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Talking with Danny Windham, CEO of Digium

By: Richard “Zippy” Grigonis

Danny Windham is CEO of Digium (, the creator and primary developer of Asterisk, the industry’s first open source telephony platform. The combination of Asterisk software and Digium I/O hardware really got the ball rolling, inspiring other groups and companies to enter the world of open source communications.

For example, Nokia recently announced that it had made a public voluntary tender offer to acquire Trolltech (, a publicly-traded company headquartered in Oslo, Norway. Kai Oistamo, Executive Vice President, Devices, Nokia, said, “Trolltech’s deep understanding of open source software and its strong technology assets will enable both Nokia and others to innovate on our device platforms while reducing time-to-market.” Without the invention of Asterisk, it’s doubtful that open source communications would have progressed to its current levels of technical proficiency and adoption.

And open source communications continues to gain in popularity, particularly among small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), and Asterisk/Digium remains at the forefront of the field.

It was only natural, therefore, that our first Open Source Communications interview would be with Danny Windham of Digium. Before joining Digium, Windham served as President and Chief operating officer of ADTRAN, a global provider of networking and communications equipment. Windham holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Mississippi State University where he was named a Distinguished Engineering Fellow in 2001. He also holds an MBA from Florida Tech.

RG: How do you keep up with all of the submissions and user community requests for new features?

DW: Digium’s Online Issue Tracker lets us keep track of all of the submissions and requests from the open source community. It lets us track all sorts of issues to a high level of granularity. Digium processes and solves over 250 issues per month including community patches, feature requests, bug reports and fixes. We attempt to isolate as many as possible to specific locations in Asterisk and identify who contributed them and the context in which the submission or request was made. There are over a dozen full time developers at Digium who focus on handling these Issue Tracker items.

RG: It’s said that your IAX and DUNDi technologies are optimized to solve certain problems that SIP and ENUM do not address as well or as efficiently. Does that upset some people?<.b>

DW: The IAX protocol was developed by Mark Spencer, Digium’s founder and CTO, to provide communications between Asterisk servers. IAX handles three times the number of G.729 calls per megabit as SIP. Due to IAX’s ability to break through firewalls, thus solving NAT traversal problems inherent in SIP, some people have used it as a VoIP service trunk. IAX is designed to address as directly as possible the fundamentals of making a phone call across the Internet in a lighter-weight, performance-optimized alternative protocol to SIP. IAX was not intended to compete with SIP. It addresses a subset of what SIP addresses. People who are SIP purists might view IAX as a competitive protocol but most people don’t. Digium has half a dozen certified phone partners — all are SIP and none are IAX, although there are a few IAX soft phones. Our view is that IAX is complementary to SIP.

DUNDi, which Mark Spencer also created, is a directory system for number discovery that is mapped to an IP address and is used both in the enterprise and for global number resolution. Unlike ENUM, DUNDi has no central repository for directory data. With DUNDi servers, each node is connected to at least one other node in the network so there’s no central point of failure and no monopolist control. With ENUM, there are a few companies developing ENUM service directories that stand to make a lot of money from it. Those companies don’t like the idea of DUNDi on a global scale because it would take away their monopoly and force them to compete.

RG: What do you see in the Asterisk/Digium future? Will you guys diversify into other areas?

DW: There’s so much opportunity available to Asterisk that you won’t likely see Digium diversifying into another application or open source project. In addition to continuing our support of the Asterisk community, Digium’s role will be packaging Asterisk to address specific market or geographic segments. For example, recently we have been focusing on small and medium-sized businesses with our Asterisk Business Edition and Switchvox products. You’ll see more of that specific market and geographic segment focus in the future from Digium. IT

Richard Grigonis is Executive Editor of TMC’s IP Communications Group.

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