Linux and Open Source in VoIP (business perspective)
Tikal Networks uses open source platforms. Tikal Networks’s method fits in with a long trend in the software industry. A trend of developing software applications on top of open source platforms and benefiting from the open source revolution. This trend is about 15 to 25 years in the making. Linux with Asterisk have changed the way the business world communicates. These two elements, enable almost free telephony for corporate users and a reduction of the cost in telephony systems with a wide range of features and almost limitless flexibility. This situation changes the landscape of telephony supplier’s market to the point of putting traditional suppliers, virtual behemoths of technology just two decades ago, OUT OF BUSINESS! Open source projects: Linux, PHP, MySQL and many other projects (which in the traditional software world are proprietary products) give technology innovators powerful platforms to develop innovative products. Tikal’s Call Center is a typical example of a proprietary application built on top of open source platform (running on an Open Source OS, Linux.)
There are three compelling open source characteristics which attract a business users:
- High value and low cost mainstream applications like Linux for OS, Apache for Web server and Asterisk for telephony (PBX).
- Wide range of platforms and applications available to be customized or integrated into specific business uses.
- Strategic uses of mature, flexible, stable field proven products and deployments from leading industry strategic suppliers.
Open source software as a platform is one of the most creative structure developed in the software industry. Essentially it gives software developers the “rights” to use software code as long as they do not charge for it and make the original code available to the end customer. The success of open source, specifically Linux, MySQL and PHP, has propelled many application areas, and telephony being one of them. Without open source platforms, the cost of developing specific applications like call center and IP-PBXes would be much higher. Also, the licensing and division of profits would be very complex to the point of making creative applications hard to develop and even harder to manage in the sales and service phases. The open source revolution made lots of noise in the press over a decade ago. Today projects like Google’s Android is also gaining some general public awareness. Since software development and business models are more complicated than most business sectors, it is hard to explain all the benefits of open source systems. There are economic, legal, “intellectual property” and development / integration differences which are extremely attractive to end users.
In the early 1980’s, Linux and Apache (and SendMail) became widely used platforms. Open Source was the big story because of it provided incredible set of features at no money (and free distribution.) Especially Linux, gave developers an open code and “IP” free (Intellectual Property) licensing model. Just as networking was becoming available globally, the open source products enable the use of simple personal computers to do what only large mainframe and mini computers were doing. Now every company had free networking and most IT technicians could get a system up and running reliably. Linux also opened up a whole new capability of open source development tools available on Unix (the base system Linux emulated) already available on mini computers (this is the GNU story, look up Richard Stallman as well.) These developments eventually lead to the availability of tools and applications which enabled the development of Asterisk as a telephony platform. Finally, what propelled the big adoption of Asterisk and IP telephony in the corporate business sector was the use of low cost outsourced call centers. All this technology created strategic capability for companies beyond what we
Today there is still a fast build-up of VoIP systems, both Call Centers and IP-PBXes in the enterprise sector. The build-up is especially fast in non-corporate sectors like government and non-profit organizations (NGOS, medical, education, international aid.) The strong build-up is pushing suppliers to be more competitive and their solutions to be more uniform. Tikal Networks has developed enterprise solutions early on, so today the company can offer medium enterprises stable and well developed applications. Call centers from 50 to 500 agents are the most common Tikal Networks installations. IP-PBX installations of up to 5,000 extensions with virtually unlimited sites are also common. In addition, Tikal’s stable field proven products and deployments enable the company to offer flexible feature sets, upgrade capacity on the fly and keep systems up with reliability expected of traditional telecom suppliers (think AT&T, France Telecom and Ericsson.) This maturity and experience enables Tikal Networks to offer strategic solutions to business managers. No longer are managers looking at technical features, they need strategic capability to compete in a fiercely fast moving world. This is what Tikal Networks presents to business leaders. In future articles we will cover strategic business solutions from our key strategic partners and a select group of customers. We are not giving away any trade secrets here, merely cataloging and presenting trends and possible strategies of the products and services we see in use at leading edge companies.