IBM, 3Com Team for Midmarket VoIP Play

3Com IP software

Through the partnership, IBM for the first time will offer integrated Voice over IP on its Series i5 platform, which will run on a Linux partition within the server. 3Com's VCX platform already runs on IBM's enterprise-focused xSeries servers.

The joint offering will target customers with 100 to 2,000 employees, with a sweet spot in the 500 to 1,000 employee range.

"This 3Com solution is a great fit because customers can now run essentially their entire business on a single platform," said Andrew Gorelik, COO of Strategic Computer Solutions, an IBM channel partner based in Syracuse, N.Y. Gorelik said that most of SCS's Series i customers are not yet deploying IP telephony.

Gaby Batshoun, president and CEO of Global Business Solutions, a Newport, Ky.-based partner that works with both vendors, said uptake of VoIP among Series i customers is likely to be slow.

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"It's something new, and it will take time to introduce them to it," Batshoun said.

To help speed the process, IBM has already introduced sales training materials to its base of 2,800 worldwide Series i channel partners, with advanced implementation training expected to debut later, said Chip McClelland, senior marketing manager for System i at IBM, Armonk, N.Y. 3Com partners that wish to sell the offering will need to join IBM's partner program.

McClelland said support for Linux and session initiation protocol (SIP) within 3Com's IP telephony suite make it an attractive offer for Series i customers and channel partners, enabling integration with other business and collaboration applications.

"It is a piece of software running on System i as any other application would, and you can manage it using the same management tools we give customers today," McClelland said.

For 3Com, the partnership opens doors into IBM's Series i channel, which carries business application expertise not commonly found within 3Com's partner base, said Honoré LaBourdette, vice president of global strategic alliances at 3Com, Marlborough, Mass., maintaining that there should be little channel conflict with its existing voice partners. After examining their channel coverage, the vendors determined that there is an overlap of less than 1 percent between their partner bases, she said.

Integrated products are scheduled for availability in the third quarter. Pricing has not yet been established.