3Com Expands IP Communications Portfolio

New easy-to-deploy infrastructure for the small and mid-tier markets round out VoIP line.

By Ted Stevenson | Posted Oct 2, 2007
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3Com Corp., whose venerable NBX IP Telephony offering has long been a mainstay of the SMB VoIP market, has admittedly been very quiet in the voice space of late. That's all changing now, according to Bipin Mistry, the company's VP and general manager for voice products.

Yesterday's announcement of three new devices—two new VCX Connect models, to serve the 30-to-200–user mid-market, and a 5-to-30–user 'appliance' for smaller businesses—"is just the first of a number of announcements that we're planning on making—around communications, around integration, around applications, survivability, and so on," Mistry told EnterpriseVoiPplanet.com.

Acknowledging that market trends have moved beyond "VoIP as dial tone," Mistry said "it's more around application integration, a level of survivability, making it easy to use for organizations, tying all of these pieces together, and various aspects of unified communications."

The new VCX Connect 100 and VCX Connect 200 products—which scale from 30 to 100 users and roughly 100 to 200 users, respectively—have their foundation in the SIP-based codebase and feature set of 3Com's existing VCX Enterprise and VCX Enterprise for IBM System i, which are aimed at larger enterprises with user bases of up to 2,000.

"So, now what you have is an application-enabled, survivable system that can be deployed by the mid-market, from 30 users, all the way through to the 2,000-user large enterprise market," Mistry said.

"Because it's a mid-market play, we're also driving ease-of-use functionality into our VCX system. So the features and functions that were always available on the [plug and play] NBX system are now available on the VCX Connect 100 and 200 systems," he continued. Moreover, those features will be ported to the high-end VCX Enterprise systems over the coming two quarters.

Getting down to specifics, the VCX Connect 100, is designed as an all-in-one system, with built-in gateway functionality. It has a single-in-box, connecting voicemail, fax, and e-mail, with conferencing, presence, and find-me/follow-me options becoming available over time.

"It's basically an out-of-the-box, SMB/medium enterprise system or branch office system that you just deploy—plug it in, power it up—and within a very short period of time, you're up and running," Mistry told VoIPplanet.

The VCX Connect 200, a larger system meant for slightly larger deployments, is more a server-based product than a plug-and-play box. For example, it requires an external gateway. Same software; different hardware, according to Mistry.

In another category altogether is the 3Com Asterisk, a small, self-contained unit, the first OEM version of Digium Inc.'s Asterisk Appliance—launched (primarily to the developer community) at last fall's VON show in Boston—which is based on the Asterisk open-source IP PBX software.

The easy-to-deploy unit has a rich telephony feature set—including voicemail, auto attendant, integrated voice response, and conferencing—and supports four phone lines and both IP and TDM phones.

According to Bill Miller, Digium vice president of product management and marketing, aside from "plastics" and the co-branding of the GUI, 3Com's only modification to the package was to configure it to provision either 3Com or Polycom phones.

All three systems are available in North America now, through the 3Com reseller channel. The VCX Connect 100 is priced at $7,000 as a single (primary) server, or $5,500 as a secondary server. The VCX Connect 200 is $500 more than the Connect 100 in either deployment mode. The 3Com Asterisk has a U.S. list price of $1,595.

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