IBM, 3Com team on telephony

IBM Corp. is collaborating with 3Com Corp. to put IP (Internet Protocol) telephony in an IBM server, so small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) can cut costs on phone calls by not adding extra servers to their networks.

The IP telephony capability will be available on IBM’s System i line of servers, IBM and 3Com announced Monday.

Companies can save money on phone calls if they carry them over an IP data network instead of on a separate voice network.

But converting voice to IP typically requires a separate server for each component of the telephony service — call routing, messaging and conferencing — and other infrastructure that can be expensive and difficult for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to deploy and maintain, said Michael Rousseaux, IBM’s worldwide System i collaboration offerings manager.

“In a traditional deployment, IP vendors will install a number of different servers that will have to be maintained,” Rousseaux said. The IP servers may run on different operating systems from the rest of the server network, he added, but SMBs don’t usually have the staff to maintain that much additional technology.

The IBM-3Com product, to be called IBM System i IP Telephony, will manage call routing, messaging and conference calling. Companies can set up their own conference call bridges without having to pay third-party vendors.

Running the IP telephony feature on an IBM server, one of which may already be deployed on a customer’s network, may overcome the resistance of some smaller businesses to the technology, said Allan Scott, senior director of global alliances at 3Com.

Larger enterprises probably have the in-house capability to manage a disparate IP telephony system, but a smaller business could benefit from the simplicity of the IBM-3Com approach, said Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-IT Research.

“Managing IP telephony is probably just one more headache for an IT person who’s already overworked,” King said. Smaller companies also could benefit from the conference bridge features, especially if they have a widely distributed group of employees who work from home.

Pricing for System i IP Telephony starts at US$37,900 for a 100-phone setup that includes the servers with the IP features installed and handsets that use SIP (Session Initiation Protocol). A version that also includes a complete backup system starts at $51,900 for a 100-phone setup.