Way back in January, Quicknet Technologies
-- the leading vendor of low-density IP telephony boards and components
including the Internet PhoneJACK, Internet LineJACK, and Internet PhoneCARD --
made one of the most important announcements of the year relating to IP
telephony application development. For some reason, this news didn't generate
the reverberations it should have. Hopefully, this little column will change
What's the big deal? Working closely with Alan Cox (for those not in the
know, Cox is the keeper of the Linux kernel, and is Linus Torvald's
"right-hand man"), David Erhart, Quicknet's VP of engineering, and
in-house Linux guru Greg Herlein successfully lobbied to get the source code for
Quicknet's Linux drivers released as part of all new Linux kernels, under the
GNU Public License (GPL). All new versions of Linux, from version 2.21.14
onwards -- from Red Hat, SuSE,
Caldera, and Corel
-- will incorporate this source code.
OK. So what does this mean? Now, whenever Linux is installed and configured
on a server, a new option exists to add drivers for "Telephony
Support" -- a separate category that will serve as the home for the myriad
telephony board drivers out there in the market. Dave and Greg had to lobby hard
to convince Cox that a telephony device was an entirely different animal than a
sound card, and that extending the sound card category simply would not suffice.
In addition to creating the "Telephony Support" option, a new
telephony card device broker was also created that serves to pave the way for
other Linux-ready resources. Other vendors register their boards with this
broker during the install procedure, enabling the kernel to recognize the
The Quicknet Linux drivers include multi-card support, permitting developers
to create multi-line Internet gateways and private inter-office Internet
telephony phone systems. The drivers include license-free access to G.711,
G.723.1, and TrueSpeech 4.1-8.5, enabling developers to create high quality
Internet telephony applications without licensing costs or royalties.
A Precedent For Linux Telephony
OK, OK. So what does all this really mean? Quicknet, in being the first to
step up to the plate and courageously offer up its prized source code, leads the
effort to create an open telephony API on Linux. The stage is now set for a
flowering of IP telephony innovation and application development on Linux. This
action instantly created a broad, new developer base for their products. Because
everything is now open, developers are encouraged to create patches, extensions,
etc. to their code. And this action created the "climate" for nifty
new applications that the vendor didn't have time for or didn't think of,
including quite possibly the next killer Internet telephony app.
Due to all this open source Linux activity, the Linux telephony movement is
catching fire. Other vendors are starting to follow suit, including Dialogic/Intel,
which has promised open Linux drivers sometime in August (FYI, Intel is an
equity stakeholder in Red Hat). According to Greg Herlein, open sourcing has
accelerated several ongoing projects, including the OpenH323
project. (Developers take note: This sharing of driver source code is the
first phase in an ongoing process, and there's still a lot of work to be done.
Middleware still needs to be created -- a hardware abstraction layer similar to
TAPI in the Windows world. Then there are the applications themselves.)
To help you get started, the source code for Quicknet's Linux drivers is
available on the company's Web site. Other places to visit to check out what's
up on the open source Linux telephony front are www.linuxtelephony.com
and www.openphone.org. Openphone.org is
home to the Quicknet-sponsored OpenPhone project, an open-source effort to build
a common Internet telephony application that can be used across all platforms.
OpenPhone is envisioned with a modular design and support for
"plug-ins" that allow different audio transports, and different
signaling transports. The application will provide a way for open source
plug-ins to be written, and will also add the ability for commercial binary
plug-ins to be added to provide interoperability with various commercial
Voice-over-IP (VoIP) network termination services.
Marc Robins is Vice President of
Publications, Associate Group Publisher, and Group Editorial Director. His
column, Mind Share, appears monthly in the pages of INTERNET TELEPHONY
magazine. Marc looks forward to your feedback.
to the July 2000 table of contents ]