3Com and IBM have made their respective IP PBX and Lotus Sametime instant messaging software interoperable, running on IBM's midrange servers.

A new interoperability package includes 3Com's VCX VoIP platform, running as a virtual machine on IBM System i servers, with Lotus Sametime running on the same box. The companies say the combination gives businesses using System i a platform for converging VoIP with business applications, while simplifying system management. The companies also announced a software development kit so third-party vendors can build VOIP into their System i applications.

3Com's VCX is a Session Initiation Protocol-based IP PBX, audio conferencing and voice mail platform targeted at mid-size and large enterprises; it can to scale to more than 10,000 attached IP phones or softphone clients, the company says. In October 2006, IBM and 3Com began shipping System i servers with the VCX running as a Linux logical partition image on top of IBM's POWER Hypervisor virtualisation layer.

The integration of VCX and Lotus Sametime will let users start VoIP conference calls by dragging names from a Sametime directory into the VCX conferencing application. Users also can click on names in Sametime to call colleagues. Presence information in Sametime now displays if co-workers are available via phone, or if they are on a call.

IBM says the VCX now uses the same directory as IBM Sametime/Domino/Notes applications. Voice mail messages in VCX are stored in Lotus Notes' native message format, allowing for better integration of voice mail/email integration for unified messaging. (VCX servers previously converted voice mail to IMAP objects, which were picked up by Notes servers - a less-efficient process, IBM and 3Com developers said).

The interoperability also extends to 3Com and IBM software running on stand-alone servers. (3Com ships VCX systems on a Linux-based appliance, and IBM's Sametime runs on a variety of operating systems and server hardware). The effort follows similar tie-ups between products such as IP PBX and voice mail systems from Avaya , Cisco , Nortel and Mitel, and messaging platforms from IBM and Microsoft.

The VCX/System i product starts at $37,900 for server hardware and software. Sametime starts at around $55 per user for a one-year licence.