Speaking With Digium CEO Danny Windham
December 15, 2008
Founded in 1999, Digium (News
) is the creator and primary developer of Asterisk, the popular open source telephony platform.
The Huntsville, AL-based company delivers hardware and software products, including AsteriskNOW, the complete open source software appliance; Asterisk Business Edition, the professional-grade version of Asterisk; the Asterisk Appliance (AA50) hardware-based telephony solution; and Switchvox, a complete turn-key IP PBX (News
) solution, to enterprises and telecommunications providers worldwide.
Digium also hosts the annual AstriCon event, the official conference for the Asterisk PBX and telephony platform. The conference is the defacto meeting place for the Asterisk community — a diverse group of users, developers, entrepreneurs and other enthusiasts. At this year’s event (September 2008), I had the opportunity to sit down with Digium CEO Danny Windham for a video interview
Windham was kind enough to take some time to answer a series of questions I posed regarding the state of the market as 2008 comes to a close and the company’s plans for 2009.
GG: When you look back on 2008, was it a good year for your company?
DW: 2008, even though it is now ending with a very tenuous future financial outlook, has been a very good year for Digium. Through Q3 the company has enjoyed sequential quarter over quarter growth for each quarter of 2008, as well as year over year growth versus 2007. During the year the company has expanded in terms of facilities, resources, staff, customer base, and product offerings — which combined provides a solid foundation for future expansion.
GG: What was your firm’s biggest achievement last year?
The biggest achievement in 2008 was the consolidation and integration of the acquisitions made in 2007. This involved developing and implementing an operations philosophy, a product strategy, and a go-to-market strategy for the combined entity following the purchase of both Sokol and Associates and Four Loop Technologies, maker of the popular Switchvox (News
) SMB IP PBX based upon Asterisk.
GG: What can we expect to see from your company over the next 12 months?
DW: 2009 will bring new developments in a number of key areas.
First, look for new enhancements in the Asterisk project to expand functionality, improve international capabilities, and make it easier for developers to create and distribute applications based upon Asterisk.
The planned Q1 release of our business-class telephone system (known as Switchvox SMB 4.0) will deliver a new ‘Web-aware’ unified communications experience — incorporating Web mashups with features such as voice-mail, chat, fixed-mobile convergence, and fax, into an easy-to-use IP PBX offering for small and medium sized businesses.
A collaboration with Skype (News
) will enable users of Asterisk-based phone systems to create a presence on the Skype network for their company thereby allowing users to place and receive calls to any of Skype’s 370 million users for free.
Lastly, look for Digium to expand our efforts to deliver the power of the Asterisk open source project and the related Asterisk-based products and services to a broader international audience.
GG: Do you think a new administration in Washington, D.C. will be good for the communications industry? If so, how? If not, why not?
DW: I suspect in the first couple of years the administration will be preoccupied with bigger issues such as the ailing economy and the war in Iraq — and that little will be done that will directly impact the communications industry. However, with the growing sentiment in Washington that government involvement is necessary to maintain regulation in the free market system, I fear that the policy pendulum will swing too far to the side of regulation — possibly impacting past decisions regarding deregulation of our industry and protection of Internet-based service offerings.
GG: In your view, please describe the future of the IP Communications industry?
All communications will converge onto an IP based infrastructure. Data, voice, and video will be seamlessly integrated to better enable ‘face-to-face’ style communications — virtually. These services will be available to both fixed and mobile devices — where WiFi and WiMAX (News
) will play an increasing role in delivering the requisite bandwidth to make the experience a rewarding one.
GG: How do the current market conditions affect your potential customers? Do you think they will hold off on purchasing new solutions or do you think the economic conditions will spur them to make purchases that will allow them to be more competitive?
DW: Both. In the short term purchasing patterns are frozen — mostly out of fear for what may happen in the future. As the uncertainty wanes and the economy begins to recover, a new economic conservatism will drive buying behavior. Organizations will be forced to do more with less — and will become more receptive to lower cost ways of doing business. Premium branded offerings will suffer in the process.
GG: What sets your company’s solutions apart from the competition?
DW: Digium is uniquely positioned at the intersection of the movement toward IP Telephony and the movement toward open collaboration. In Digium’s case open collaboration involves the incorporation of both open standards and open source software. This open source heritage enables the delivery of very low-cost turn-key products which are based upon the open source project for those customers well served with a standard product, while allowing for customization and integration of end-user specific solutions for those customers with unique or specific requirements.
GG: If you had to make one bold prediction for 2009, what would it be?
DW: The number of bankruptcies of what previously had been household name companies will continue to soar. The current purchasing paralysis will expose those organizations with marginal business plans. Those that struggled to succeed over the past five years (relatively robust economy compared to the current situation) coupled with those that sought unrealistic returns at any cost — will fail. Some will be salvaged through reorganization (GM? Ford? etc…), some will be acquired for pennies on the dollar, and some will cease to exist.Greg Galitzine is editorial director for TMC’s IP Communications suite of products, including TMCnet.com. To read more of Greg’s articles, please visit his columnist page. He also blogs for TMCnet here.
Edited by Greg Galitzine