The Importance of Open Source Technologies in Communications Solutions

Jim Machi
VP of Marketing, Sangoma

Open source technologies are important in both enterprise and service provider communications solutions.  In fact, many CTOs have goals in mind for increasing the percent usage of open source software in their communications networks. Why? Because the use of open source telephony software enables more software-centric approaches which relieve financial pressure, increase technological progress, and boosts application agility.  open source telephony software

Open Source Telephony

Asterisk and solutions built on Asterisk, such as FreePBX, have been disrupting enterprise communications solutions for years (even in service providers), taking market share away from the incumbents. Even so, the market for service provider infrastructure hasn’t quite embraced open source telephony to the same extent.  This is not surprising given the conservative nature of the service providers.  However, with the pressures service providers feel about pricing, it’s not surprising that they are also looking at ways to reduce their expenses, while also increasing technological progress and application agility. What can do that?  Solutions based on open source telephony software.

The Role of Standards

However, one key difference between enterprises and service providers is that the service providers use standards. Why are there standards?  To get universally understood specifications written; to get everyone using the same protocols; and, importantly, to get the ecosystem to create interoperable systems and nodes. And the standards creators fight to make sure their “stuff” is in all the interoperable parts so that they can benefit. But standards take time.

However, life goes on in the real world while the quibbling over standards is taking place. That’s a good reason why many service provider initiatives, such as RCS (Rich Communication Suite), don’t amount to much, while other players that use their networks develop subscriber applications without them. In other words, do something useful, and it gets adopted. Suddenly, millions of people are using it, and that wins in the market. That’s a different story, really, but just as important because it disintermediates the service provider to just being a simple pipe. So, standards and open source software don’t quite sync.

Or do they?  Because of the stresses on their business, the service providers, as indicated above, are forced to think outside of their normal box. They don’t want to be disintermediated, but they also need standards to interoperate with each other and their suppliers.

Open Source Telephony as the Future

Open source telephony software is a promising way to help them move forward. In fact, one school of thought out there says that the open source software development methods might be able to replace the standards. A strange thought. But think about it.  Since open source software is, well, open source, the creator or contributor to the technology doesn’t stand to benefit the same way a contributor to a standard did.  The creator or contributor just wants to innovate faster. They want broader approval and consensus and for other contributions to bring the project forward. They want to create an ecosystem that enables them, as a contributor, to spend their effort on differentiation. Sounds sort of like standard creation, right? The broad contribution, consensus, and approval process of open source software could potentially replace the standard process.

It would indeed be more open that way. Would it improve the speed of a typical telecom standardization process? It certainly could. But would the standards bodies out there even support such an effort? Unlikely. Doing so could be a threat to their existence. So, it would take the stewards for important open source projects stepping up to make it happen. It’s possible for sure. AT&T has done this with a few of its open source initiatives. But there is still a long way to go before the service providers will truly embrace it.

Sangoma – the Largest Open Source Communications Solution Provider

Meanwhile, Sangoma is the steward for the two largest open source enterprise communications solutions in the world – Asterisk and FreePBX. Sangoma builds its commercial products on these open source telephony platforms to ensure optimum interoperability and superior application agility. To learn more about Sangoma’s cutting-edge communications solutions, visit www.sangoma.com/products.

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