Posts categorized "Open Source"

I'll be down at VoiceCon Orlando in March 2008...

No Jitter |.jpgFYI, I will be down at VoiceCon Orlando on March 17-20, 2008. I'm moderating two panel sessions (see the schedule). First, up, bright and early at 8am on Tuesday, March 18th, I'll be moderating a panel on "Top VoIP Security Threats". This should be a fun one as it has VOIPSA Chair Dave Endler, Mark Collier of SecureLogix and Sachin Joglekar of Sipera Systems. I know all three of the guys, particularly Dave and Mark who have both worked on VOIPSA matters, and this session should be a good bit of fun. I'm planning on making it a rather interactive session. :-)

At the other end of the show, on Thursday, March 20th, at 11:45am, I'll be moderating a panel "Open Source for Enterprise Voice: How Much, How Soon?". This would should be interesting because it has Bill Miller from Digium (makers of Asterisk), who I know well, and M Raza from 3Com... and then Tony Pereira from Nortel! 3Com's presence on the panel isn't particularly surprising given their relationship with Digium, but it will be interesting to see Nortel's view on the matter.

All in all it should be quite an interesting show. Lots of good sessions and, I'm sure, interesting people to meet. If you're going to be down there, please do drop an email as I'm always interesting in meeting readers of the blog.

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TAUG - "Asterisk and Open Telephony Conference" - Toronto, April 7-9

asteriskopentelephonyconf.jpgThose of you interested in Asterisk and open source telephony may be interested in the "Asterisk & Open Telephony Conference" in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on April 7-9, 2008. Part of the larger IT360 conference, this Asterisk conference is being organized by members of the Toronto Asterisk User Group which is one of the largest Asterisk user groups in the world. Because of the TAUG influence, I expect it to be a solid show from a technical point of view with lots of practical information. I'm not currently planning to be there, but it looks to be a good one if you can get there.

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Digium launches the "Digium Asterisk Marketplace" to promote members of the Asterisk ecosystem

digium-the-asterisk-company.gifDigium recently announced that they have launched the "Digium Asterisk Marketplace" as a way to help connect users of Asterisk to partners in the "Asterisk ecosystem" who make products that work with Asterisk. Many of the folks listed there have been parters with Digium for some time and are often in Digium booths at various trade conferences but there were a few names new to me. At the time I am writing this, there are 30 members listed in the Marketplace but with the application form readily available, we'll see how much this grows. The Asterisk blog entry lays out the terms:
The price is right – a listing starts at $395 per quarter. In return, your company gets exposure to the thousands of unique visitors that cross the Digium site daily. Or you can get a more prominent “premium” listing for a few extra bucks. For a limited time, you can get a listing for a full year starting at $795 - about half the regular rate.

Later, we plan to add more cool features, such as the ability for users to provide feedback, more categories for listings, and the ability to buy selected partner products directly from the Marketplace site.

The question will really be how many Asterisk partners view this as a value and jump in.

In any event, I think it's great to see this type of listing coming out for Asterisk and I'll look forward to seeing how it grows over time.

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Asterisk crosses 1 million downloads in 2007

digium-the-asterisk-company.gifNews out of Digium yesterday morning that there have now been over one million downloads of Asterisk in 2007:
Digium®, Inc., the Asterisk® Company, today announced the one millionth download of Asterisk in 2007, capping off a record year for the leading open source telephony company. Digium, which will complete its 24th consecutive quarter of growth and profitability this year, created headlines with new executive appointments, industry awards, strategic partnerships and acquisitions aimed at further advancing the company's presence in the small-to-medium-sized (SMB) VoIP market.

Now, granted, we have to remember that this is one million downloads and has no real indication of: a) how many of those downloads were actually installed; b) how many of those installations were simply tests and are not in actual production use; c) how many of those downloads were duplicate downloads by the same user; and d) how many of those downloads were updates as people installed new versions.

All that aside, it is a significant milestone for any project. Congrats to the Digium team!

P.S. I'm still waiting for an answer from Digium PR about how many downloads there are total for Asterisk. This is one million in 2007, but how does that compare to the overall total?

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It's about the platform - Google finally answers the "Gphone" speculation... with an Android!

200711051534"It's about an open platform, stupid!" While I didn't include Google when I first wrote my post about how voice is really all about application platforms, I did note in the comments that I had intended to do so... and today's announcement really shows that they should be in anyone's list of telephony application platforms. As announced on the Google blog with "Where's my Gphone?", Google today announced the Open Handset Alliance and the associated set of forthcoming software called Android. The front page of the Open Handset Alliance provides a rather compelling (to me) statement:

What would it take to build a better mobile phone?

