Nortel technology links IP, digital PBX systems

Nortel Networks Monday will unveil plans to deliver common operating software for its Succession line of IP private branch exchange (PBX) systems and its older Meridian 1 digital voice switches.

The announcement will be made at the annual International Nortel Networks Meridian Users Group conference, which is being held in Las Vegas. However, Nortel doesn't plan to ship the Succession Enterprise Software Release 3.0 technology until October.

Once the software is available, companies with Meridian 1 switches will be able to use them to provide the same functionality as an IP-based PBX, said Ann Swenson, a senior product marketing manager at Nortel.

The cost and complexity of investing in IP devices has been a barrier to many companies, so being able to run IP software on a Meridian 1 switch is "a great direction for Nortel to be going," said Marianne Collin, president of the Dallas-based Meridian user group, which has more than 7,000 members and operates independently of Nortel.

Three years ago, Clarica Life Insurance, where Collin works as telephony services manager, decided to install Meridian 1 switches instead of IP hardware at an office in Waterloo, Ontario. Collin said she thinks that's an investment Clarica -- now a division of Sun Life Financial Services of Canada -- wants to maintain.

Swenson said the new software will support Meridian 1 systems as well as Nortel's Succession Communication Server for Enterprise 1000 IP PBX and its upcoming Succession 1000M device, which is also due in October. IP telephony features that will become available to Meridian users include greater scalability and reliability, intelligent call routing and remote access to applications running centrally.

Barry Marks, an analyst at PBI Media's InfoTech subsidiary, said the new software will give Meridian 1 users "the opportunity to migrate to an IP telephony platform without a forklift change." Although Nortel's approach won't provide "a truly unified IP environment, it's a solid step in that direction for Meridian users," Marks said.

He added that installing the Succession 3.0 software on a Meridian 1 switch could save tens of thousands of dollars compared with buying an all-new IP PBX from Nortel.

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