Talking with Mark Warren, CEO of Redfone Communications
By: Richard “Zippy” Grigonis
Mark Warren is the CEO of Redfone Communications, LLC (www.red-fone.com), a company that has brought high availability to the world of Asterisk (News - Alert)® -based, Linux-powered, open source Voice-over-IP. Prior to Redfone, Warren was Technology Manager at the Sabre Travel Network and Sabre Holdings, from 1997 to 2005. Previously, he ran International Operations for the TV Guide Channel (1995 to 1997). He had worked for the Prevue Channel, which was acquired by TV Guide.
RG: Admittedly, just using the terms “open source telephony” and “fault tolerance” in the same sentence is pretty mind-boggling. Why did you bestow such technology on the humble world of open source?
MW: We – Redfone’s founders – had used Digium (News - Alert)’s Asterisk-based VoIP technology in our previous avionics business. Surely anything so inexpensive with a good IP PBX feature set has a great future, particularly for small and medium-sized businesses. However, what it lacked compared to expensive communications systems was true fault tolerance, which would give it equivalent reliability and hence, credibility, and enable open source deployments in more demanding environments.
Asterisk software generally runs on a single server, with PCI-based T1 or E1 interface cards connecting the system to the outside world. Such a configuration, of course, is a single point of failure and puts voice traffic at risk. Voice is still the true “killer app” and I can’t think of very many companies that would feel comfortable with having their phone calls continually in peril.
RG: So you devised your own hardware solution?
MW: Our second-generation hardware is an appliance-like external device called foneBRIDGE2. It can be plugged into the network by IT managers and systems integrators to handle Linux clusters running Asterisk and other open source softwarebased telephony platforms, such as Fonality (News - Alert)’s trixbox.
Since we rely on Ethernet for connectivity between servers, the system’s scalability factor increases dramatically, because hardware alterations and software upgrades performed by having a server admin manually take down a server and thus cause the service to failover to one or more other servers comprising the Linux cluster, which automatically take up the slack. Of course, with foneBRIDGE2 you configure multiple Asterisk servers that don’t actually have any TDM (PRI/T1) hardware cards in them. Instead, foneBRIDGE terminates to PRI or T1 channel banks on the trunk side and Ethernet connects to the Asterisk boxes.
Similarly, any unintentional event or problem that takes down a server also triggers rapid failover on the cluster. foneBRIDGE2’ s rapid failover and system recovery occurs in seconds. The foneBRIDGE2 re-configuration options work very quickly, and you can re-program it “on-the-fly” via high availability tools so that a TDM phone call stream can be routed to a secondary standby server occur in under one second.
Therefore, imparting high availability principles to a server environment doesn’t just guarantee failover and continued VoIP service, but it also provides you with the related benefits of increased serviceability and scalability.
RG: What kind of software makes this possible?
MW: One popular HA toolset that works well with both the foneBRIDGE2 and Asterisk is the Linux-HA project’s ‘heartbeat’ tool (www.linux-ha.org). The use of a “heartbeat” in the world of high availability has a long history. Basically, messages – the ‘heartbeat” – are sent to the server nodes in the cluster. If a particular node doesn’t respond to the heartbeat messages, scripts are executed to quickly failover the voice service to another server. This process is completely automatic and transparent.
The foneBRIDGE2 also supports “mixedmode” operation support, so that T1, E1 and RBS/CAS services are configurable on a per-port basis. Interestingly, for all of its features, foneBRIDGE2’s price points compare favorably with to competing dual and quad-port PCI products.
RG: How easy is the whole thing to install? What if a customer has questions?
MW: We at Redfone Communications support both Asterisk and trixbox users. We can handle everything from basic questions and help with configuring the system, to more elaborate engineering consultations concerning how to correctly dimension and generally implement your system. Thanks to our efforts in developing foneBRIDGE2, even small businesses can now enjoy the same reliability, scalability and feature set as can be found in a very expensive PBX (News - Alert)-type phone system. The open source telephony model is now looking better than ever. IT
Open Source News
Digium, Skype (News - Alert) Announce Collaboration
Skype and Digium have come together and announced the beta version of Skype For Asterisk.
The new Skype For Asterisk initiative will facilitate the integration of Skype functionality into Digium’s Asterisk software, which will allow customers to make, receive and transfer Skype calls from within their Asterisk phone systems. Combining Skype Internet calling with Asterisk-based telephony products, the beta of Skype For Asterisk acts as an add-on channel driver module. By offering low rates for calling landline and mobile phones around the world, Skype For Asterisk also complements small- and midsized business users’ existing services.