A commitment to openness, a shared vision for the future, and concrete plans to make the vision a reality.

Welcome to the Open Handset Alliance™, a group of more than 30 technology and mobile companies who have come together to accelerate innovation in mobile and offer consumers a richer, less expensive, and better mobile experience. Together we have developed Android™, the first complete, open, and free mobile platform.

We are committed to commercially deploy handsets and services using the Android Platform in the second half of 2008. An early look at the Android Software Development Kit (SDK) will be available on November 12th.

The list of partners in the Open Handset Alliance is quite interesting... handset manufacturers, semiconductor companies, software companies... but also cellular/mobile operators such as Sprint and T-Mobile as well as NTT DoCoMo and the giant China Telecom.

Also intriguing to note that eBay is listed as a partner. Would this be for eBay itself or could it perhaps be for Skype? Adding Skype into this mix could be interesting as well.

The Google blog page contains this text which gives some insight into Google's interest:

Android is the first truly open and comprehensive platform for mobile devices. It includes an operating system, user-interface and applications -- all of the software to run a mobile phone, but without the proprietary obstacles that have hindered mobile innovation. We have developed Android in cooperation with the Open Handset Alliance, which consists of more than 30 technology and mobile leaders including Motorola, Qualcomm, HTC and T-Mobile. Through deep partnerships with carriers, device manufacturers, developers, and others, we hope to enable an open ecosystem for the mobile world by creating a standard, open mobile software platform. We think the result will ultimately be a better and faster pace for innovation that will give mobile customers unforeseen applications and capabilities.

We see Android as an important part of our strategy of furthering Google's goal of providing access to information to users wherever they are. We recognize that many among the multitude of mobile users around the world do not and may never have an Android-based phone. Our goals must be independent of device or even platform. For this reason, Android will complement, but not replace, our longstanding mobile strategy of developing useful and compelling mobile services and driving adoption of these products through partnerships with handset manufacturers and mobile operators around the world.

In the end, Google wants a platform upon which they can offer their many services. With this plan, they are hoping to turn a zillion mobile phones into a platform which Google - and many others - can use.

Fascinating move... and one that is naturally getting a ton of coverage in the blogosphere. I've not had the time to read much of it, but did catch Scoble, the NY Times article and ZDNet's take. I'm sure we'll all be reading much more about it in the days ahead.

Right now, all we can really do is speculate until next Monday when the (apparently open source) SDK becomes available. We shall see... although the initial signs are certainly that this could indeed cause some disruption.

P.S. One of the commenters on Scoble's blog wondered why there wasn't equivalent attention being given to , especially since it is out already with a product. My quick reaction would be that from what I know of OpenMoko, it is about an open platform, but from a single vendor and on a single hardware platform. This Google announcement would appear to transcend both the vendors and the hardware platforms. It's also an announcement from Google and it has impressive backers.

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The audacity of Asterisk - why the 3Com/Digium partnership fundamentally changes the game in SMB telephony

digiumlogo.gifThe SMB VoIP game is changing. Fundamentally. And in a pattern we've seen before in other industries. In the news release out today, Digium and 3Com announced that:
Under the terms of the agreement, 3Com will offer Digium’s award-winning Asterisk Appliance™ to small businesses that need a reliable, easy-to-deploy voice solution based on open standards. 3Com Asterisk will be available through the company’s proven channel of partners worldwide.
Let's think about that for a minute. 3Com will make Digium's Asterisk appliance available through "the company's proven channel of partner's worldwide", which some reports are putting at around 60,000 resellers. Digium just wound up with a large global sales channel. Yet to be seen is whether there will be any channel conflict with existing Digium Partners/VARs, but regardless, Digium just wound up with a way to deploy Asterisk-based solutions globally. It does, however, get one step better (my emphasis added):
“3Com is focused on delivering products and solutions for converged secure networks, in which voice is an application that can be readily integrated with many others,” said Bob Dechant, senior vice president and general manager for 3Com Corporation. “We’ve announced a complete voice strategy and new product offerings for small businesses, including the 3Com Asterisk Appliance. We also offer innovative enterprise-caliber 3Com Global Services for customers who purchase the 3Com Asterisk. We chose to partner with Digium because of the company’s position as the Asterisk leader, its commitment to open standards and the ease-of-use of the appliance.”
Yes, indeed, Digium winds up with a global support organization behind Asterisk. Powerful announcement. Global sales and support - for an open source PBX... According to information from Digium, the "3Com Asterisk", priced at $1,595, will include a 3Com-co-branded interface and easy configuration/provisioning of 3Com SIP phones (as can be done today with Polycom phones). Given last weeks' announcement of the SwitchVox acquisition, I would think that rolling some of that GUI/functionality into the offering would be another logical step longer-term. The implications of this announcement, though, go far beyond the commercial relationship between Digium and 3Com. Those of us who remember Linux in the late 1990s and early 2000s remember that Linux took a trajectory like this:
  1. Techies/geeks/early-adopters started to install Linux into their businesses to solve specific needs. Often it was installed without corporate permission as a DNS server, web, server, etc.
  2. A range of small, specialized vendors started to ship servers with Linux pre-installed. Very often these companies were founded by people within the Linux community (ex. VA Linux, Penguin Computing)
  3. Larger, more mainstream but still lower-tier manufacturers started to ship servers with Linux. (I forget the first one I saw doing this.)
  4. Tier 1 manufacturers (ex. IBM, HP, Dell) started to ship servers with Linux.
Asterisk just moved to step #3 (after already moving through #1 and #2). While 3Com does not have the same market status as Cisco, Avaya and Nortel (or Mitel in SMB), 3Com definitely has a presence out there and to me their endorsement of Asterisk certainly brings a level of credibility to Asterisk-based software and hardware. It's good for Asterisk. It's good for Asterisk-based products and services (including those of Digium's competitors). It's good for open source. Ultimately, in my opinion, it's good for all of us.

