Nortel moves beyond convergence

Future of enterprise networking will be based around 'hyperconnectivity', the infrastructure provider claims

Many IT managers may have only just got to grips with the concept of convergence, but Nortel claims it has identified the next big trend: hyperconnectivity.

The networking giant announced on Monday that its entire business strategy will now focus on addressing the needs and opportunities thrown up by the concept of hyperconnectivity, which refers to a situation where the "number of nodes connecting to the network exceeds the number of people on the network", according to Shirley O'Sullivan, Nortel EMEA's portfolio leader for security and application networking.

O'Sullivan told ZDNet UK on Monday that three types of usage were at play in hyperconnectivity: human-to-human (such as voice calls or social networking); human-to-machine or vice versa (such as GPS or RFID); and machine-to-machine (such as in-building asset tracking). She suggested that such usage led to a "huge increase in bandwidth demands" and claimed Nortel could provide "a great deal of the infrastructure, signalling systems, some of the applications and the network intelligence required to support this change".

Nortel's new business model for tackling hyperconnectivity projects is dubbed Business Optimised Networking (BON). Simon Wilson, Nortel EMEA's portfolio leader for enterprise data solutions, identified five "building blocks" for BON: converge your core around IP, extend your enterprise functionality to branch locations, mobilise your employees, accelerate your applications, and secure and manage your infrastructure.

All new Nortel enterprise products will fall into one or more of these blocks, starting with the 4134 secure router (for extending unified communications to branch offices) and the Nortel Application Accelerator (a data-centre appliance for optimising the delivery and performance of web-based applications).

"It sounds similar to convergence because it is starting from the same point [but] we need to get people to understand it's a lot bigger than convergence," said Wilson. "Convergence was about putting IP telephones on desktops. What unified communications is about is linking all the communications media together to work in concert. It's not just about voice. It's about web push, messaging — all these things linked together."

Wilson also suggested that tackling hyperconnectivity could lead IT managers to "make the same mistakes they made last time [with convergence], such as underestimating the effort it might take and also the benefits from doing it properly". He added that: "The people who deployed convergence got fired because they didn't appreciate the implications for the underlying network, so it wasn't implemented correctly," and claimed that Nortel now has "a roadmap and a strategy to deliver on that".

Nortel's BON strategy is also closely linked to the company's "unified communications" tie-in with Microsoft, which will see a range of products released to make it easier for Microsoft Office applications to link up with a Nortel-based communications network.