Nortel turns to open source for SMB UC

Nortel's new unifiied communications appliance has an open source core.

Nortel has introduced a new open source, software-based unified communications (UC) platform for the small and medium-sized business (SMB) market.

Nortel's Software Communications System (SCS) 500 is a SIP-centric platform based on the sipXecs open source project sponsored by SIPfoundry. It powers IP telephony, presence, instant messaging, conferencing and other UC applications.

Chris Nantes, manager of Nortel's global SMB portfolio, said SCS 500 includes more than 250 features developed by Nortel for sipXecs. It is fully integrated with the Dell OptiPlex 755 server platform and IBM System i. Nantes said it will eventually run on Dell's PowerEdge R300 server and on IBM's Power Systems servers and blades.

The SCS 500 is designed for companies with 30 to 500 employees.

"We're taking the best of two different worlds here," Nantes said. "One is the flexibility and strength and accelerated development cycle of the open source community and [we're] blending that with Nortel's heritage and leadership in the telephony and unified communications space."

"It's pure SIP on both the trunk and the line sides," Nantes said. "It opens the door for service providers to link in with centralized SIP application servers to provide more cost-effective trunking."

Nantes said SCS 500 fills out Nortel's UC SMB portfolio. Justin Jaffe, senior analyst at IDC, said the SMB market for UC is wide open.

"I can tell you that roughly 10% of SMBs currently use a VoIP solution," Jaffe said, "and IDC expects to see increasing, if incremental, adoption of both IP telephony and other UC capabilities during the next 12 months."

Nortel and other telephony vendors have found that using third-party, open source code as the core of their products allows them to focus more of their resources on providing more advanced UC features, according to Brian Riggs, research director of enterprise communications at Current Analysis.

"In order to develop and maintain PBX software, a vendor like Nortel has to devote a considerable amount of resources around engineering, support and ongoing development," Riggs said. "It's a very costly proposition, and in the end what they have is a fairly undifferentiated product."

Riggs said that Nortel, with sipXecs, and other vendors, such as 3Com with Asterisk, have found that using the core features of an open source platform frees them from "reinventing the wheel" and allows them to focus on more advanced features like fixed mobile convergence or how to tie their technology into a UC environment.

The SCS 500's integration with IBM's System i could be a big boost, Riggs said. By running the software on the System i platform, SMBs will be able to integrate it with IBM's Sametime technology on one box.

"Having that level of application integration is going to be a real differentiator," Riggs said. "It will bring a simple way for customers to implement these technologies. One of the problems with UC has been that it's very complex to purchase and install and support. One way to eliminate some of the complexities around that is to have a single platform that can do everything."


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