Microsoft and Nortel will offer a fully hosted unified-communications and collaboration service for carriers, the first entirely hosted carrier-grade offering to come out of an alliance struck between the companies two years ago.
At the NXTcomm08 conference in Las Vegas, the partners unveiled a suite based on Nortel Communications Server 2000, an IP multimedia softswitch, and the Microsoft Solution for Hosted Messaging and Collaboration Version 4.5 (HMC 4.5), a combination of hosted versions of both Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 and Microsoft Exchange Server 2007.
Sita Lowman, leader of Nortel’s converged core and application marketing department for carriers, said the target of this offering are small and medium-sized businesses who don’t want to own the Microsoft Office suite or a PBX.
Carriers would buy the components separately from Microsoft and Nortel and either do integration themselves or hire Nortel to do the work.
The offering is an extension of a so-called hybrid hosted unified communications package the two companies put together for carriers last year, and based on an earlier version of HMC, aimed at enterprises who have Office Communications Server and are willing to rent Nortel’s voice telephony solution from carriers. However, customers still had to install some of the infrastructure on site, which is cost-prohibitive for some companies.
Lowman said carriers will be Nortel’s initial market for the fully hosted version, but she believes service providers may also be interested. Cable companies, who are already offering VoIP telephony products might be interested in being able to offer messaging and collaboration services from the Microsoft-Nortel package, she added.
Microsoft and Nortel now offer three versions of the UC suite: fully customer premise, hybrid and entirely carrier-hosted. Nortel’s deal with Microsoft is not exclusive.
It also has a unified communications alliance with IBM for Lotus Notes and Sametime to certify bundles running those applications on its Communications Server 2000. As it was making the Microsoft fully-hosted carrier announcement, Nortel was announcing a hybrid version of its IBM unified communications alliance. Again, it’s for customers who have the Notes/Sametime applications already and want to add the Nortel hosted telephony service from carriers.
Nortel and IBM will provide advisory and integration services.
Unified communications is an IP-based system giving companies telephony, corporate instant-messaging, e-mail, video-conferencing and other tools for allowing business workers to collaborate from one user interface.
Nortel has been struggling for several years to remain competitive in the market for telecommunications infrastructure. Its deal with Microsoft two years ago was seen as important for helping the company gain leverage in the burgeoning market for unified communications.