Cisco and IBM team to provide voice-over-IP package

Cisco Systems Inc. and IBM Corp. recently announced a package deal that could help businesses quickly roll out IP voice in a small or midsize office.

The turnkey package, which includes Cisco IP telephones and IP PBX software bundled with an Intel Corp.-based IBM server, will give customers a complete package to deploy a voice-over-IP application. The package is aimed at enterprise branch-office customers where the technology is starting to catch on.

Observers say the bundle could also be a sign that Cisco is looking to off-load the server hardware side of the voice-over-IP business to other partners.

With this bundle, Cisco is certifying its CallManager IP PBX software will run on IBM’s eServer xSeries 330. The package deal includes an IBM xSeries 330 with Windows 2000 running Cisco CallManager 3.0 (which can support 2,500 IP voice users on a single server), Cisco 7910 IP telephones, and planning and installation services from IBM Global Services, which will sell the product bundle and support all the products.

While many integration firms, such as Electronic Data Systems Corp. and Predictive Systems Inc., sell and support Cisco-based voice-over-IP packages, IBM is the first hardware and services partner to team with Cisco on an enterprise voice-over-IP offering. So far, IBM’s servers are the only third-party hardware platform on which Cisco has certified its CallManager software to work.

In the past, Cisco has only sold CallManager with its own brand of Windows-based server hardware, such as the Media Convergence Server. When Cisco entered the voice-over-IP market, some observers questioned how long it would be before the switch and router vendor would look to partner with other companies to help provide products such as telephony server hardware.

Cisco’s VoIP success

Since getting into the IP telephony market two years ago, Cisco has seen quick success in selling its voice-over-IP products into its vast installed base of IP LAN equipment customers. The firm was the top vendor of IP phones in the first quarter of this year and second in IP PBX system shipments (behind 3Com), according to Cahners In-Stat Group and Phillips Group, respectively.

One Cisco customer that has layered voice over IP on top of its IP network is the state of Arizona’s Office of the Auditor General, which installed Cisco CallManager servers in three of its offices in December.

The office had upgraded its Cabletron hubs and routers to a switched Cisco infrastructure the year before, and decided to go with Cisco voice over IP to replace separate, leased telephone systems in its Phoenix and Tucson offices.

Now all the office’s workers are on the same four-digit dialing scheme and have a common voice mail system, says Joe Moore, director of IT for the state.

“We treat voice just like another service or application on the network,” Moore says. “It’s very easy to manage.” While Moore’s entire staff is located in Phoenix, administrators can access CallManager server located across town and in Tucson via a Web browser, he adds.

The IBM xSeries 330 CallManager server with support for up to 500 users is available at a base price of $2,200.

According to research firm International Data Corp., IP PBX systems will account for 19 percent of the almost $10 billion worldwide office telephone system market by 2004, up 7.2 per cent from this year. IP PBXs like Cisco’s CallManager, as well as products from 3Com Corp., Avaya Inc., NEC Corp., Nortel Networks Corp., Shoreline Communications Inc. and Siemens AG, will become more common in enterprise networks over the next several years, IDC says, as customers look to replace aging circuit-switched PBX systems with server-based IP products.

IBM can be reached at and Cisco is at http://