New York Times taps Nortel for VOIP net

Company leaves legacy voice/data network for Nortel gear

The New York Times is changing its address, with a moved planned for next spring to a new state-of-the-art facility in Times Square. Along with glass-and-steel architecture, desks without coffee stains and crumbs in the keyboards, the 3,500 or so Times employees plan to move to an all IP data, voice and video network, all humming along on a single Nortel-built infrastructure.

While vacating its 43rd Street headquarters, which the paper has occupied since 1913, the company is leaving a legacy voice/data network built on Avaya, Definity PBXs and phones, and Cisco switches and routers. The network at the new building will consist of Nortel gear from the desktop LAN ports to the data center and LAN core. The single-vendor net will provide greater security, easier management and more rich-media capabilities for users, Times IT technologists say.

The Times spent the last two years evaluating Nortel's voice/data product offerings against an Avaya/Cisco converged network package, according to Bob Kraft, vice president of enterprise services for the New York Times.

"Conceptually, we felt we could be successful with either an integration of Cisco and Avaya products," or an end-to-end Nortel package, Kraft says. "It came down to other things," when the decision was made to go with an all-Nortel network.

A week was spent in the product-demo laboratories at Avaya, Cisco and Nortel, Kraft says, resulting in an internal document "bigger than 100 pages," evaluating the technologies against one another. During the evaluation, cost was considered a "tie-breaker" but not an ultimate deciding factor.

The list price of just the Nortel hardware going into the new Times building is about US$2.4 million, not including the cost of Nortel Global Services, which is providing product installation, and 24-by-seven post-installation support services. The Times would not say the exact cost of the products and services from Nortel.

Kraft says the single-vendor approach with Nortel will let the company more easily manage and troubleshoot the converged network. A tight integration of security technologies -- such as policy-based networking, NAC and IPS/IDS -- into the Nortel voice and data infrastructure was also a factor.

The booming expansion of multimedia at The New York Times was a big driver behind the network infrastructure going into the new facility. The Times, over the last several years, has been trying to shake the "gray lady" image with aggressive use of online and multimedia features, such as multimedia packages and video segments from reporters, chat rooms and blogs. That means Times staff does more than just write and edit text articles for the paper-and-ink product.

To this end, every desktop in the newsroom will feature a full Gigabit Ethernet link as well as an IP phone, integrated voice mail/e-mail and an Internet chat, all rolled into one with Nortel's CallPilot unified messaging product. Instant "click-to-dial" audio conferencing and presence capabilities will also be available for the Times staff, Kraft says.

"We wanted to create a multimedia environment for each worker," Kraft says. "If they need to do anything with voice or video or multimedia, it can all be done" from the desktop. Since each PC will have a USB camera and microphone, Kraft anticipates more video conferencing will take place, was well as recording of short podcast and video podcast segments by reporters for the site.

Among the background clatter in the Times' current newsroom are several televisions, constantly tuned to breaking-news channels, such as CNN or FOX. The new Times newsroom will have fewer televisions but more options available for the staff, as 10 channels of IP television will be available to every desktop in the company. The IPTV streams will be delivered via Time Warner Cable.

"We will be one of first customers in New York for" IPTV from Time Warner, Kraft says. "We're helping them develop that service."

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