VOIP Today magazine (www.voiptoday.org) is privileged to conduct exclusive interview with Asterisk founder and king of open source telephony Mark Spencer.
From a personal project to a huge one that has a million users worldwide and it is downloaded about 1000 times a day.
Digium® is the innovative force behind Asterisk®, the world's most widely used open source telephony platform.
All of Digium's commercially offered products come with the Exceptional Satisfaction Program™ (ESP), the only 100% customer satisfaction guarantee in the open source telephony world today.
VOIP Today magazine contributing author Alaa El Fahham spoke with Mark Spencer about Business , technology and products .
Voiptoday.org : What is the financial crisis effect on Digium/Asterisk business in general?
Mark Spencer : Businesses often become much more conservative in managing expenses during economic turmoil. While this intuitively seems negative for equipment suppliers, this sort of financial turmoil has proven beneficial to Digium’s business in the past. During periods of strong economic growth, companies are less motivated to find ways to preserve capital. However, when forced to trim budgets out of necessity, IT managers often entertain lower-cost alternatives to traditional solutions.
Open source is one of those alternatives that deserve a closer look. With the growing adoption of open source based solutions across the corporate landscape, history suggests that once an organization becomes receptive to the idea of utilizing open source – the end result becomes their adoption of open source. Look for this to be the case over the coming months. An economic environment so strong that the tide rises all boats is not a bad end to the current melee. Until then, necessity may be the mother of all invention, but I contend that she’s a close family member of collaboration too.
Voiptoday.org : What are the milestones that Asterisk has achieved in the last 10 years and what is the future roadmap in the next decade?
Mark Spencer : When I created Asterisk in my college dorm room in 1999, Asterisk provided an opportunity for open source enthusiasts and developers to create and customize a private branch exchange (PBX) system, which until then was not possible. Asterisk grew in popularity and is now downloaded more than 1.5 million times per year for use by individuals and organizations interested in an alternative to expensive and cumbersome proprietary phone systems. Over the years, thousands of individuals and organization have contributed to the development and growth of the Asterisk open source project with new codes (more than 2,000 new code commits in 2009), configurations and applications, Today, Asterisk is downloaded nearly 5,500 times a day and boasts a community of 63,000 active participants on Asterisk forums, covering 28,500 topics with 92,000 forum posts.
Voiptoday.org : What was the annual growth rate of Digium in the last decade?
Mark Spencer : Open Source adoption has grown dramatically over the years and with that Digium, profitable since 2002, has observed proof of this adoption in several of our key metrics.
We have seen over:
* 1,540,000 downloads in 2008
* 1.03M downloads 1st half 2009
* 63,000 active participants on forums
* 28,500 Topics
* 92,000 Posts
* 17,700 on active Asterisk mailing lists
* 7,248 on our Bug Tracker
* 820 active contributors
* 2,000 new code commits in 2009
* More than 200 service providers worldwide using Asterisk
* Dedicated Industry Events: AstriCon for Asterisk Developers, Integrators and Users &
Digium Asterisk World for Business users
Voiptoday.org : What is the biggest Asterisk implementation done in your knowledge?
Mark Spencer : Integrics (www.integrics.com), founded in 2004, has built one of the largest known Asterisk®-based systems in the world. Their Asterisk-based Enswitch™ installations are currently in the region of 500,000 end points. Integrics has built the Enswitch softswitch to deliver VoIP services for hosted PBX providers, ITSPs, and other commercial telephony providers. Enswitch was built utilizing Asterisk, OpenSER (now OpenSIPS), MySQL, and other open source platforms. Today there are over 50 customer installations delivering services to enterprises of all sizes. The single largest customer consists of over 150,000 seats on a clustered system delivering VoIP and unified communications to customers. Scalability has been proven to over 6,500 concurrent calls.
Voiptoday.org : How do you foresee the competition of Digium with other competitors like Sangoma and Rhino ?
Mark Spencer : Open Source provides an opportunity for many to successfully participate in the ecosystem. Digium remains number one in market share for Asterisk downloads Asterisk add-ons and gateway cards to public switched telephone networks. Digium’s commercially available turn-key Switchvox UC solution has become a major leader in the SMB segment of 2-400 users (www.digium.com/switchvox).
Voiptoday.org : A Lot has been done as far as Asterisk awareness is concerned in America and Europe. How do you see Middle Eastern market? What are your plans for this market?
Mark Spencer : Digium has expanded the distributor and reseller base in EMEA, our number two market. Here is a summary of some of more recent Middle East activities:
* Bahrain in the past quarter has been in the top 5 of Asterisk download countries in the world
* Israel has long been a pioneer in Asterisk with a strong community and Asterisk is used in both service provider and end user networks, with 3 innovation award winners in the past three years
* In Dubai, Digium has invested in channel recruitment and growth for Asterisk and Switchvox products
Voiptoday.org : What were the new announcements during this Astricon for Asterisk community?
Mark Spencer : We had several exciting announcements at AstriCon focused on the growth of the community.
The Innovation Awards, presented in five categories to seven recipients, recognized innovation, enterprise-class solutions, measurable return on investment, use of Asterisk in businesses outside of the communications industry and contributions to the Asterisk community. A complete list of winners can be found at www.digium.com. We also announced the launch of AsteriskExchange and AsteriskForge at the event reinforcing Digium’s commitment to the Asterisk community and ecosystem growth.
Voiptoday.org : What development is happening for the Enterprise clients/sector in open source asterisk?
Mark Spencer : The theme of AstriCon 2009 was Asterisk in the Enterprise. Many developments are in process and the presentations and videos can be seen on AstriCon.net. We have seen adoption of entire cities such as Amsterdam and the city of Taguig in the Philippines are two examples of entire cities adopting Asterisk and integrating city-wide solutions with traditional platforms.
Voiptoday.org : We know that Asterisk now supports SKYPE but we would like to know, when it will support OCS platform?
Mark Spencer : Many community members and integrators have done this for specific applications however we have not standardized a solution at this time.
Voiptoday.org : There are a lot of third party open source applications available for video conferencing Why Asterisk does not have an application for the same?
Mark Spencer : CounterPath’s Bria and X-Lite softphones and Polycom VVX 1500 and a couple of other platforms support video calls on Asterisk. We expect to see emerging applications in 2010 and beyond on multiple video-enabled devices.
Voiptoday.org : What new features will be included in Asterisk v1.8 ?
Mark Spencer : A high level summary of features being added:
* Secure RTP (SRTP)
* SIP Enhancements
* Bi-directional XMPP (jabber) support
* Calendaring enhancements
* Channel event logging enhancements
* Queueing enhancements
* Secure event logging framework
* New codec framework
You can find all current items here in the open source Asterisk trunk: http://svn.asterisk.org/svn/asterisk/trunk/CHANGES
Voiptoday.org : Now a personal question, How do you spend your spare time?
Mark Spencer : Flying
Voiptoday.org : Which one do you love the most- Mark as a developer or Mark as a pilot?
Mark Spencer : I enjoy both and try to take advantage of the great weather in Huntsville and fly as often as possible.