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VoIP for iSeries now available

IBM is now offering VoIP software from 3Com on its System i servers

IBM is now offering VOIP software from 3Com on its System i servers.

Big Blue made the announcement on Monday, though it and 3Com Technology Co. announced in the spring that they were developing some kind of Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) solution for the System i. The product allows end users to run all their VoIP services on one server rather than having separate IP telephony functions -- such as call forwarding and conferencing -- on separate machines.

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The 3Com software runs on a Linux partition built on Red Hat on the System i server, and users can either buy a new machine bundled with the applications or pay for the software on their existing System i. Pricing for a bundled i520 and the software starts at about $38,000. If users want to buy an additional i520 to back up the VoIP service, the two machines plus the software start at about $52,000.

The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, a Los Angeles-based private college for the fashion and design industries with about 5,500 students, plans on taking its VoIP service with its System i live on Dec. 11 and saving thousands of dollars per month. The school heard about the partnership at the Common user group conference this spring in Minneapolis as it was in the midst of looking for a VoIP service.

Chief information officer (CIO) Roxanne Reynolds-Lair said the institute already had a nine-way i570 machine with seven partitions. Now it will be adding two more partitions to accommodate the VoIP service and purchase an i520 with two partitions to back it up. It also has about 40 Intel Corp. file and print servers that also run applications for courses at the college.

Reynolds said the attraction of having VoIP service on the System i is the same attraction for having anything on that server platform: reliability, availability, security. She also likes the idea of having all VoIP applications on one machine.

"It's on one box," she said. "It's not one app per one box, or one app for two boxes, which is kind of the Intel model. Pulling all of those together on one platform is wonderful. We can focus on the business and not have to worry as much about the technology."

The college was looking to increase its network traffic flow by switching from an asynchronous transfer mode to a multiprotocol label-switching network. Adopting VoIP fit into that plan well. The company will only be using the VoIP for internal calls initially, but it will expand the network to include external calls, as long as the service works out for them.

IBM said that its service on the System i is different from VoIP, as offered by companies like Vonage Marketing Inc. and Skype Ltd., because it involves reconfiguring the entire network by getting rid of the traditional private branch exchange (PBX) telephone system and wiring telephone service through the data network. By doing that and using the System i to host it, IBM claims the service is more reliable and secure.

The server will run 3Com's VCX software, which is built on session initiated protocol (SIP) and can manage all the VoIP telephone services. It will run on a Linux partition on the System i, but users don't have to worry about licensing for the operating system because that is taken care of through IBM and the 3Com software.

To adopt the VoIP service on the System i, users must allow IBM to come in and assess their network and hardware to make sure it can handle the workloads, as well as install the software and check up on its progress once implemented. These services are included in the starting cost of $37,900. That price includes an i520, the 3Com software, the services and licenses for 100 handsets and four gateway licenses, such as for fax machines.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Mark Fontecchio, News Writer

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