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Talking with David Mandelstam, CEO of Sangoma

By: Richard "Zippy" Grigonis

David Mandelstam is the Founder, President and CEO of Sangoma Technologies (News - Alert) Corporation ( a provider of advanced PC-based telephony hardware and software products – such as telephony cards and drivers – for networking and telephony solutions that are proprietary or open source-based (such as Asterisk (News - Alert), CallWeaver, FreeSwitch and Yate).

In a May 2000 reverse takeover, Sangoma Technologies became publicly traded on the Toronto Venture Exchange as Sangoma Technologies Corporation. Mandelstam holds a B (News - Alert).Sc. degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa, a M.Sc. in Aerodynamics from the Cranfield Institute of Technology in the U.K. and a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of South Africa.

RG: Has open source finally ‘matured’?

DM: Open Source technology, telephony in particular, is at a very interesting stage where people are actually starting to make some reasonable amounts of money out of it. The field used to consist of relatively few people who did specialized products for specialized requirements: call centers, special PBX (News - Alert) configurations, special connections between old PBXs and new VoIP systems, that kind of thing. They were all individually engineered. People are now building appliances and PBXs and so on, more on a cookie-cutter, production-line basis. It’s quite a different business model.

RG: I thought it was always difficult to make money with open source, because you don’t sell the thing itself, you sell the ‘surround stuff’ such as hardware and support.

DM: Yes, it’s strange, because there’s this great big hole in the middle of the model, and it’s the ‘satellite stuff’ that generates revenue. People price this satellite stuff in ways which imply the value of the open source. They’ll sell something which you might think isn’t quite worth what they’re charging for it, but in conjunction with the open source software, it is in fact very much worth it. Take Red Hat’s server, which is not very different in price from Microsoft (News - Alert)’s server, but the bulk of it is ‘free’. Of course, in the end, nothing is absolutely free. But the trick is how to monetize your open source code. I mean, look at what’s happening to Digium (News - Alert) – they’re becoming a PBX company. They still make money from open source by doing peripheral stuff like selling cards, G.729 licenses, support and conducing training. In theory, they could take what they’ve got and just package it and sell it. It’s interesting how many people are happier to pay for something than to get it absolutely free. People who are uncomfortable wearing a beautifully done $125 suit of clothes will nevertheless proudly wear a $1,200 fashionable brand.

RG: Is the open source industry evolving?

DM: We’re pioneering a mixture, at the driver level, of open source and closed source projects. There are certain things open source does very well and there are other things that it doesn’t. Let’s take SS7, which has large certification costs in terms of time, effort and money. SS7 is a very poor candidate for an open source product because the payoff for certification is one or two installations for one or two customers. It just doesn’t work. Successful open source projects that don’t involve any kind of certification generally tend to be more pragmatic – such as Lippri. Nobody is going to take something like Lippri and try to certify the whole stack. First, you can get away without it, and secondly, it’s very expensive to do. But with SS7 you don’t have that choice – you must certify it, and so it just doesn’t work as an open source project.

That’s why our SS7 software is a closed source product – we acquired the company that made it, in fact. Our code is amalgamated in such a way that it’s sufficiently isolated from open source so that no one can accuse us of any kind of license violation or whatever. After our SS7 success, we built our BRI card, bought a BRI stack and we amalgamated it into the Asterisk environment the same way we did SS7. The value of doing that could be seen just last week when we discovered a code bug, told the people who provided the code, and two days later we had a fix. If that had been an open source project, those issues would have hung around for some time before they would have been corrected.

So there’s a place for proprietary code, and a place for open source code, and we’ll produce more closed source component projects. There nothing wrong with introducing proprietary stacks into the open source mix to improve the system. After all, somebody could say, ‘Asterisk voicemail is good, but I want to use my own superb proprietary voicemail system.’ And that can be amalgamated with the Asterisk code too – why not? IT

Richard Grigonis is Executive Editor of TMC (News - Alert)’s IP Communications Group.


Open Source News
Sangoma Intros New Data Cards for Mission-Critical Communications
Sangoma Technologies introduced its new A142 and A144 data cards. These high-speed, two-port and four-port synchronous serial data cards reduce system load. Replacing the legacy S5141 and S5142 cards, the new A142 and A144 data cards improve system efficiency, and support multi-megabit speeds on all ports. The design of the cards is based on the same advanced engineering as the AFT product line.
Brix Networks (News - Alert) Signs Reseller Agreement with Harris Stratex
Brix Networks has entered into a worldwide reseller agreement with Harris Stratex Networks, an independent supplier of turnkey wireless transmission and service assurance solutions, through which, Harris Stratex (News - Alert) is reselling Brix Networks’ product portfolio around the world as part of its NetBoss network management offering.
Pika Expands to Support Fax Apps on Asterisk
Pika Technologies announced it has expanded its product range to support fax applications built on the Asterisk platform. In a logical evolution of the product, Pika Fax software is now extended to Asterisk, allowing developers on the platform to build fax capabilities into their applications.
Sun Completes Acquisition of MySQL
Sun Microsystems (News - Alert) has completed the acquisition of MySQL, a developer of open source database, for approximately $1 billion in total consideration. Sun also unveiled the availability of MySQL’s complete portfolio of products and enterprise services backed by its 17,000 sales and services organization and its extensive international network of authorized distribution channels.
SoftLayer (News - Alert) Launches Next Generation of Industry’s First Open API
SoftLayer launched its Application Protocol Interface (API) 3.0, an even more enhanced version of the industry’s first open source API, providing system-to-system access to the more than 100 backend functions also available through SoftLayer’s proprietary, industry-leading Customer Portal. It can securely connect any system regardless of device or location — even mobile devices such as a RIM Blackberry or Apple (News - Alert) iPhone — via SoftLayer’s innovative “network-within-a-network.”
Adobe Flex-es New Tools, Breathes Fresh AIR Into Development Community
Adobe announced the availability of its new Adobe AIR and Adobe Flex 3 software, a pair of new offerings that are designed to expand Adobe’s technology platform for rich Internet applications (RIAs). “Businesses that leverage the Web as a platform are now using the latest Adobe RIA technologies to build and deploy more engaging applications with the widest reach across browsers, desktops and operating systems.”
Digium and Metaphor Solutions (News - Alert) Announce Partnership to Offer Speech Recognition-based IVR Solutions to the Asterisk Market
Digium and Metaphor Solutions announced a partnership offering Metaphor’s On-Demand Plug & Play IVR application suite for the Asterisk market. Plug & Play IVR allows Digium customers to use the Web to self-configure, customize, deploy, manage and report on high quality speech recognition-based application packages in minutes. Small and mid-sized businesses can easily configure these speech IVR solutions to connect to their on-premise or managed Asterisk IP-PBX platforms.
Open Solutions Alliance Marks First Birthday
The Open Solutions Alliance, which describes itself as “a nonprofit, vendor-neutral consortium,” dedicated to “driving the interoperability and mainstream adoption of comprehensive open products,” marked its one-year anniversary. “The commercial open-source industry is no longer in an early-adopter phase. Now that we’ve entered the mainstream phase of adoption, it’s even more important that open products have the fit, form and function that an enterprise organization expects.”
Telecom Leaders to Build CP-TA Products Based on AdvancedTCA, AMC, and MicroTCA (News - Alert) Specifications
Ten telecom leaders have signed on to support, design, and build CP-TA tested products that meet CP-TA interoperability requirements. They are: Continuous Computing (News - Alert), Emerson Network Power, Intel, Interphase, Kontron, Pentair/Schroff, Performance Technologies, Polaris Networks, RadiSys, and ZNYX Networks.

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