I talked earlier today about how many believe the popular Asterisk (News - Alert) open source telephony platform created by Digium is emerging as a good solution for contact center operations in this slower economy.
It’s one of many topics I’m looking forward to hearing experts weigh in on at 2009 Digium Asterisk World, an event co-located with the Internet Telephony Conference & Expo, from Feb. 2 to 4 in Miami.
One speaker whose two presentations at Digium Asterisk World I do not intend to miss is Bryan M. Johns, a partner at Shelton | Johns, a Roswell, Georgia firm that delivers advanced, cost-efficient VoIP network solutions.
Johns is delivering one presentation on Feb. 4 – titled “The Asterisk VoIP Conversion and The Opportunity for Substantial ROI” – where he’ll discuss Asterisk as a powerful and affordable alternative to expensive and proprietary PBX systems that still requires investment. He also is participating in a panel discussion, “Ingredients for Successful Asterisk PBX Sales,” on Feb. 4. There, he and other experts will describe the features most requested by customers, the strategies for comparing against big iron systems, when and if to bundle minutes and offboard services, and how resellers can leverage these specific elements for successful advertising and sales of Asterisk-based systems.
As we learned during an interview with Johns, printed in full below, he sees open source as the foundation of communications as a service.
Without the ability to deploy, extend, modify and enhance communications infrastructure quickly, Johns believes, we wouldn’t have many of the new and exciting services and solutions that we see coming to market these days. And though these are difficult days, given the economy, properly designed and engineered IP communications can drive out substantial portions of a company’s telecommunications costs.
“It’s not uncommon for us to create 50 to 60 percent savings,” Johns told us.
Our exchange follows.
Rich Tehrani: Who has influenced you most in your career and why?
Bryan M. Johns: My father. He has worked in many different positions in many different industries. He has seen great successes and great failures. He has taken great risks and shown me by example the potential rewards and potential punishments. He has blazed the trail that has made my career much easier to navigate. I am appreciative of his experience and his guidance.
RT: What excites you most about our industry?
BJ: The rapid pace of innovation and change in the telecommunications industry excites me. More specifically, the disruptive change brought on by framework-based telephony solutions like Asterisk and the SER solutions – for example, OpenSIPs, Kamailio and SER – creates new and exciting business models that are attainable to smaller start-ups and corporations with access to fewer resources. I really enjoy doing things that haven’t been done before.
RT: What areas do you wish you could devote more energy, attention and resources?
BJ: New product and service development receives too little of our attention in a difficult economy. I wish that we had more time, energy and resources to be shaping and hand-crafting the next big thing. I wish somebody would pay us by the hour to develop new and unique service provider offerings.
RT: What pain does your company take away for customers?
BJ: We like to think that we demystify products and services that have too long been sold in-part on the basis of their complexity. We improve service quality / capability while driving-out recurring expense and we do this in a way that easily digested by the customer.
RT: How did your company get to where it is and where is it headed?
BJ: Shelton | Johns got to where it is today by focusing all of our energy on doing the best work possible for the best price possible. We consider our reputation for excellence our single greatest asset. We have taken that reputation for deep technical competency and solid customer management skills and applied to our Private Peering Point subsidiary. 3P is our future. While we will always do high-ROI consulting services, an increasing amount of our business is originating from our peering exchange and service provider operations.
RT: What does your dream mobile device look like?
BJ: My dream mobile device looks exactly like my iPhone 3G but it only rings, beeps or chirps when I am available. Otherwise, I don’t know it’s there. Actually, the iPhone is the best-conceived mobile device in existence (and I have used all of them). It lacks non-exchange push capability and has some minor stability issues.
RT: If you were forced to head Nokia, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, GM, Cisco (News - Alert), Nortel or the United States, which would you pick and why?
