As has been widely reported today, Microsoft & Nortel announced a wide-ranging strategic partnership to deliver unified communications services and solutions. The biggest components of today's announcement were that Nortel will deliver service and support for Microsoft's unified communications solutions, and that Nortel & Microsoft will team to jointly develop future offerings. Nortel had previously announced support for integration of its CS1000 line into Microsoft's Live Communications Server line, which they reaffirmed today.
I thought the announcement was missing a key component - federation between Nortel's Multimedia Communications Server (MCS) platform and LCS 2005/OCS 2007. I'd expect we'll see this at a future point in time but for now it seems that Nortel still intends to position MCS as a competing product, outside the scope of this agreement
I also think that this announcement shows that the IP communications/telephony vendors are continuing to pick sides in what is looming as a growing battle between Cisco and Microsoft for the enterprise communications application space. Nortel appears to be realizing that embracing Microsoft is a preferable strategy rather than trying to compete with both Microsoft and Cisco.
Finally, Nortel steps into a vacuum created by the uncertainty of the future of Siemens' enterprise communications business (currently up for sale). Siemens has enjoyed a close relationship with Microsoft and integration of Siemens products including the HiPath 8000 & OpenScape was an integral part of Microsoft's recent announcements of Office Communications Server 2007. Nortel appears to be stepping up to potentially assume Siemens role as Microsoft's key communications partner, an arrangement which is obviously mutually beneficial to both organizations but creates new questions for companies such as Avaya & Alcatel (as well as whatever becomes of the Siemens enterprise communications group).
One thing is for certain, the last couple of weeks have been extremely eventful for the enterprise communications space. We're in the early stages of a major transition as we move from "IP Telephony" to unified communications. Stick around, it's going to be a fun ride.