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Nortel perks up with new products

The Canadian telecom giant is finally waking up from a six-month hibernation to introduce new technology based on Bay Networks' most successful product.

    Nortel Networks is finally waking up from a six-month hibernation to introduce new technology based on Bay Networks' most successful product.

    The Canadian telecommunications giant is stepping up its convergence efforts with the release of Accelar switching devices, a technology acquired when the company purchased data player Bay Networks.

    Nortel, in fact, has touted its plans for voice and data integration with analysts in recent weeks and will sponsor a high-profile event in San Jose, California, in the coming days.

    "They're laying out the roadmap for their unified strategy," said analyst Mike McConnell, of Infonetics Research.

    Nortel Networks next week will unveil its new Accelar 8000 switches that will network data, telephony, and video. The switches route packets of information across a local area network (LAN) or campus environment.

    The new devices include features that will minimize operation disruptions, according to Nortel executives.

    McConnell said reliability is key if unified networking is to take off.

    "This is one of the products that blends data networking and telecom together," he said. "Customers want to see reliability in the products before they start implementing, so Nortel's taken extra care to provide it."

    Nortel is also releasing a new Accelar 700 family of server switches, which will ensure there's enough bandwidth available for more important functions, such as giving priority to e-commerce transactions.

    Nortel has developed a three-pronged strategy for the merging of its Accelar 8000 switches and two products from Nortel: Passport switches for wide area networks and Meridian PBXes.

    In April, the company will release a version of the Accelar line aimed at departments within a building. In the third quarter of this year, the company will release a version for the backbone core of a campus network. And in the first quarter of next year, the company will link the switch with its Meridian PBXes.

    David Passmore, research director for network consulting firm NetReference, said it appears Nortel is on the right track in its attempts to merge voice and data-based technologies. "It's the Swiss Army of products. It's incredibly flexible," he said.

    McConnell agreed. "Everybody's got a story they're touting and we're just beginning to see the products. Nortel is right at the forefront, but no one has taken the lead. Everyone's jockeying for position."

    In related news, Nortel Networks yesterday announced plans to use Intel-based technologies--including its microprocessors-- to build enterprise voice products.