3Com, IBM extend VOIP/messaging interoperability

3Com's IP PBX, running virtually on IBM System i, now works with Sametime IM/presence

3Com and IBM this week extended their integration of virtualized VoIP by enabling interoperability between IBM's Lotus Sametime and 3Com's IP PBX, running on IBM's midrange servers.

The interoperability package includes 3Com's VCX VoIP platform, running as a virtual machine on IBM System i servers, along with Lotus Sametime -- a real-time presence, instant messaging and conferencing server -- also running on the same box. The companies say the combined offering gives businesses based on System i a consolidated, well-integrated convergence platform for integrating VoIP with business applications, while simplifying system management. The companies also announced a software development kit to promote VoIP integration for software vendors writing applications for the System i.

3Com's VCX is a Session Initiation Protocol-based IP PBX, audio conferencing and voice mail platform targeted at midsize and large enterprises; it can to scale to more than 10,000 attached IP phones or softphone clients, the company says. In October 2006, IBM and 3Com began shipping System i servers with the VCX running as a Linux logical partition image on top of IBM's POWER Hypervisor virtualization layer.

The integration of VCX and Lotus Sametime, running on the same System i server, will let users create VCX-based VOIP conference calls by dragging names from a Sametime directory into the VCX conferencing application. Users also can click on names in Sametime to dial coworkers by phone. Presence information in Sametime now displays if co-workers are available via phone, or if they are on a call.

IBM says the VCX is more tightly integrated into its messaging and collaboration software as well; VCX now uses the directory as IBM Sametime/Domino/Notes applications. Voice mail messages in VCX are stored in Lotus Notes' native message format as well, allowing for better integration of voice mail/e-mail integration for unified messaging. (VCX servers previously converted voice mail to IMAP objects, which were picked up by Notes servers -- a less-efficient process, IBM and 3Com developers say).

The VCX/Sametime interoperability also extends to 3Com and IBM software running on stand-alone servers. (3Com ships VCX systems on a Linux-based appliance, and IBM's Sametime runs on a variety of operating systems and server hardware). The 3Com/IBM interoperability effort follows similar team-up efforts among collaboration and messaging software products, such as IP PBX and voice mail systems from Avaya, Cisco, Nortel and Mitel, and messaging platforms from IBM and Microsoft.

The VCX/System i product starts at US$37,900 for server hardware and software. Sametime starts at around $55 per user for a one-year license.

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