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IBM, 3Com Team On IP Telephony Suite

The idea is to allow IT groups in midsized firms to reduce cost and complexity by deploying a single server housing all their core applications: ERP, CRM, DB2, and now IP telephony.

3Com and IBM announced a partnership today to port 3Com's IP telephony server onto IBM's System i server platform, the re-branded, multiplatform version of the old AS/400 series.

The System i IP Telephony Suite will enable IT to reduce the cost and complexity of mid-market offices by deploying a single server housing all of their core applications -- ERP and CRM, Websphere, DB-2 and now their IP telephony server, 3Com's VCX. Up to 2,000 users will be supported on a single System i5 520 or 550.

The VCX was the first commercially available SIP server provided by a major networking vendor. The software was originally developed for carriers before 3Com ported it down to the enterprise. Today the VCX runs on Linux on IBM's eServer xSeries platform and is being ported over to the System i5/OS. Aside from the traditional telephony features, the SIP server will provide System i with presence, unified messaging, audio conferencing, video conferencing, contact centers, and enterprise mobility.

While the IBM System i IP Telephony solution may be the first server to integrate an IP PBX, it's hardly the first integrated device. Increasingly, networking vendors are realizing that at the branch, integrated bundles sell. Cisco claims to have shipped 750,00 of its Integrated Service Routers (ISRs) that combine switching, routing, network security.

So successful has Cisco been with the ISR, that Adtran has since released its own ISR-killer. The NetVanta 7100 IP PBX was introduced earlier this month at the VoiceCon show and includes a router, Ethernet switch, firewall, VPN, CSU/DSU and an IP PBX.

However, the IBM and 3Com deal will be unique in that they target the regional office, not the small branch. The IBM System i IP Telephony solution can scale up to 2,000 users. The ISR is limited to 250 users and the NetVanta to 40 users.

What's more, by running on i5/0S the VCX will inherit the availability and scalability features inherent in the platform. By running the VCX in an uncapped partition, IBM's virtualization engine can automatically allocate resources, for example, to an end-of-quarter conference call, if necessary, says Chip McClelland, IBM's System i marketing manager.

Since 3Com's VCX is pure SIP, IBM intends to use VCX as a platform for integrating convergence capabilities into other applications. The ability to initiate phone calls by clicking on e-mail, or conferencing in individuals simply by adding them to a common calendar in Notes, are just two of the applications being considered. Integration with CRM applications is another possibility..

Pricing has not been set for the combined System i and VCX solution. The System i5 520 Express starts at $12,000 for memory, disk, a DB-2 license, WebSphere Express, management, virtualization engines, and a warranty.

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