Nortel emphasizes merging of IT, communications

Executive discusses trends of communication-enabled apps at the OASIS Standards 2008 conference.

Nortel is pursuing development of communications-enabled applications, which combine IT and communications in newfangled application types, and would like to see standards set to provide consistent behaviors.

Describing the merging of IT and communications as two large tectonic plates coming together, Peter Carbone, Nortel vice president of SOA, detailed Tuesday multiple examples of applications that merge different capabilities and noted new trends in how people are using applications. Carbone spoke at the OASIS Open Standards 2008 Symposium in Santa Clara, California.

Carbone stressed the changes enabled by communications-enabled applications. "The key here is that it's actually turning communications into a horizontal capability that's actually usable," Carbone said.

He described as one example an application deployed in Europe, called a "Vulnerable Worker" system. In this application, social workers might have to go into a dangerous part of town all alone. The application mashes up information about the worker's schedule and can track the worker to a cell phone location; the worker can tell the supervisor they are ready to enter the situation and that if they are not heard from in a certain amount of time, to launch an emergency response.

In another example, Nortel has deployed a hospital system in which technologies like wireless communications are used to alert doctors about emergency situations instead of having to use the hospital's public address system. Skills-based routing is incorporated, and stress is lessened because doctors can get pre-briefed on situations.

"What the hospitals find is that the stress level in the hospital goes way, way down because they're not broadcasting these disasters publicly, which everyone can hear," said Carbone.

But standards are needed in communications-enabled applications to enable component services to provide consistent behaviors in performance and security, Carbone said.

"Essentially, when you put a service together, people want service level agreements so they can predictably know what's going to happen, and by having various different components coming together that aren't exactly the same, you do have to figure out some way for them to come together in a coherent way," Carbone said.

At Nortel, the company has seen a convergence around a package-based infrastructure as well as the emergence of unified communications. Nortel tries to simplify the application experience so users get an equivalent capability regardless of what type of system is being used to access and application, such as a PDA or laptop.

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