3Com prepares Linux-based VoIP softswitch

In ongoing efforts aimed at expanding into enterprise systems, 3Com announced the development of a channel-ready Linux-backed variety of the company's VoIP softswitch.

Since the softswitch's 2003 debut, 3Com has watched the product come up against issues relating to interoperability; stemming from its use of Sun's Solaris operating system. It was discovered that not many of their partner's supported the platform. The greater majority did, however, support Linux.

Top executives from 3Com said the company would launch a channel-ready Linux-based version of its Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) softswitch, with continuing efforts designed to expand its network switching product lines. 3Com has been actively trying to bolster its enterprise networking, VoIP and security business. The company's latest Linux initiative is one of several steps that the company has recently taken as it seeks integration into enterprise systems.

President and CEO, Bruce Claflin, said that an upcoming Linux-based version of its VCX softswitch would be available to channel partners for sale to mid- and large-sized businesses. He said that part of 3Com's sales initiative involves using its channel base as a "go between" with larger vendors. "With the release of this," he recently explained, "we expect to open the aperture of sales, leveraging the channel base."

The move to support Linux has picked up speed since April of last year. At the time, 3Com's technology strategy around the VCX line, also introduced in 2003, was coming across interoperability related problems. The softswitch was based on Sun Microsystems' Solaris operating system; a competency, much to the chagrin of 3Com, not widely supported by the company's partners. Once this issue became an insurmountable one, executives with the company began working to usher VCX to a Linux or UNIX platform.

3Com announced its Linux strategy only after announcing, earlier this week, that it has expanded its selection of enterprise routers with eight new models, making up a new 'Router 6000' family, filling out the high and low ends of its portfolio. This news came only a week after 3Com launched its enterprise-grade Switch 7200 security switch.

3Com also wants to preserve and advance its business relationship with their Chinese associates. Claflin said 3Com plans to expand its switching line that it has been sourcing through a joint venture with Chinese networking vendor Huawei Technologies.

As 3Com grows its enterprise offerings, it is also simultaneously taking steps to reinforce its base of enterprise-focused channel partners. The company is decreasing volume rebates that partners had leveraged in the past to decreases prices. In its place, 3Com is increasing levels of market development funds so partners can build competency in 3Com products and create more demand from end-users.

Although 3Com's financial performance has been considerably lower, compared to last year, the company is bullish in regards to possible acquisitions that will aid 3Com's advancement into large-scale ecosystems. Claflin said, "Going forward we think that our business is largely in balance from a cost and expense standpoint, we think the market conditions are better, our balance sheet is extremely strong, and therefore we are more aggressively considering the possibility of acquisition."

Sales of 3Com's 10/100 switches were, the company said, disappointing. One of the strongest performing areas within 3Com's switching division continues to be its joint venture with China's Huawei Technologies.

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