Tuesday, May 27, 2008

To fork or not to fork...

Over at the Trixbox hive, it sounds like some not-so-happy bees are swarming about the recent change of direction for Trixbox, which is either a FreePBX fork or not a FreePBX fork depending a lot, it seems, on whether you're on the delivery or receiving end.

Here's the original announcement.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Doug Mohney's Requiem for VoIP

Doug Mohney's editorial in today's FierceVoIP is a trenchant comment -- maybe eulogy is a better word - on the failure of the VoIP industry, after more than 10 years, to deliver any more than hype and cheap long distance. Doug writes:

"[Jeff] Pulver wanted purple minutes, minutes of IP traffic part of an enhanced application that might include voice, data and video content. Six years later, Jeff is still looking for his honest purple minutes and innovative applications. Voice 2.0 is here, but there's been no big killer application, it's all just variations of a theme for call forwarding and voice mail and some APIs to slap voice into a web service."

Amen, brother.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

More on Asterisk for Small Biz

Thirdlane CEO and founder Alex Epshteyn sent this thoughtful reply to my post Asterisk Ideal for Small Biz? Not Without Help.  

Asterisk did foster a cottage industry for packaged solutions -- with varying prices and degrees of openness. Most of these emphasize simplicity, but at the expense of one of the principal reasons for using Asterisk in the first place: its power and flexibility. It's like buying a Ferrari and only driving it in first gear.

As these Asterisk-based solutions have become widely known, the myth has taken hold that the addition of a GUI makes building a PBX “so simple, a caveman can do it.”

Yes, you can install and configure a simple PBX in an hour – but do the GUI constraints – what makes it so simple -- let you configure it exactly to your customer's needs? Not likely. Ironically, while the core of these systems is open source, they lack the customization tools system integrators need.

A side effect of the “so simple” story was that some important contributors to Asterisk's success did not receive the credit they deserved. I'm talking about system integrators – the guys who understood Asterisk’s value early, included it in their solutions and provided real world QA and "product management," driving Asterisk's development.

There's no one solution that fits all applications. When we designed the Thirdlane PBX Manager GUI, our goal was building a system that addresses the needs of systems integrators and VARs. They tell us that they need to build customer PBXs quickly, extend them to accommodate special requirements, and provide customers with tools for daily operations.

Many of Thirdlane's VARs came to us after trying other – both free and commercial – Asterisk-based systems with more "showroom appeal." Their main reason for switching to Thirdlane was that, with PBX Manager, they could always find a way to do what they needed. Their previous systems gave them only what was "in the box” -- they couldn't extend or adapt them. 

Our multi-tenant solution addresses the same needs for service providers and gives them an extensible and open platform for their hosted customers. And, they can offer customers both hosted and on-premises solutions, all within the same product family and requiring no additional training -- for both themselves and their customers.

Thirdlane is offering a downloadable trial version of Thirdlane PBX Manager. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Skype-Killer from Telcos? Can Elephants Fly?

When I read Om Malik's "Global Telcos Plotting a Skype Rival" post this morning, one word flashed in my brain: PL/1 -- IBM's 1960s Cobol-like programming language. I learned it many moons ago, working in the IT department of a public utility. If you never heard of PL/1, there's a good reason. 

It had all the earmarks of something that was designed by committee. It was big and unwieldy, and it did everything -- almost. That was the problem. It almost did what you wanted, but not quite. 

That's the picture I get from a dozen or so telecos trying to build a VoIP client to compete with an established, easy-to-use tool that's compact, efficient and honed for its intended purpose. It's likely to be as successful as PL/1. I doubt Skype has anything to worry about from that quarter.