Yet to be seen is how good it is for 3Com's own SMB offerings and that will be interesting to see. Right now it seems that they are all about "offering customers choice" between 3Com's own product and the Asterisk-based appliance. Will that last? Will 3Com continue to maintain its own SMB products long-term? Or will it cede that lower-end market to Asterisk and focus on apps that interoperate with Asterisk and/or phones for Asterisk (and 3Com's higher-end offerings)? Interesting questions to consider, particularly in light of 3Com's announcement on Friday that it is being acquired by Bain Capital and Chinese giant Huawei as well as their announcement today of new VCX systems targeted at the SMB market.

Nor is it clear to me how much of a short-term impact there will be on the SMB market. 3Com has been less of a presence in that space in recent years although its clear from their various announcements today that they are intent on playing a larger role in the space. Will Mitel, Avaya, Cisco, etc. lose any sales today as a result of 3Com selling Asterisk? Maybe. Maybe not.

Longer-term, though, I personally view this as a huge validation that open source telephony has a role in the business space. The cracks in the wall of proprietary telephony just got a whole lot larger today. Congrats to Digium and 3Com... and now the question is - who's the next vendor to get on board?

What do you think? Is this a validation of Asterisk? Or a flash in the pan? (Or as one more cynical person put it to me, "a desperate move by 3Com to stay relevant?") What do you see as the short-term and long-term impacts to the SMB market? Should the existing vendors be scared? Or just ignore it?

More coverage:

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Digium buys SwitchVox and gets presence, Web 2.0 interface, mashups to Google Maps,, SugarCRM...

200709262246Imagine you are a customer service rep (CSR) at a small/medium company and a phone call comes in from a customer. As your phone rings, up on your screen pops all the information about that customer, pulled from your CRM database in or SugarCRM, plus other information from other databases and finally a nice Google Map showing you where that customer is located and potentially other information like the locations of your nearest offices. During the call, the CSR needs to bring in a subject matter expert so the CSR consults their web panel and looks at the presence information displayed for each of the other people in the business. The CSR can then contact someone showing as available and potentially bring them into the call.

Now imagine that all that is running on top of open source telephony... specifically Asterisk.

You can now stop imagining, because Digium just bought the company that does precisely that. There will undoubtedly be much attention today (at the very least in the VoIP blogosphere) about Digium's announcement here at AstriCon today that they have acquired SwitchVox. I am going to bet that much of the reporting today will focus on angles like these:

  • Digium now has very competitive offerings (SwitchVox SOHO and SwitchVox SMB) for going after the small / medium business market.
  • Digium bought themselves a very sophisticated/simple/easy GUI/management interface that moves them forward dramatically in making Asterisk easy to use, deploy and manage.
  • Digium just got 1400 paying customers with over 65,000 endpoints.
  • Digium bought themselves parity (or more) in their ongoing competitive feud with the folks at Fonality/Trixbox.

All of that is true. The SwitchVox products offer a very seriously competitive list of features (you have to go through and expand the subsections to see all the features). The GUI is very well done and simple. The price is quite compelling for the servers and also the support. I mean, for $1200 ($995 server plus $199 support) an SMB gets an IP-PBX with a very broad range of features and an unlimited number of users! Yes, the business still has to pay for IP phones, but they can buy any of a wide range of phones at varying price points to suit their needs. Considering that almost all the mainstream IP-PBX vendors charge on a per-user basis for licenses, the unlimited user model is certainly disruptive in its own right. (Digium has also been doing this with their Asterisk Business Edition.) And yes, Digium now has an answer to the growing competitive threat of Trixbox and it's management interfaces, support, hybrid model, etc.

