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December 14, 2009

The Open Source IP PBX: A Growing Trend

By Erik Linask, Group Editorial Director


IP Communications has matured – to the point where those businesses that have used poor call quality as an excuse for not exploring the opportunity no longer have that shortcoming to call upon as a reason for not migrating to VoIP. It’s true that real mass deployment is still to come but, each day, new businesses are making the jump to VoIP, and even more are starting to look at a variety alternatives for doing so.
 
When it comes to choosing an IP PBX, there is considerable choice, though most provide many of the same features and capabilities. Today, in fact, with the growth of the software-based IP PBX (News - Alert) market, the choice becomes even greater, and software alternatives often provide greater flexibility over many hardware-based systems, not the least of which is easy integration into existing IT infrastructures.
 
Of course, there are a large number of proprietary solutions available, but the side of the PBX market that has been taking the business community by storm over the past few years is open source telephony, which, according to the Eastern Management Group, has overtaken all individual proprietary vendor installations, totaling about 18 percent of the overall market at the end of 2008.
 
Why has this change taken place? Certainly, the cost factor tops the list – with a weak global economy, every business was forced to carefully consider how they spend their budgets, including investments in phone systems. 
 
But beyond that, the open source community – which of course, has been popularized largely through the growth of the ten-year-old Asterisk platform – has overcome quality, stability, and scalability issues that plagued it for years. In fact, there are several instances of very large open source deployments throughout the world today, including a 50,000-endpoint deployment in a Portuguese education system, a 30,000-port SIP network maintained by a U.S. carrier, and an enterprise installation running 6,000 IVR ports.
 
In fact, while the well-known Asterisk platform continues to grow – CEO Danny Windham noted a 33 percent increase in downloads over the past year, and claims that Asterisk (News - Alert)-based systems are powering 15 percent of the IP endpoints in the U.S. – alternative open source solutions are also growing in popularity.
 
For instance, the five-year-old FreeSWITCH platform recently came out with its 1.0.5 release and, working with its parent, developed the standalone Cudatel Communications Platform, featuring FreeSWITCH as the core technology, along with integrated Sangoma hardware.
 
FreeSWITCH itself is an alternative open source platform with a growing community that supports a wide range of technologies, including Skype, SIP, H.323. IAX2, and GoogleTalk, allowing for easy interfacing with other open source systems.
 
Another alternative open source project that began in Ecuador back in 1999 is Elastix (News - Alert), which is based on Asterisk as the core engine, but leverages a number of other products to create a complete open source unified communications solution. Though the Elastix team is only beginning to engage the U.S. market, it already boasts more than 600,000 downloads in more than 150 countries.
 
The growth of these open source platforms is a testament to the dedication on the part of the developer communities attached to each of them in making open source as reliable and scalable as proprietary solutions, at a fraction of the cost and with greater flexibility to cater to the unique needs of businesses today.
 
I recently had the pleasure of moderating a Sangoma-sponsored Webinar, where Serge Forest (News - Alert) from Sangoma, Anthony Minessale from FreeSWITCH, and José Luis Landivar from Elastix discussed why the open source community has grown over the past several years, and the benefits open source telephony platforms offer over closed, proprietary solutions.
 
In fact, following the event, Forest noted that, “The event was very well received and it became apparent in the presentations that the open source telephony market has matured enormously over the past year – First, with the number of comprehensive and high-quality commercial products stemming from Open Source projects, but also with the number of projects now available to developers and resellers.”
 
To hear what these three open source community experts have to say about this growing market, listen to the free archived Webinar, Platform Strategies for Software-based PBXs, Part 2.
 
For more on Sangoma’s approach to the open source telephony market, be sure to stop by its booth at ITEXPO East 2010, taking place in Miami, Florida, January 20-22. In addition to an exhibit hall full of products and solutions to support your open source or proprietary telephony platforms, ITEXPO features conference sessions and collocated events to capture the attention of every enterprise, SMB, service provider, reseller, and developer across the globe. Sangoma, a Gold Sponsor of ITEXPO, can be found in Booth #601.
 

Erik Linask (News - Alert) is Group Editorial Director of TMC, which brings news and compelling feature articles, podcasts, and videos to 2,000,000 visitors each month. To see more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Erik Linask



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