Unified Communications: Part 2
And the shake out in Unified Communications (UC) continues!
In the early days of UC Siemens worked closely with Microsoft. This was in the days of LCS (live communications server), not the current Microsoft OCS. As time went by Microsoft cozied up to Nortel (for those who don’t know, Nortel used to be Northern Telecom which was the Canadian AT&T in ancient times). In the days before Cisco began to eat traditional telephony vendors’ lunch (Avaya, Nortel, Siemens aka Rolm) Nortel was one of the big two competitors to the AT&T equipment spin-off, Avaya.
So when the honeymoon between Siemens and Microsoft ended with the release of Microsoft OCS which was targeted as a competitor to Siemens’ highly acclaimed UC product, OpenScape, Microsoft tapped Nortel as its technology and channel partner in UC.
Musical chairs! Fun to watch from the outside, but not only confusing to outsiders but job threatening to IT folks who hitched their career star to the wrong vendor! There is a reason IBM has ruled in the IT space for about fifty years and it is FUD.
FUD = Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.
FUD means no one got fired for buying IBM even if they didn’t have the best solution out there. Sometimes if one is on the IT hot spot it makes more sense to buy the safe choice rather than the best and right choice for your company.
Well, the Nortel / Microsoft alliance didn’t turn out to be a life saver for Nortel. Read the news lately? Nortel is on the block — the sales block! Just as Avaya went private and Siemens was (mostly) bought out now it is Nortel’s turn. Nortel went into bankruptcy in January, 2009 and now Nortel Networks Limited is looking for a buyer. Nortel’s Enterprise Solutions is its second largest revenue source — and has a whopping 59% of the American market share (per Dell’Oro Group).
With Nortel on the block many of its partners are moving to Avaya. Carol Giles Neslund, Avaya’s North American channels VP, claims that 19 of Nortel partners (including 10 of their biggest partners) have signed up to Avaya (17 in the U.S and 2 in Canada).
Also on the chopping block is Nortel’s wireless assets for $650 million to Nokia Siemens.
To add to Nortel’s woes (as if they needed more headaches) Microsoft just inked a four-year agreement with Hewlett-Packard (HP) worth $180 million in enhancements to their joint unified communications solutions. What does that mean for that much ballyhooed Nortel/Microsoft UC partnership? You might ask Siemens who was Microsoft’s ballyhooed UC partner prior to Nortel.
Nortel isn’t going down without a fight. No sooner did Nortel sell its wireless group to Siemens it turns around and announces Release 3.0 of its SCS unified communications solution! Right on the heels of this Nortel announced that Telecom Liechtenstein (obviously in Liechtenstein!) had invested in Nortel’s UC offer – in its partnership with Microsoft — integrating Microsoft’s OCS with Nortel’s voice communication ifrastructure.
So what is my advice to potential unified communications buyers? First, look at the ROI and value to your company. Even if you choose a UC product whose vendor goes bankrupt or is acquired if the product meets your needs and has a fast enough “payback” I’d still consider it. Technology is always changing and the good news is that these days most if not all are standards based.
Unlike the good folk in Liechtenstein I don’t know if I’d short list Nortel until it gets acquired or things get clearer, but Microsoft is in UC for the long haul. OpenScape by Siemens has a user face interface which integrates with third-party unified messaging as well as instant messaging applications, such as Jabber. OpenScape works with Microsoft’s OCS and IBM Lotus Sametime. Openscape partnered with IBM when Microsoft chose to embed part of Nortel’s UC offering into OCS. Siemens OpenScape is embedded as part of IBM’s Lotus Sametime Unified Telephony UC solution.
If you have a Genesys(of Alcatel-Lucent) contact center, the good news is that Genesys has UCConnect connects their contact center software with UC offerings from their parent (Alcatel-Lucent) company’s MyInstant Communicator, IBM Lotus Sametime, Microsoft OCS and Siemens OpenScape. So even if you choose a UC that goes away due to a merger or bankruptcy if you have a UC connect ability you can disconnect from one UC offer to another without disaster to the contact center.
Odds are that Nortel and its UC offer won’t disappear any time soon. Most likely this part of Nortel will be bought by someone — maybe Avaya. The latest rumor is that MatlinPatterson Global Advisors may buy them out compleely.
For now, if I were looking at UC offers, I would look at Nortel, but I’d do so with knowledge aforethought.