3Com prepares Linux-based IP PB

3Com prepares Linux-based IP PB

3Com is readying a Linux-based appliance version of its VCX 7700 enterprise IP PBX in hopes that an open source version of the product will be easier to sell through its channel partners.

The new product is targeted at organisations with more than 1000 users, and could appeal to businesses interested in non-proprietary hardware and software platforms for telephony. The move is also an attempt to jump-start sales of VCX, which have been almost non-existent since it was introduced more than a year ago.

"Customers are less interested in proprietary components and are looking to standardise more of their infrastructure" 3Com marketing director, Peter Brockman, said. This trend led to the decision to move VCX to Linux- and Intel-based hardware, he added.

The new Linux-based appliance will run on Intel-based hardware and will include a modified version of Linux with extra packages, such as email and Web serving or desktop interface, stripped out to make the platform more stable and secure, 3Com said. The vendor did not say when the product would be available or what it might cost.

It has been reported that sales of VCX were lagging in 3Com's enterprise channels because channel partners were not familiar with Solaris and preferred a Linux-based product. 3Com said revenue from VCX was negligible in its first fiscal quarter, which ended last month.

VCX is based on technology from 3Com's defunct Commworks carrier arm, and runs on a Sun Solaris server -- a common platform in the telco market. The product was introduced in April 2003 and was touted as 3Com's answer to enterprise IP PBX boxes from Alcatel, Avaya, Cisco Systems, Nortel Networks and Siemens. It is supposed to support more than 100,000 IP endpoints, such as IP phones or softphones. The platform also is based on Session Initiation Protocol, which lets it interoperate with other standards-based IP telephony hardware and software products.

3Com's more-popular NBX IP PBX for businesses with fewer than 1000 users runs on the H.323 protocol and a proprietary, real-time, Unix-based platform.

The move to a Linux-based IP PBX platform is not unusual, Frost & Sullivan analyst, Ron Gruia, said. Alcatel, Avaya and Mitel Networks over the past two years revamped their respective IP PBX platforms to run on Linux. Meanwhile, Cisco has said it plans to move its CallManager from Windows to Linux but has not specified a time frame.

3Com's NBX IP PBX has sold well in small and midsize organisations. Moving VCX to a pre-packaged Linux platform with standard server hardware could give 3Com a more competitive product in the enterprise market, Gruia said. Because Linux and Unix are very similar, 3Com would have an easier time changing platforms than will Cisco, its chief Windows-based competitor, he added.

"It's not as intense an exercise as what Cisco has to do, to go from a Windows (operating system) to Linux," he said.

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