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Nortel and IBM are teaming up to launch an integrated suite of voice over IP and multimedia applications running on IBM’s System i server, which is popular with small and midsize enterprises.

The integrated offering will turn System i servers into IP PBXes capable of supporting a mix of IP telephony applications and collaboration applications such as IBM’s Lotus Sametime instant messaging, Web collaboration, presence, whiteboarding and other applications.

The idea of the joint effort is to make unified communications applications available to a broader set of businesses, and the product will compete with similar offerings from Microsoft.

Lori McLean, vice president and general manager of the Nortel/IBM alliance in Toronto, said the offering will include IBM applications such as call telerouting, unified communications, messaging and collaboration tools.

The combined offering will be sold through both IBM and Nortel channel partners. Both IBM and Nortel intend to provide training to IBM’s System i channel partners on how to market and support IP telephony applications, and they will train Nortel partners familiar with VOIP on how to market and support the System i running VOIP applications. The System i is used most often by SMBs (small and midsize businesses).

Read here about other joint Nortel/IBM initiatives.

“We’re leveraging our existing channel and investigating new ways to go to market,” said McLean. “We believe we set the bar with this in terms of ease of use and deployment. We want to continue down that path to make it simple to deploy. With SMB owners, the value of simplicity is paramount.”

The combined offering, due in October, will be bolstered by channel enablement programs aimed at giving Nortel VARs competency in System i installation and operation. Nortel hopes to have six key channel partners “up to speed by the end of June,” said McLean.

The new offering will exploit a relatively new packaging/pricing mechanism IBM developed for the System i operating system that is based on a per-user price. It was developed to attract more small businesses, which are reluctant to pay a high upfront cost and prefer to grow their usage as their business grows, according to Jim Herring, director of System i products and business operations at IBM, in Rochester, Minn.

Pricing for the joint offering has not yet been set.

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