Nortel and IBM Serve Up UC for SMBs

Building on a relationship that began over a year ago, Nortel and IBM announced a new UC solution for SMBs that leverages IBM’s new “Power System” and Nortel’s UC software to create the new Nortel Software Communication Server (SCS). IBM has brought together its I-series and P-series servers into one family, called Power System, and introduced three servers as part of the family: the IBM Power 520 Express, the IBM Power 550 Express and the IBM BladeCenter JS12. IBM’s Business Systems Group is breaking the mold in how it goes to market, and no longer goes to market by product line but instead by customer set. The group can talk to customers about solutions and determine what the customers’ needs are and match them with platform that best meets these needs. And of course one of the leading solutions today is unified communications.

Nortel’s Software Communication Server is an open, SIP-based UC solution for SMBs that provides VoIP and UC capabilities on a single platform. Designed jointly by Nortel and IBM, SCS runs on IBM’s new Power Systems products and was purpose built for SMBs with under 1000 users. The two companies can provide an all-in-one solution providing embedded instant messaging, presence capabilities, basic telephony capabilities, basic contact center functionality, Ad hoc/ Meet Me audio conferencing, basic videoconferencing, and more.

Lori McClean of Nortel describes the Software Communication Server as being “dead simple,” meaning it meets the needs of SMBs for simplicity, including ease of installation, maintenance, and use. The system can be up and running in 10-20 minutes for 120 users.

In terms of features, SCS provides traditional PBX feature set, integrated ACD, auto attendant, click to talk, click to conference, call management, and PC desktop integration with Microsoft or IBM. Basic IM and presence capabilities are included as part of the Nortel software, and customers who want more extensive UC capabilities can purchase and integrate IBM Sametime (most SMB customers would likely opt for the Sametime Entry or Standard editions).

Following the simplicity theme, pricing is based on a per user license basis. MSRP is $200 per seat, including the Nortel telephony UC software and feature set, and softphone all preloaded and preconfigured. Customers that do not already have the IBM server would also need to purchase the System i server, which generally costs around $8,000-$9,000.

The product is currently in controlled release with some initial trials. SCS on System i will go GA April 17, followed by the rest of the IBM Power Systems shortly after.

The two companies will work together to market the solution, which will be sold by certified resellers. While there are only 20 certified resellers today, these are very large, national organizations. IBM partners will be primary and initial route to market, and partners need to be certified on both IBM and Nortel solutions, with expertise on both Nortel SCS and IBM Power Systems required.

Both companies agree that customers demand choice, and stated that this is not an exclusive agreement – Nortel is offering similar software to other partners and IBM will work with other partners as well. However, Nortel was quick to point out that the IBM solution is unique and that the IBM platform is the first platform to leverage the Nortel software, and it is the only multi-application platform. The companies noted that what is unique about this relationship is the breadth of the relationship – Nortel is currently the only vendor to support all of the platforms that IBM brings to market.

SMBs have different needs than their larger counterparts, and to date there have been just a handful of UC solutions aimed at this segment. While SMBs haven’t been banging down the doors yet for a full-featured UC solution (then again, neither have large enterprises), it is just a matter of time, and having more options is always a good thing. SCS helps Nortel to fill out its UC product portfolio, providing a compelling offering for SMBs. IBM will need to get additional resellers certified and capable of selling this solution which will take time, but IBM resellers that also resell Nortel solutions and also serve the SMB market should be more than willing to add SCS to their portfolio.

Leave a Reply