3Com To Launch IP Telephony Softswitch For Enterprise Customers

As first reported by CRN last month, 3Com is adapting a softswitch from CommWorks, the service provider business unit the networking hardware vendor sold to telecom gear maker UTStarcom last month.

At a partner meeting held in conjunction with Networld Interop in Las Vegas next week, 3Com is expected to provide partners with details on product features and availability, as well as pricing, 3Com CEO Bruce Claflin confirmed in an interview with CRN.

Claflin said 3Com's former CommWorks unit developed the softswitch with AT&T for the carrier market. The company's current NBX IP telephony platform scales from 10 handsets to about 1,000, but the new softswitch "scales from 10 handsets to 10,000 to 100,000," Claflin said.

The softswitch runs on standard Sun Microsystems servers and will be priced on a "pay as you grow" basis, he added. Also, because the softswitch is based on Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), it will accommodate other vendors' phones, he said.

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Claflin said the softswitch is proven technology that currently handles 3 million minutes of voice traffic every day with five-nines (99.999 percent) reliability.

"We're bringing carrier-class features to the enterprise market," he said.

Also at the partner conference--a gathering of about 250 of 3Com's top-level Gold partners--3Com plans to unveil its product road map for its joint venture with Chinese networking vendor Huawei. The company this summer plans to release a slew of enterprise-class switches, routers and security products, said Dave Smith, vice president of marketing at 3Com.

The conference will focus on taking the new products into vertical markets such as education, health care and government, Smith said.

Don Gulling, president of Verteks Consulting, an Ocala, Fla.-based 3Com partner, said 3Com and its partners need to move into the large enterprise end of the market. "3Com has been facing stiff competition in the SMB market from low-priced vendors like Netgear," Gulling said. "The new softswitch and the products from Huawei are really fantastic. I haven't been this excited about 3Com in a very long time."

As 3Com's product line moves up the ladder, 3Com will have to attract new partners that can handle large deployments, Smith conceded. "But a lot of our partners already are active in that space," he said. "They aren't leading with 3Com in that market because we haven't had the products until now."