Vendor Network Architectures�Part XIII: 3Com

3Com Corporation, headquartered in Marlborough, Massachusetts, has a long history of networking innovations, dating back to the invention of Ethernet by 3Com founder, Dr. Robert Metcalfe. 3Com was incorporated in 1979, with the 3 Cs in their name standing for Computer, Communications and Compatibility. They claim delivery of the industry’s first Ethernet network interface card (NIC), and since that time have expanded beyond local area networks into products that serve the larger enterprise, including switches, routers, wireless, security, network management, and VoIP networking solutions. 3Com has approximately 1,750 employees, offices in 41 countries, and annual revenues in excess of $600 million.

This enterprise focus is demonstrated in 3Com’s white paper titled Strategies for Successful IP Telephony Implementations, available at In this research report, 3Com considers five different strategic deployment scenarios that enterprise managers might undertake when considering an upgrade to their voice communication system. The hybrid approach allows an Internet Protocol (IP)-based telephone to access the legacy Private Branch Exchange (PBX) via an adjunct circuit pack that provides access to the traditional Time Division Multiplexed (TDM) switching fabric. With the Greenfield scenario, a brand new system is deployed to a brand new location, allowing an IP-based PBX to serve that location from the beginning, without any legacy retrofits. A forkliftt implementation model would remove the old PBX (presumably requiring heavy lifting, and the need for a forklift), with the implication of a flash cut-over of service—one day the legacy PBX handles the call, and the next day, the IP-based system takes over (assuming that all goes according to plan). With the overlay scenario, convergence applications are deployed throughout the enterprise, and the legacy PBX system is covered (or overlaid) with an IP-based infrastructure as these new applications are rolled out. Finally, more complex environments may require some combination of the above four strategies, to match the appropriate deployment scenario to each location’s requirements.

3Com’s VoIP product line, called the Convergence Application Suite supports a wide range of these enterprise deployment scenarios, with the goal of bringing a broad range of real-time communications applications into a single software platform, including IP telephony, messaging, conferencing, and contact center functions. Two hardware platforms, called the NBX and the VCX, provide the infrastructure support for the Suite.

3Com introduced their NBX&#174 in 1998, the industry’s first IP-PBX. Since that time, 3Com has shipped over 18,000 IP-PBX systems with over 650,000 IP-PBX ports. A variant on the IP-PBX theme is the SIP-PBX, based upon the Session Initiation Protocol. 3Com’s first entry into this market is their VCX system.

Three different NBX platforms are available to meet differing enterprise requirements. The NBX V3000 is designed for small to medium sized businesses that require four to 200 stations, and scaling up to 1,000 users. This system is intended as a key system replacement, with the added capabilities of Auto Attendant, Automatic Call Distribution, Call Detail Recording, and Voicemail, with support for up to 1,500 lines/stations. The NBX V5000 system can scale to 10 sites, adds redundant power supplies, hard drives, and uplink ports, and also supports up to 1,500 lines/stations. The NBX 100 system is designed for stand-alone small businesses, and supports up to 200 lines/stations. All three models include support for the IEEE 802.3af standard, Power over Ethernet, which furthers its deployment flexibility in the enterprise, plus a number of other standards, including H.323, and many LAN and WAN interfaces. The VCX IP Telephony Module is a software application designed for compatibility with SIP-compliant devices. It facilitates upgrades for existing digital or IP-based telephone systems, and integration with SIP-based applications.

Further details on the 3Com architecture and products can be found at Our next tutorial will continue our examination of vendors’ architectures.

Copyright Acknowledgement: © 2006 DigiNet ® Corporation, All Rights Reserved

Author’s Biography
Mark A. Miller, P.E. is President of DigiNet ® Corporation, a Denver-based consulting engineering firm. He is the author of many books on networking technologies, including Voice over IP Technologies, and Internet Technologies Handbook, both published by John Wiley & Sons.

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