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In the CEO Spotlight section in Internet Telephony magazine, we recognize the outstanding work performed by exemplary companies. Each month we bring you the opinions of the heads of companies leading the Internet telephony industry now and helping to shape the future of the industry. This month, we spoke with William Rich, President and CEO of Pingtel.


GG: What is Pingtels mission?

WR: At the most basic level, Pingtels mission to fundamentally improve the way enterprise communications products are developed, packaged, and consumed. We combine the two best ideas in communications standard SIP and open source to create a fundamentally new approach to enterprise communications products and solutions. Pingtels approach will deliver for the first time both better, more innovative communications products, and PC-like economics to an industry that has always been hamstrung by lack of choice, high costs, and low rates of innovation.

We do this by giving the customer a 100 percent open source, 100 percent SIP platform (the solution is SIP from the ground up) that runs on off-the-shelf Linux delivering a number of clear benefits:

1) customers can choose the IP phones, other hardware and applications that best meet their price and performance needs just like IT;

2) customers are not locked into hardware, so hardware (IP phones, etc.) markets become competitive, driving prices down and driving innovation up;

3) customer risk is greatly reduced because the solutions are IETF standard SIP, eliminating obsolesce and allowing customers to leverage innovation;

4) capital and operating costs are reduced dramatically because Pingtel charges for support on a per-server basis, it does not sell per seat software licenses. Or customers can use the free open source version. Both run on completely off-the-shelf Linux, sliding right into existing IT environments.

To further enable customers, Pingtel has assembled an unprecedented group of ecosystem partners committed to this vision including Polycom, AudioCodes, VegaStream, Mediatrix, and dozens of others. Pingtel thoroughly tests each of these partners products for interoperability and feature transparency with both Pingtels solution and the open source solutions, and Pingtel guarantees interoperability partners products with Pingtel solutions.

GG: What is your vision for Pingtel and how is the company positioned in the next-generation telecom market?

WR: Over the next 18 months, I expect that Pingtel will be recognized as the Red Hat for communications, driving a whole new wave of VoIP uptake and innovation. I think the combination of our standards-based design and economics of open source present a compelling value proposition that is hard to ignore.

But of course, were not done there. Pingtel was an early pioneer with the SIP standard, delivering best-in-class VoIP end points and IP PBX products. Combining our belief that standards are what truly bring value to the marketplace with the cost benefits of open source development, we see Pingtel as a clear leader not only in PBX and desktop client markets, but in related applications that enable enterprise customers to communicate. With the advent of presence-based technologies, wireless, and innovative ways to connect in an increasingly IP-based world, we think our combination of SIP and open source is well positioned to create a meaningful difference in how people buy, deploy, and use communications systems.

GG: Describe SIPfoundry and Pingtels role in that organization.

WR: Pingtel was a founding sponsor of SIPfoundry and we continue to play a leading role in the organization both as contributing developers but also in terms of organizational support. SIPfoundry is an international open source community dedicated to advancing the SIP standard and distributing under open source licenses SIP-based solutions for consumption by end-users and the development community. In addition to the sipXpbx open source SIP PBX on Linux, SIPfoundry projects include rePro, a carrier-grade SIP proxy and infrastructure platform, several SIP clients and high-performance stacks, including the sipXtapi user agent SDK and the reSIProcate stack, and the SIP Forum Test Framework, open source test tools developed under the auspices of the SIP Forum and hosted by SIPfoundry.

In addition to being an active participant in SIPfoundry, Pingtel is also an active consumer of the technology developed on SIPfoundry. Pingtels award-winning SIPxchange is based on a SIPfoundry project called sipXpbx and Pingtel also provides commercial solutions based on the sipXtapi SDK user agent called SIPXua.

For Pingtel, and for me personally, the work that SIPfoundry has done since founding a little over a year ago is nothing short of astounding. We now have over 2,300 participants in SIPfoundry, the organizations hosts seven individual projects that are being used commercially in dozens of products around the world, and we have eight corporate sponsors. SIPfoundry is rapidly becoming the center of industry innovation and a catalyst for a number of important developments in such areas as security and presence. The community is about evenly split between North America and international participation.

GG: Now that it appears that growth and opportunity are the trends in the VoIP industry, what possible hurdles do you see that might upset this momentum?

WR: I think the move to VoIP is inevitable. The key challenge is to generate value for the market, not simply replace TDM with VoIP. We think combining standard SIP and open source is the key to delivering value by opening the market to innovation (open source) and allowing users to assemble the solutions they need is a normalized and plug compatible way (SIP).

GG: What are some of the technology areas where Pingtel is increasingly focusing, and why are these areas important to the future of your company?

WR: We are absolutely committed to delivering innovative, reliable IP PBX and SIP client/user agent products and will continue to focus on these areas to support the companys growth. Natural evolutions of our solutions are in the areas of presence, security, and mobile convergence.

GG: Describe your view of the future of the IP telephony industry.

WR: Open.


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