3Com Expands IP Communications Portfolio

By Ted Stevenson | Posted October 10, 2007

3Com Corp., whose venerable NBX IP Telephony offering has long been a mainstay of the small business 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.

The company recently announced three new devices—two new VCX Connect models, to serve companies with 30-to-200–employees, and a 5-to-30–person '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 said.

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 providing 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 up to 2,000 employees.

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

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 said.

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, 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.

Adapted from Voipplanet.com.

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