All that is true - but it's not the really interesting story.

200709270943To me, what is far more compelling is that Digium just bought themselves a whole group of people who "get" the world of "unified communications", business process integration, Web 2.0 mashups, etc.

Digium has had no story at all around "presence" within its core offerings. Now it does. While Asterisk has always been a platform play where you have the ability to integrate Asterisk with other apps, doing so has not exactly been for the faint-of-heart. Hire yourself some programmers and you can do pretty much anything with Asterisk... but that's not something that many businesses want to get into. SwitchVox now gives Digium a way to do easy integration with databases and web sites. The integrations to and SugarCRM are slick. The Google Maps popup is a seriously cool mashup! (And where is that on the roadmap of the mainstream vendors?)

200709270953Throw in a "click to call" add-in for Firefox to let you dial any number you see on any web page, plus a plug-in for Outlook, and you've got a very compelling offering. For a very nice price. My only knock (other than the fact that I can't find a picture of their Google Maps mashup anywhere on their website) is that it doesn't seem like their presence capability is yet integrated with existing instant messaging services. Given Asterisk's XMPP (Jabber) capabilities, this seems an obvious path that could get them connected to Jabber and GoogleTalk presence information. If they don't have that yet, I hope they add it soon, as we really do NOT need yet another place to change/update our presence info.

Regardless, this integration capability is, to me, the real story. Phones are being commoditized. I have to believe call servers/IP-PBXs are on their way to being commoditized. (Folks like Microsoft are going to help in pushing those prices down.) The money will ultimately go away from those areas.

The future of "unified communications" is about platforms. About mashups. About web services. About exposing APIs. About making it easy to combine different sources of data into interfaces that make people more productive. Microsoft gets that. Some of the traditional IP-PBX vendors get that. Digium has always known that, but this acquisition gives them a far better ability to make it happen.

Congrats to the folks at both Digium and SwitchVox for making this happen... I very much look forward to seeing where it evolves! (And in the meantime, I'm going to have to go down to the AstriCon exhibit hall and get some video of the Google Maps mashup to show how very cool it is...)

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Zoiper - a free SIP / IAX softphone for Windows, Linux or Mac

200709270034In watching Jay Phillips do his great presentation here today at AstriCon about Ruby and his Adhearsion package, I found myself wondering what the interesting little softphone was that he was using. It turned out to be "Zoiper", an IAX or SIP softphone that was previously called "Idefisk". (I can understand perhaps why they changed the name... "Idefisk" does not exactly roll off your tongue.) There turn out to be two versions (comparison chart here): a free version and a "Zoiper Biz" version which includes more functionality and starts around 30 euros.

Clearly built for Asterisk, it was interesting to note that it supports both SIP and also Asterisk's own IAX protocol. Anyway, I just thought I'd share that this softphone is out there if you were not aware of it.

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Astricon... way too much to write about...

Great sessions out here at AstriCon... way too much to write about - my head is exploding a good bit! It's been a bit frustrating to try to blog from the conference rooms, though. The hotel WiFi is struggling a good bit under the strain of all the people here with laptops.

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AstriCon kicks off with "Developer 101" and "Asterisk 101" pre-conference sessions

200709251303Here in Phoenix, Arizona, AstriCon has kicked off with two pre-conference sessions that run all day. "Asterisk 101" is running next door and providing a basic introduction to Asterisk. I'm sitting in the "Developer 101" session (pictured) where there are about 100 people gathered in the room. It turns out that this is about developing with the Asterisk code base, i.e. "how to become an Asterisk developer" versus what I was personally thinking it was, which was "how to develop apps that work with Asterisk"... although that is really just an extension of the first. So far, an hour into the session, lead developer Kevin Fleming has been discussing the various tools you need to use in order to work with the Asterisk code base (ex. subversion, makefiles, etc.). Right now he's been dealing with the fun subject of licensing code, the GPL, and the requirement of developers to sign a disclaimer over to Digium that: a) asserts that the developer can contribute the code (i.e. it is original), that it is not patent-encumbered, etc. and b) gives Digium the right to redistribute the developer's code under a different license.

One interesting note - Kevin stated very definitively that Digium has NO plans to move GPLv3. They are quite happy with GPLv2 and see no reason yet to move.

The afternoon session sounds interesting as they will be getting into the overall Asterisk architecture, diving into the code, talking about APIs and debugging. Certainly a day to feed my inner developer...

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