When Nortel Networks Inc.’s enterprise division was sold to Avaya Inc. just over a year ago, Toronto’s Humber River Regional Hospital was one of hundreds of organizations across the country with Nortel equipment who were worried: What’s the future of our phone system?
That’s one reason why Lynn Yurchuk, the hospital’s telecommunications manager attended a panel on options for Nortel system owners at a telephony conference in Toronto on Thursday.
There she and others in the audience heard an Avaya Canada Inc. official try to put their minds at ease, while a competitor hinted lots of Nortel customers were abandoning ship.
“Rest assured your investments in existing [Nortel] platforms are still good,” said Amir Hameed, director of national solution specialists.
Avaya will allow Nortel customers to either upgrade their software to the latest versions or convert to Avaya’s Aura platform at their own pace, he said. Since Nortel and Aura products are Session Initiated Protocol (SIP)-based, changing platforms will be seamless, he said. There will be a one-year advance notice when production of Nortel products are to be ended, and support for them will be continued for another six years.
But panelist David Hobbs, a senior solutions engineer with the Canadian division of ShorTel Inc., which makes unified communications systems, wanted to make sure the audience knew Nortel owners have a choice.
ShorTel’s telephony equipment runs on one software platform, he said, and is managed from a single Web-based interface. Asked by a moderator why Nortel customers switch to Shortel, he replied, “simplicity” in operations and installation.
Partly caught in the middle was Andrew Judd, senior solutions engineer with Toronto-based Eclipse Technology Solutions Inc., a telecommunications integrator which sells equipment from Avaya, Cisco Systems Inc. and Mitel Networks.
He pointed to advantages of all three manufacturers: Avaya has a standards-based architecture that integrates well with Nortel’s platforms and has one of the best contact centres; Cisco has a wide product range with unified communications baked into every one; and Mitel has tight integration with Research In Motion’s BlackBerry Mobile Voice System (MVS), which links the handset to many telephony systems.
There’s lots of life left in Nortel systems, Judd added. But, he said, some companies don’t want to merge into the Avaya system for a variety of reasons: Modern telephony systems are IP-based as are their data networks, so it can make sense to have identical telephony and network vendors; and some are looking for a “killer app” Avaya doesn’t have.
One thing panelists did agree on: Microsoft Corp.’s new Lync communications platform, which has replaced Office Communications Server, isn’t ready to take over the entire corporate communications system.