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Ask Me Anything: Digium, Sangoma Leaders Discuss the Brands' Future

October 10, 2018

By Erik Linask, Group Editorial Director

Yesterday’s opening day at AstriCon 2019 – the annual Asterisk user conference – featured an open mic Q&A session called Ask Me Anything, with leaders from Digium and Sangoma, including Tony Lewis (COO, Sangoma), Matt Fredrickson (Asterisk Project Manager, Digium), Bryan Walters (VP Software Engineering, Sangoma), and Matt Jordon (CTO, Digium). 

At any other AstriCon, the questions would have focused on the features, functions, and versions of Asterisk and plans for future adaptations.  This year, however, in the wake of Sangoma’s announcement it had bought Digium, it was reasonable to expect several questions about the future of the brands, product lines, and developer programs.  Once Asterisk Community Director David Duffett kicked of the session sporting Digium orange pants, the audience did not disappoint.  Nor did Asterisk creator Mark Spencer, who entered the keynote hall and was immediately invited to the stage to join the conversation.

The open source community is a close one and, naturally, they all were curious to hear about the future of AstriCon and the Digium and Sangoma brands.  The bottom line is that, for the time being, things will continue on their current courses.  There will naturally be some changes eventually.  For instance, AstriCon may have other elements added to it to enhance its value in light of the merger of the two brands, but as Lewis noted, it has been the one place for the Asterisk community to come together for years and he doesn’t see that changing.

As for the brands themselves, considering there is some overlap with product lines, such as IP phones, Lewis again noted that nothing will change immediately, considering the phones are a significant source of revenue for both companies and each has its own customer base.  In the long term, however, maintaining two distinct lines of similar products makes little sense, and he indicated that a decision would be made as to how to consolidate the phone lines other overlapping product lines, and that the logical time frame for such a transition would be in line with product roadmaps over the next several years.

Will Digium become Sangoma?  According to Lewis, branding discussions have been ongoing, though no decisions have been made.  The panel took the opportunity to light-heartedly consider opportunities to keep parts of both brands... Sangomium... Digigoma...

Regardless, Huntsville, Alabama will remain a major hub going forward.  Lewis noted the lengthy lease in place, but more importantly, the fact that Huntsville is home to more employees that Sangoma has in any other location in the world. 

Matt Jordon commented that the branding question is largely a question of only that – branding – and that culturally and technologically, the two companies are extremely synergistic.

“One of the things that really makes this work is there are a lot of similarities between the two cultures and, regardless of the name that’s on the outside, it feels normal.”

With Mark Spencer on stage, audience members didn’t take long to ask him bluntly, “Why did you sell?”

Spencer’s answer was started with what one might have expected, given his current passions.  He has spent nearly two decades watching the Asterisk project he started nearly two decades ago out of necessity grow into its own self-sustaining community.  At the same time, Spencer has taken an interest in airplanes and avionics, which has taken up much of his attention.  So, in the interest of pursuing the avionics side, while also ensuring the continued growth of Asterisk for a long time, the logical decision was to sell to a stable partner.

For his part now, Spencer is leveraging much of what he learned with Digium as he builds a small avionics software company, Avilution.

“It turns out, avionics is transitioning from hardware to software, where people are looking for high levels of customization,” he said.  “Does this sound like a familiar story?”

But, he did add that a large portion of his life has been dedicated to Asterisk and Digium, and he wants to see its growth and success continue with this new chapter, and he will keep coming to AstriCon to see the direction the new Digium takes.

Whatever that direction ends up being, Lewis says it’s a natural fit.  At the very least, it seems to have been in the cards, considering Spencer ran his very first version of Asterisk on Sangoma hardware.  What happens over the next few years remains to be seen, but based on comments from this panel, the future is bright with a dream that, for Sangoma, began with initial conversations at AstriCon two years ago.

Edited by Erik Linask



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