Nortel’s new territory

Nortel recently announced two new solutions, its Virtual Services Switch (VSS) 5000, as well as its Ethernet Routing Switch 8600, version 5.0, as part of its goal to help customers optimize and simplify networks by utilizing virtualization technology.

Net Payne, vice-president of North American marketing at Nortel, said the new solutions represent a new territory for the vendor, who he said, has never really had a presence in the virtualization space before.

The VSS 5000 provides customers with an end-to-end virtualization solution that enables IT managers to more easily consolidate and virtualize security and application availability and features by just using a single device.

Similarly, its Ethernet Routing Switch 8600 5.0 helps IT departments to simplify their network design, as it works within the LAN and across the campus/metro network of an organization.

CDN recently had the chance to speak with Payne about stepping into the virtualization market, as well as Nortel’s overall roadmap for the year, his thoughts on unified communications and his goals and plans for Nortel’s channel base.

CDN: Can you describe for me Nortel’s vision when it comes to the virtualization space and can you tell me what role your partners play in it?

Net Payne: From a channel perspective, our vision is aligned with our overall channel strategy in how we approach the data space in particular. It’s all about creating better performance and cost-savings. We believe that Nortel has the opportunity to do what VMware did for services and applications. We believe we’ll be delivering an end to end virtualization solution that provisions services on the fly so customers can optimize and simplify their network. Virtualization is another differentiator that we have today that allows customers to drive their revenue and grow in the market. That’s what we’re aiming to deliver and we see our Ethernet Routing Switch and VSS 5000 as being the first step to enable this. For our channel partners, they are absolutely critical for Nortel and we’re reliant in growing our channel. We believe we have a differentiated value proposition in the market with performance and a price advantage over Cisco. We also believe we deliver significant cost savings by using up to 50 per cent less energy on our products than what Cisco’s products do. This percentage is based on third party reports concerning energy efficiencies.

CDN: Asides from taking a firmer step into the virtualization market, what other key market areas and geographic regions will Nortel be focusing on in 2008 and why?

N.P.: We rolled out our revised partner program as a two year roadmap for our partners. The fundamentals of the program apply to Canada and the U.S. Where we have specific components in Canada, is in our specializations with data. Our competency with partners in Canada is distinct and that’s allowed us to be successful in the Canadian data market. We also have a competency around SMBs and in Canada, it’s more distinct with more businesses that fall into this marketplace. We’ve seen lots of success in growing our SMB partner base.

CDN: Do you see unified communications playing a big role in growth opportunities this year and why?

N.P.: It is absolutely critical for partners to build on their UC competencies. You can’t have it without having a robust UC data infrastructure. VoIP (voice over IP) is also part of creating a unified data experience. Channel partners have to deliver quality service and bring together data networking, telephony and the desktop environment. When partners are able to explain the vision of where UC will ultimately end up, it leads to their ability to sell current products and to gain incremental market share.

CDN: What areas would you like to see Nortel do better in this year and why?

N.P.: Outside of UC, which is our predominant push in the market, we believe it’s about an all encompassing solution with data infrastructure and desktop integration. Where we want to look at with a more tactical focus is in data infrastructure. It’s not about adding a box on top of a box; it’s what your infrastructure looks like. For the end customer and channel partners, there are significant opportunities to create a foundation for ultimate UC deployment and desktop integration.

CDN: What are Nortel’s overall goals and plans for the North American and Canadian channel this year?

N.P.: We’ve aligned with three things: partner profitability, growth in our UC specialization and delivering a more predictable plan of record and partner program. We want to continue to grow our partners’ profits. That’s our go-to-market strategy to lead in data and UC. We’re also looking for significant growth in our UC specialization. We’re looking to see increased partner participation rates in the competencies around our SMB and services specialization areas. As far as the partner program goes, we made significant progress in 2007 to make partners part of a process to make sure we understand what their needs are and we’ll continue to do this. We want a simple, predictable program that’s driven with our partners.

CDN: Are there any specific types of partners you hope to recruit more of this year?

N.P.: We’re thriving to deliver more data partners who are capable of selling Nortel data solutions. For Canada and the U.S., that’s a core growth area for us and we want to increase that.

CDN: Regarding this year’s Interop, what are some of the big news or trends you’ve seen introduced that you believe will be key drivers or influences for the industry this year?

N.P.: There are two key takeaways. The importance of energy savings is being talked about by many people here. It’s an area of huge concern with the price of oil and gas and it’s creating an interest in the market that hasn’t been there previously. You’ll see a lot about green products, but I would tell you that customers are making decisions based on cost savings and not necessarily around the concept of going with green IT. The second thing I’ve seen a lot of at this show is virtualization. It’s moving from what has been the server in the application space to networking and networking services as well.

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