Nortel Networks Corp. may be a latecomer to the IP PBX market, but the company could be getting in the game quickly with new technology designed to help traditional PBX customers painlessly migrate to IP.
The company's Succession Communication Server (SCS) 1000 is Nortel's first server-based IP PBX system aimed at large enterprise deployments. Previously, Nortel's main answer to packet telephony for these customers was a gateway that let Meridian customers use IP phones.
Nortel says its new system could ease the transition to voice over IP for the company's existing Meridian PBX. The SCS 1000's software and management features have been modeled after technology in the Meridian line, which supports more than 43 million phone users in U.S. firms.
Nortel has morphed its Meridian PBX software to run on an IP server platform that runs on the real-time operating system VxWorks. Nortel says this platform provides better reliability than IP PBXs based on Windows NT server and made by Cisco Systems Inc. and Siemens AG. The SCS 1000 will compete with Avaya Inc.'s IP600 Communication Server, Cisco's CallServer, Alcatel SA's OmniPCX 400 and Siemens' HiPath 5000.
While Nortel's new system will have some things in common with the Meridian, the firm says the SCS 1000 also includes advances, such as Web-based tools, that will make it easier to manage and configure. Meridian systems often required a visit from a telecom integrator when a phone system had to be reconfigured.
The Oregon Department of Transportation, which has a network of 11 Meridian 1 PBXs, has dabbled with IP in its voice environment by extending Meridian access to branch offices via Nortel Remote Office 9150 devices and T-1 connections into the Internet. While the technology has worked well, this essentially only gives these offices access to the old circuit-switched PBX systems. Vance Snook, telecommunications coordinator for the department, has reservations about going any further.
"I don't know if I would really be confident in deploying a full-blown IP PBX," he says. "Maybe because I've been a hardwired voice guy for so long."
The SCS 1000 will support Nortel's i2004 IP phones and Nortel's new i2050 softphones, which run on a Windows desktop outfitted with speakers and a microphone. The IP PBX will be available in July and start at US$700 per line.