Nortel Launching New IP-PBX Software Upgrade Program

The Preferred Software Membership program, which will be available to customers exclusively through Nortel channel partners, gives customers a predetermined, fixed, per-user rate for upgrading to future releases of the vendor's Succession IP call server software.

Available for periods of one, two or three years, the program enables solution providers to offer multiyear software maintenance contracts while helping customers budget more effectively for upgrades, said Christine Durham, vice president of market and channel outreach at Nortel, during an interview at Global Connect, an annual conference sponsored by the International Nortel Networks Users Association (INNUA).

"[Customers] know every year what they have to set aside," Durham said.

This contrasts with the more common method of disclosing upgrade prices at the time a new release is available, which for many customers comes after budgets for the year have been set.

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"It's difficult for us to do budgeting if we don't know about a new [upgrade] until June and our budget is already done," said Karen Titus, president of INNUA and telecommunications engineering specialist at Swedish Health Services in Seattle.

Both Brampton, Ontario-based Nortel and INNUA collaborated over the past nine to 12 months to develop the program, Durham said.

Nortel now has to determine pricing for upgrades in advance, one of the more challenging aspects of the new program, Durham said.

The future releases, slated to come out at least every 12 months, will bolster the SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) capabilities of Nortel's platform. SIP is an emerging call control standard that Nortel plans to use to add collaborative applications such as instant messaging, file exchange and video calling to the Succession platform.

The new program will be available in the third quarter to customers using the current 3.0 Succession software release. Nortel did not publicly disclose pricing to protect partner margins.