Nortel Offers SOA-Enabled Enterprise Communications

Nortel has launched an initiative to use service-oriented architecture (SOA) technology to more flexibly support the communications needs of enterprises and organizations. A number of plans and ideas are associated with the initiative, which Nortel calls "Communications Enablement."

The company plans to offer some of its existing products as Web services under this strategy, although the practice isn't new for Nortel. The company currently offers "instant messaging, videoconferencing and presence" as Web services in conjunction with its Application Server 5200 and Communication Server 2000 IP Multimedia Softswitch products.

In addition, Nortel plans to develop a "software-based foundation environment" as part of its Communications Enablement strategy. The environment is essentially an integration layer in an SOA that will support various communications applications, regardless of platform.

"We provide an integration layer that allows you to have this seamless connectivity for all of your communications needs," explained Richard Tworek, Nortel's general manager for SOA and next-generation platforms.

The software-based foundation environment product is expected to be generally available in the first quarter of 2008.

Nortel plans to work with strategic partners as part of this initiative. The first such partner is IBM, which has integrated its WebSphere Application Server with Nortel's software-based solution foundation environment. The integration also includes IBM's Lotus Sametime unified communications and collaboration platform offering.

Nortel will also work with other SOA solution providers in addition to IBM, Tworek said.

Network design, development and integration will be offered by Nortel Global Services to "help carriers and enterprises migrate to SOA and Web services," according a Nortel press release.

Nortel is well known for its telecom infrastructure products and services, but it's also had a strong presence in the enterprise market. Still, communications integration with SOA is somewhat new for Nortel.

"A big part of Nortel's business is enterprise," Tworek said. "We create billions of dollars from our enterprise business and we have thousands of customers. Carriers are looking at how do you take this and make it simpler by using SOA or Web services. We have offered a Web service-type interface for a while [but] this is the first time we've pulled it all together and put it under a SOA framework, and taken it to market to offer a comprehensive solution to meet communications needs."

The use of SOA infrastructure simplifies development too, allowing Nortel to tap into the IT developer community and avoid complex telecom protocols.

"In the old days, before this product, you'd have to write very specific kinds of code on the communications silo -- things like CTI, SIP. It becomes a nightmare to keep people trained and understand how this stuff works and how it all connects," Tworek said. "So instead of doing all of that, you just buy our software and we handle all of the heavy lifting. All you have to do is write Java code, or JavaScript or [set up a] Web service, and it's up and running."

Tworek described the problem for a developer of just creating a simple "click-to-connect" button on a Web site, which he said can be difficult, "especially if you have multiple call servers underneath." However, a simple request to a SOA infrastructure simplifies that development.

"We had one customer writing a call-to-connect button. It took him six months and a handful of developers. You can do the same thing with our software using one developer and two days," Tworek said.

The Nortel-IBM partnership is initially targeting the healthcare and retail markets. For instance, the University of Ottawa is using Nortel's system to support triage in a public hospital.

"There's lots of ROI in healthcare to maintain and improve quality," explained David Epstein, director of public sector solutions for IBM.

IBM is also bringing its business process support into the mix through its industry-oriented framework offerings, Epstein said, which can be extended to support communications functions.

"We can model what this communications-enabled business process will be -- literally through drag and drop, to put the pieces together -- and then deploy that," he said. "All of the provisioning from the communications network side is being taken care of by what Nortel offers. And then we can go and monitor how those processes execute. So it's a very slick way of integrating what used to be very disparate silos through an SOA."

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor, Enterprise Group, at 1105 Media Inc.