With the beta version of Skype For Asterisk, users can save money on inbound calling solutions such as free click-to-call from a Web site, as well as receive inbound calling from the PSTN through Skype’s online numbers. Users will also be able to manage Skype calls using Asterisk applications such as call routing, conferencing, phone menus and voicemail. The initial beta is limited to a select number of users, developers and integrators.
Infobright, Jaspersoft Collaborate on Open Source Solution Bundle
In an effort to make it easy for users to quickly implement a scalable BI platform and to get the information and knowledge they need to be successful, Infobright, a provider of technology for analytic data warehousing and Jaspersoft, a provider of open source business intelligence (BI) solutions, announced plans to deliver a joint end-to-end open source BI and data warehouse solution.
This solution will be available as a JasperForge project, which will be based on Jaspersoft and several Sun open source products, and also new open source data warehouse software, Infobright Community Edition (ICE). Jasper- Forge.org is an open source community portal with hundreds of projects for the Jaspersoft business intelligence (BI) suite.
Report: Open Source Developers Recommend Commercial Linux for High Performance Computing
In response to the latest Evans Data Corporation’s Open Source software and Linux survey, most open source developers recommend using commercial versions of Linux over non-commercial versions of Linux when creating mission-critical, large enterprise, high-performance computing applications. According to the survey, non-commercial Linux is usually preferred for Web development and embedded systems. The survey gathered data from 400 developers who are actively involved in open source development.
According to the survey, Ubuntu (News - Alert) — which is used by 24 percent of the open source developers, is the most used Linux distribution. For those who are unfamiliar with Ubuntu, it is a community developed Linux-based operating system that is ideally suited for laptops, desktops and servers.
Sun Microsystems (News - Alert)’ OpenSolaris Achieves Fast Customer Adoption
Sun Microsystems has revealed that customer adoption rates for various technologies with OpenSolaris communities are rising significantly, with hundreds of new Sun enterprise, Web 2.0 and other customers joining the 150,000+ strong OpenSolaris community. Based on Solaris kernel, OpenSolaris is an open source project created by Sun Microsystems in 2005 with an aim to build a developer community around the Solaris Operating System (OS). Sun launched OpenSolaris Operating System in May 2008.
The OpenSolaris project User Group is an active community with more than 150,000 members and a growing collaboration with dozens of OpenSolaris technology communities and projects being created online.
At ITEXPO West, cyLogistics (News - Alert) Showcases TrueBill Version 2.0
At TMC’s ITEXPO West in Los Angeles, cyLogistics was on hand, ready to discuss with attendees the many benefits of its TrueBill, an award-winning billing solution that supports pre-paid, post-paid, real-time, ondemand, tax functions and a great deal more to VoIP telephony providers with either ASP, purchase programs or with leasing options.
TrueBill Version 2.0 now integrates with Ring Carrier, an open source softswitch provider. By integrating open source technology from various sources with its own proprietary code, Ring Carrier delivers sophisticated, flexible switching software technology with interfaces for providers, enterprises, and end-users. With it, providers can scale from hundreds to millions of customers via its ability to support 50 to 75 hosted Asterisk PBXs on a single PC, making it a highly cost-effective solution for network operators such as an ITSP, LEC or CLEC VoIP telephony provider.
IBM (News - Alert) Launches New Software for Developing Mainframe Apps and Enterprise Mashups
IBM has launched a new software line designed to help businesses take advantage of the surge in mainframe applications and the growing momentum behind enterprise mashups.
The total number of commercially-available mainframe software applications has now topped the 4,000 mark, primarily backed by the popularity of running Linux on the mainframe, growth of the System z client base in emerging markets such as China, India and Brazil, and strong utilization of specialty engines. The new software products announced by IBM are based on open standards, so that businesses can easily develop, deploy and manage mainframe applications and mashups using the same programming skills and management tools they are accustomed to for distributed computing environments and contemporary Web applications.
Sangoma Climbs Aboard the NetBorder Express
Sangoma Technologies recently announced its newest product line, dubbed NetBorder Express VoIP Gateway (News - Alert) Cards. Sangoma’s cards, in concert with a new set of software building blocks combine to deliver a SIP to TDM VoIP Gateway solution. Integrators and developers can also use the new solution to develop SIP-based applications such as iPBX, IVRs, and Conferencing Servers. The cards include Telco-grade, hardware echo cancellation, and customers can purchase up to eight spans on a single board and can deploy multiple boards in a server.
Current owners of Sangoma’s T1/E1 card with hardware echo cancellation can download a trial version of the software online.
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