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Asterisk and FreePBX: It Takes a Community

TMCnet Feature

August 13, 2014

Asterisk and FreePBX: It Takes a Community

By Peter Bernstein
Senior Editor

We are into the second day of ITEXPO in Las Vegas  and no matter which of the incredibly diverse set of industry sessions one is fortunate enough to listen to and participate in—ranging from the Internet of Things (IoT) to SDN and NFV to Unified Communications (News - Alert) (UC) and much more—a theme is beginning to emerge. It interestingly cuts across them all. It is simply that communities of interest can literally move mountains and markets.  In short, crowd power can be a game changer.

This was in fact the focal point of the luncheon keynote on day two of ITEXPO (News - Alert) where a panel, sponsored by Schmooze Inc., entitled “Open Source Telephony Revolution (News - Alert), the Billion Dollar Game Changer”, was much more than just a schmooze session.  It featured three true open source communications celebrities:

  • Mark Spencer, Founder & CTO of Digium (News - Alert) and father of Asterisk
  • Allison Smith, CEO of The IVR Voice, the wondrous voice goddess everyone hears and has heard when interacting with automated attendants and IVRS since the inception of Asterisk (News - Alert)
  • Philippe Lindheimer, Vice President, Schmooze Com and Project Leader and Primary Developer of FreePBX and the Open Source Community.

With over 2 million installations and growing, the message from each of the panelists was clear. In their minds open source for communications has revolutionized enterprise communications, thanks to the innovative and collaborative capabilities of the community, in much the same way virtually all aspects of computing have revolutionized by open source.  And, in the process despite the idea of things being “free” the monetization prospects of leveraging the power of the community are substantial.  In fact, as the session title states billions are there to be made.

As the three panelists described the history of the open source free PBX (News - Alert) movement that Spencer created, Smith voiced and Lindheimer evangelized, what was striking is how far we have come and how fast.  What’s different today from Asterisk’s early beginnings are its feature richness, ease-of-use and implementation, stability and robustness, services, and channel programs—and as Lindheimer noted, “the ability to keep pace with user requirements in an age where traditional solutions and vendors cannot keep up.”

Spencer discussed the maturity of the open source communications as having evolved from a time where people wanted to be part of a tech movement to one where community members are looking to solve real business problems. He cited the fact that the reason in an age where everything is changing all the time the ability of community members to experiment and add their innovations to the virtual commons was critical to why the number of installations has grown so fast and continues on its upward trajectory.

Lindheimer added the great thing about FreePBX is that, “It is no longer just appliances doing what they are doing as dictated by manufacturer. The community thrives on hearing and listening to what the community needs.”

Hearing the real voice on all of those apps, treated the audience to the equivalent of seeing your favorite band in concert.  Smith said she is always delighted when people recognize her, and noted that given the explosion in applications she is extremely busy. Anecdotally, she also said she gets a kick out of people who have heard her voice where original prompts have been used in various scripts she did not create totally and has been pleasantly surprised by the ingenuity of community members.

The keynote highlighted a message strongly emphasized during FreePBX World event collocated with ITEXPO (News - Alert), that whether you are an entrepreneur working out of your garage or a major multi-national enterprise with thousands of users, the wisdom of the crowd has created capabilities that not only are operationally reliable but can provide the agility organizations of all sizes are seeking to create and sustain competitive advantage. In short, as is happening with SDN and NFV, it takes a community.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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