BJ: Nortel. Two reasons: First, I love a challenge and Nortel is fundamentally broken in my opinion. It has to be rebuilt from the ground up and there’s a TON of fun to be had doing that. Second, a redesigned Nortel could parlay its existing market into significant growth for new products and services. However, it can only do this if it gets a complete case of amnesia, forgets who it is and remembers how to innovate like my second choice, Nokia.
RT: Poof – you become President Obama’s top advisor on tech. What should he do to foster more technology use in the United States and abroad?
BJ: A significant portion of market globalization has been driven by technologies that have allowed information to be distributed in realtime on a global basis. This acceleration of the speed and availability of information has rewritten the rule book for many an industry and for most every country. Resources should be allocated to reinforcing existing network infrastructure, innovating in wireless and satellite data delivery and in driving the costs to communicate as close as possible to 0.
RT: How has open-source changed our space and what more can it do for us?
BJ: I see open source as the foundation of communications as a service. Without the ability to rapidly deploy, extend, modify and enhance communications infrastructure, we wouldn’t have many of the new and exciting services and solutions that we see coming to market these days. Open source breaks the proprietary strangle-hold on telecommunications and allows smaller, more nimble companies to innovate in the space.
RT: When does Microsoft become a major force in communications?
BJ: Never. Microsoft is the least-equipped vendor to compete in telecommunications. It is not their competency, but that does not mean that they won’t try. Best-case, Microsoft establishes a market for business telecommunications systems on a 3-5 year horizon but I believe they will fall down more than once over that time.
RT: Apple (News - Alert)? RIM, Nokia?
BJ: Apple will most likely not pursue communications as an industry (beyond their mobile strategy). RIM has already seen the light and are engineering devices that will communicate on both cellular and VoIP networks (an excellent strategy in my opinion). Either Nokia or Apple should cuddle up real close to Google and create a mobile telecommunications experience that blows the doors off of everybody’s offerings.
RT: What surprised you most about 2008?
BJ: The rapid changes in the economy. I have been through more than one recession, but this one seems a lot more sinister. The last 4 months of 2008 were terrible for our business and things are still very shaky. Our economy needed to slow down, but this was both abrupt and unexpectedly deep.
RT: Assuming we need it (and who couldn’t use some extra cash), what do we tell Congress to get a multibillion dollar US government communications bailout?
BJ: Unless the telecommunications industry can prove that they HAVE to have it, they shouldn’t even ask. If they were going to ask, all they need to say is that none of their beloved Blackberries are gonna work if they don’t cough up the cash.
RT: Is the green movement dead now that oil is plummeting in cost?
BJ: I don’t think so. I do believe that the perceived marketing value of “green” has depleted significantly and there’s a whole lot less people talking about it.
RT: How does IP communications help in a recession?
BJ: IP communications (properly designed and engineered) can drive-out substantial portions of a company’s telecommunications costs. It’s not uncommon for us to create 50 to 60 percent savings. That’s a big number for a company spending more than a million per year. Additionally, IP communications enables mobile and distributed work in ways that can allow companies to virtualize workforces, tear-down geography and reduce facilities and travel expenses.
RT: You are speaking at ITEXPO which takes place Feb 2-4 2009 in Miami. Why do people need to hear what you say, live and in person?
BJ: I like to think that I have something important to say. If not, I can at least share war stories and tales form the battlefield that will hopefully provide warning or inspiration to those working in and around the telecommunications industry.
RT: Make some wild predictions about 2009/10.
BJ: Telecommunications becomes the way that businesses down-size costs without hurting productivity or capacity. Google shows the world that it’s human and can make mistakes. China’s 10-year party results in a hangover much worse than anyone could have ever predicted. The United States recovers to an economy that looks like 1996.
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Rich Tehrani is President and Group Editor-in-Chief of TMC. In addition, he is the Chairman of the world�s best-attended communications conference, INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference & EXPO (ITEXPO (News - Alert)). He is also the author of his own communications and technology blog.
Edited by Michael Dinan