IBM and 3Com Monday announced a set of add-on unified communications capabilities for a jointly developed IP telephony system that runs on IBM's System i midrange servers.
The new Integrated Collaboration technology includes a 3Com software development kit for building collaboration capabilities, support for integrating the underlying System i telephony system with IBM's Sametime 7.5 instant messaging software, and the ability to combine voice mail, e-mail and faxes in a single in-box. It also enables the telephony system to be used in corporate contact centers, the two vendors said.
The telephony system, which was released in November, has attracted 10 corporate customers, all of which had signed on by the end of last year, said Mike Rousseaux, IBM's worldwide manager of System i collaboration offerings.
One of the initial customers is Roland U.S., a Los Angeles-based maker of musical instruments. David Williams, Roland's director of IT, said the company next month plans to roll out a voice-over-IP system that includes the new collaboration features and will serve about 215 end users.
Roland currently runs IBM's Notes messaging software on a System i server. Williams said that as part of the VOIP installation, the instrument maker will buy two newer System i machines, one to support telephone and e-mail communications and the other to serve as a high-availability backup. He added that the older server will continue to be used for other IT functions for at least another 12 months.
Williams wouldn't disclose the cost of the new IP telephony setup. He said only that the joint IBM-3Com offering was neither the most nor least expensive of the choices that were available to Roland. The company also evaluated VoIP systems from Cisco Systems, Avaya, ShoreTel and other vendors.
The new features being added by IBM and 3Com aren't as important as their announcement that they have won 10 customers for a technology that is unique in providing call management software on a general-purpose server, said Nora Freedman, an analyst at IDC in Framingham, Mass. "They finally have referenceable accounts," she said.
Avaya and Cisco have separately talked about the need to focus on a software-based VoIP system, but neither has moved as quickly as the tandem of IBM and 3Com have, according to Freedman. "3Com and IBM are on the bleeding edge, or maybe the leading edge, of the overall VoIP phenomenon," she said.
Freedman and Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at Yankee Group Research, both said that in general, the 3Com-IBM system will be more valuable to midsize companies than large ones. Large companies typically don't want to put messaging and collaboration tools on a single server along with other types of applications, Freedman explained.