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IBM midrange users eye HP-3Com deal

IT pros running 3Com's VOIP solution on IBM System i midrange servers wonder what HP's bid to buy 3Com means to them.

Hewlett-Packard's plan to acquire 3Com has some IT pros wondering what will happen to the 3Com voice-over-IP package they're running on IBM midrange servers.

The prospect of orphaned technology has been particularly visible in the last couple years with all the mergers and acquisitions happening in the information technology industry. HP buying 3Com, Dell snapping up EqualLogic, and Oracle's plans to buy Sun Microsystems are just a few of the big deals that caused some angst among users worrying that the new owner might jettison support for their products. Other IT vendors are racing to form strategic partnerships with one another to gain an edge -- see the VMware, Cisco and EMC joint venture announced recently.

IT pros are concerned that their data centers could end up running orphaned, unsupported gear many years down the road. But many are waiting it out, and are confident that support -- at least in the short term -- is pretty solid.

"It will be interesting. I'm not sure how it's going to shake out," said Roxanne Reynolds-Lair, CIO for The Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in Los Angeles. The school runs 3Com VOIP software on two IBM Power-based midrange servers, a System i 570 for production and a 520 for backup.

"I think that in this day and age, with all these different competitors and partners, as long as the solution is a good one and viable, that IBM and 3Com and HP will work it out," she said. Reynolds-Lair added that on the same day she heard about the HP-3Com deal, she picked up the phone and was told by her IBM and 3Com reps that they will do "everything they can to work it out."

That doesn't mean she's not weighing options. The school is migrating its networking infrastructure from Cisco to 3Com, but Reynolds-Lair is also keeping an eye on Brocade. Why? Well, because IBM recently announced a partnership with Brocade. Again, the mergers and acquisitions are giving IT pros a lot to think about.

Stan Staszak, director of IBM System i and x products for Sirius Computer Solutions, a San Antonio-based systems integrator and IBM business partner, cited one example where initial concern of a merger led to later benefits. When J.D. Edwards, a big ERP application in System i shops, was acquired by PeopleSoft, which was in turn acquired by Oracle, there was a lot of hand-wringing about what would come of it. According to Staszak, it turned out for the better.

"JDE customers were panicking a bit early on, thinking this is really going to impact our environment," he said. "But Oracle took a look at this customer base and said, 'You know what? These are loyal customers to the platform and we don't want to force them to move to something they're not comfortable with.' So actually Oracle made it better by continuing to invest in the product. Customers said it exceeded their expectations."

Sirius does have a horse in this race. The company's been running the 3Com solution on the IBM System i for more than a year, and is happy with it. Sirius has also helped more than 20 other companies implement it.

Typex Group is in a similar situation in the U.K. In addition to running the 3Com on System i itself, it's helped about a half-dozen others, including Kawasaki Motors in the Netherlands, implement 3Com VoIP on IBM iSeries..

"Most IBM systems, especially Power, run applications from every vendor in the world," said managing director Deni Wilson. "It's just another application. From an HP perspective, they would rather have it running on HP hardware. But to prevent it from running on anyone else's hardware would be short-sighted."

Wilson continued, saying that Typex believes the mergers and acquisitions will continue, but she's not convinced that will mean more people will choose a single vendor.

"Because so many things are moving quickly, it would be a mistake to do that," she said. "I think that openness between vendors will become more prevalent. People will have more pieces from different vendors. I don't think anyone will hold the whole piece."

Mark Fontecchio can be reached at

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