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Lotus gets a virtual IP PBX

System-i mini runs IP PBX as a virtual Linux machine

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3Com and IBM have pulled together a converged set of IP telephony, email, messaging, and business apps, all running on IBM's System-i – the AS400, as it used to be called.

The duo say it allows Lotus Sametime users to make voice calls by clicking on IM contacts, for example.

"The significant bit is it's all on one platform – other suppliers would need extra servers," 3Com voice marketeer Mike Valiant said.

He said the 3Com software, including SIP-based IP PBX, conferencing and contact centre apps, and unified messaging, all runs in a Linux virtual machine hosted by the System-i's i5/OS operating system. It then links into IBM's Lotus Domino and Sametime apps, creating what IBM calls the System-i Integrated Collaboration solution.

"A lot of the target customers for this already run multiple apps on the System-i, and this is just another app they can run. You still need phones and gateways to the PSTN of course, but those can be installed anywhere," Valiant said.

The software had to be ported to the System-i's Power-5 processor, but the ability to run it in a Linux partition made that process a whole lot easier than if it had been ported to native i5/OS, he said.

"We are the only vendor that has ported IP telephony to the System-i. It runs in a Linux partition, but it is managed under i5/OS and most of its resources are virtual, so it is easier to manage than a separate system."

System-i software developers can also build IP telephony and collaboration into other applications via 3Com's SDK, the two companies said. One that's already doing so is IBM business partner Triangle, which is using it to add IP telephony to the call centre at Scottish legal services firm Scott & Co.

"We considered Windows-based IP telephony, but we would have required at least 16 stand-alone servers to support the entire suite reliably," said David Lyall, CIO for Scott & Co. "We chose the System-i Integrated Collaboration solution instead because System-i is inherently more robust, fully integrated, and has a much higher return on investment compared to Windows servers, so we expect to lower our costs considerably."

IBM said the Integrated Collaboration suite costs from $500 (£260) per server – and per Lotus application to be integrated. That looks like a bargain, but in order to run it you also need the System-i IP Telephony Express software, and that starts at $37,900 (£19,300). ®

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