Nortel, Cisco enhance conferencing products

Two leading network infrastructure companies have announced conferencing products which they say will help save organizations money.

Nortel said Multimedia Conferencing 5.0, now available, will “cut costs dramatically” by eliminating the need to use a carrier or service provider to host conferencing.

At the same time Cisco Systems said it will shortly deliver intercompany capabilities for its TelePresence video conferencing package through carriers and service providers.

Nortel’s Multimedia Conferencing 5.0 essentially is the conferencing features sliced from its Multimedia Communications Server 5100, creating an application that can be bought for linking to Microsoft’s Live Communications Server 2005 (LCS) and Office Communicator 2005.

It “allows you to take what may be an investment in LCS, which has no conferencing today, put ‘meet me’ conferencing on it, and integrate it with our Communications Server 1000,” said Dave Murashige, general manager of Nortel’s multimedia applications division.

This is the latest move in the Nortel pact with Microsoft to develop joint unified communications solutions. Multimedia Conferencing 5.0 will be integrated with Office Communicator Server 2007 in the first quarter of next year.

Multimedia Conferencing 5.0 supports audio and video conferencing within the same conference through SIP, IP, analog, digital, PC clients, and mobile phones. Murashige described it as an always-on conferencing bridge that users can access through the Communicator client, allowing users to quickly send messages to others online to create a conference. The system, which so far is only certified for IBM x3550 blades, can scale up to 300 users per conference. It will sell for $30,000 to $35,000.

Cisco’s year-old TelePresence system ranges from an $80,000 single-screen version to a $300,000 system that offers participants the ability to see each other almost life-size across a semi-circular desk via three 65-inch plasma screens. Until now it could only be used within an organization.

However, Cisco said that in the second quarter of 2008 it will add intercompany capabilities through service providers, giving organizations the ability to contact customers and suppliers with the video system.

Among the early adopters is BT Global Services, a division of British Telecom, which can use TelePresence through the Unified Communication Video Collaboration solution it sells to organizations.

In a news release Cisco said intercompany TelePresence architecture provides comprehensive security at the endpoint through authentication and encryption, in the enterprise network with firewall and NAT transversal and in the service provider network through topology and MPLS VPNs.

Users will also be able to bring existing standards-based videoconferencing sessions into a TelePresence meeting for those who don’t have a TelePresence system.