Open Source VoIP Takes A Few Steps Forward - InformationWeek

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11/10/2006
03:40 PM
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Open Source VoIP Takes A Few Steps Forward

Several vendors, including Fonality, Digium, and Polycom, announced new VoIP software, gear, and partnerships designed to move open source telephony into the mainstream.

The open source community smells opportunity in the telecom world.

Open source software never posed a strong challenge to conventional voice technology, which was locked into proprietary hardware-software PBX bundles. But as voice over IP gains in businesses and with consumers, the shift to converged IP-based networks lets open source developers treat communications in the same way they attacked proprietary computer software.

Open Source Forces
Asterisk
The Linux of VoIP, it's open source code originally written by Mark Spencer
Digium
Spencer-led company makes VoIP software (and soon hardware)
Pingtel
Created rival open source platform, SIPFoundry, that adheres more to SIP standards; landed Amazon .com as a customer
Fonality
Makes Asterisk IP PBXs, taking aim at bigger companies and entrenched vendors
Open source VoIP vendors announced a slew of new products in recent weeks. Typical is Fonality's news last week of an IP PBX aimed at midsize companies. Based on a modified version of the Asterisk code that first brought open source telephony some fame, it offers many of the features--Web-based management and unified voice mail and e-mail--of a conventional IP PBX. In taking on Cisco Systems and other entrenched vendors, Fonality is selling price: "It's feature parity to what the big boys sell for half the cost," Fonality CEO Chris Lyman says.

Several other vendors made product introductions at AstriCon, the annual conference built around Asterisk. Most significant was that Digium, which makes commercial Asterisk VoIP software (and soon hardware), is partnering with Polycom, best known for its conferencing systems, to develop phone products based on the Session Initiation Protocol for small and midsize businesses.

Open source telecom also is bagging its first marquee customers. Amazon.com said last month it would roll out open source telephony from Pingtel company-wide after a pilot in its Seattle headquarters.

Fonality CEO Lyman compares open source telephony to the widespread use of Apache Web servers, both cases where uptime is critical. Most companies aren't quite ready to pick open source telecom software. But they're more than happy to have that option.

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