Nortel Networks has added the SIP standard to its switches and phones and will release a series of software upgrades and new products this week. The Session Initiation Protocol is designed to help remote workers function as part of integrated teams within large companies.

With so many workers now assigned to jobs outside of corporate headquarters, the demand for efficient and secure communications and collaboration capabilities is greater than ever, said Clent Richardson, vice president of global marketing at Nortel. The company plans to differentiate itself by using SIP to support virtual enterprises.

Among the new offerings is release 4.0 of its Communications Server 1000 voice switch, previously the Succession 1000. Richardson noted that the vendor is moving to adopt product names that better describe what its technology does. "We have funky names, and we are in the midst of brand simplification," he said.

The CS 1000 upgrade will integrate the product's IP voice-switching capabilities with SIP-based voice, data and video applications supported by Nortel's Multimedia Communications Server 5100. The MCS 5100 is being upgraded to offer combined support for voice processing, call management, desktop video calling and collaboration tools, such as instant messaging software and Web-based applications for sharing documents in real time.

Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering will upgrade to MCS 5100 3.0 next month and plans to add CS 1000 4.0 over the Christmas break or next summer to take advantage of the SIP interoperability, said CIO Joanne Kossuth.

The increased support for SIP should help make it "as easy as possible" for end users to connect to the school's network and lessen development demands as Olin considers adding applications, she said. She added that the upgraded MCS 5100 will also provide a single point of presence for end-user access to instant messaging tools.

The 225-student college has invested more than $2.5 million in data and voice communications products from Nortel since it was founded in 2002. Olin evaluated the major networking vendors and chose Nortel as its primary supplier partly because of the company's commitment to standards such as SIP, she said.

It also uses voice-over-IP phones from Nortel, and Kossuth estimated that its annual network costs of $500,000 would be more than doubled without VoIP. The use of VoIP technology supports a range of applications at the college, including unified messaging capabilities that allow voice mail messages to be directed to e-mail accounts.

Nortel will also announce a variety of other hardware and software products, including a new Communications Server 2100 voice switch that supports SIP and is designed for very large companies.

The new offerings show that Nortel is "committed to developing products for the enterprise business", said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at The Yankee Group. Nortel now gets just 22 percent of its revenue from corporate users but should be able to increase that figure with features such as its support for SIP, Kerravala added.