Secure Router 4134, which provides WAN routing, Ethernet switching, security and VOIP (voice over IP) now integrated with OCS 2007.

By implementing Microsoft's mediation server into the UC Integrated Branch offering, the combined offering allows customers to use the common client "without having to rip out the existing communications system," said Craig Schuman, director of business development for Microsoft's UC Group, in Redmond, Wash.

Nortel Multimedia Conference 5.0 for OCS 2007 supports a range of clients, including analog, digital and IP phones, and allows an audio conference to be easily converted into a desktop videoconference.

The Nortel and Microsoft Carrier Hosted Unified Communications Solution allows service providers to offer instant messaging, VOIP, click to call, videoconferencing and other services based on OCS 2007.

Beyond the four new jointly developed offerings, Microsoft and Nortel also intend to integrate Nortel's Contact Center application with OCS 2007 and extend the same user experience in the Converged Office product to hosted UC software.

Since the two vendors launched their ICA in 2006, Microsoft and Nortel claim that they have racked up some 600 joint customer wins.