The Complex and Rewarding World of Open Source VoIP

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One of the biggest challenges of VoIP -- especially the open source variety -- is that it is diffuse and confusing, especially to a market raised on simple, plug-and-play hardware and software options. But open source, in all its manifestations, has become deeply ingrained in the world of VoIP. As tricky as it may be, understanding the nuances of open source VoIP can lead to big savings and, perhaps more importantly, platforms that do what the organization wants them to.


Datamation examines two of the major open source VoIP players, Asterisk and Switchvox. The article, which looks at things through the prism of a 50-user office, goes into some detail. Asterisk comes in hardware/software and software-only versions. Switchvox also is based on Asterisk, and is now owned by Digium. The story says Switchvox licenses Asterisk under both commercial and GLP licenses.


Last month, Digium released an Asterisk-based IP PBX that this piece says is one fruit of the Switchbox acquisition. The Digium Switchvox AA300 aims at businesses with about 150 users and is Digium's first foray into the midsize market. The story reports that the new product will join a family that already features the AA60 (for 30 or fewer users) and the AA350 (for 400 or fewer users). Digium must be doing something right: This OStatic story says that the company has had 24 straight profitable quarters and recently attracted $14 million in venture funding.


Another source of confusion is that open source finds its way into commercial VoIP products. At the NEXTcomm conference last month, a BT executive said that the carrier uses the Asterisk VoIP PBX in its own products. The use of open source by a huge commercial carrier may be surprising to a casual observer. The open source community, the executive said, is "the future of the industry."


Open source, of course, is at various stages of readiness for prime time. That's the point of this posting at OS-VoIP. The piece links to a listing of 74 open source VoIP applications and resources at VoIP Now. The list is a bit old, and there is no clear indication whether it has been updated. Regardless, it is a handy starting point for research. Some of the 74 -- the blogger points to Asterisk and OpenSER -- are often used by carriers and enterprises. Others still require work. The writer also admits that in some cases, proprietary approaches still are best, but claims that open source is gaining ground.


This is just the tip of the iceberg. The nature of open source has created a universe of strangely named services and applications. The key is taking the time and dedicating the resources to exploring -- and exploiting -- these offerings.