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Cisco VoIP Ditched for Open-Source Asterisk

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the more-power-to-ya dept.

159

An anonymous reader writes "Sam Houston State University (SHSU) is moving 6,000 users off a Cisco VoIP platform to an open-source VoIP network based on Asterisk. One big driver, of course, is cost. From the article: 'We thought that it will be more cost effective in the long run to go with an open source solution, because of the massive amounts of licensing fees required to keep the Cisco CallManager network up and running,' says Aaron Daniel, senior voice analyst at SHSU."

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159 comments

On the subject of Asterisk (4, Interesting)

Rob from RPI (4309) | more than 7 years ago | (#16119648)

I've just released FreePBX 2.1.2, which is a major security upgrade from 2.1.1. Not really relevant to this article, except that they both deal with Asterisk.

(For those that don't know, FreePBX is the only open source GUI for configuration and management of Asterisk. www.freepbx.org [freepbx.org] )

--Rob

Re:On the subject of Asterisk (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16119676)

now available from all good stores

Re:On the subject of Asterisk (1)

caluml (551744) | more than 7 years ago | (#16119830)

$ emerge --search freepbx
Searching...
[ Results for search key : freepbx ]
[ Applications found : 0 ]

$
Hmm, shame it's not in portage.

Re:On the subject of Asterisk (2, Informative)

Rob from RPI (4309) | more than 7 years ago | (#16119847)

It's not, but I was working with a couple of gentoo guys to get it in - they seem to have vanished. The way we do an install and check for versions apparently causes a bit of grief. There are, however, gentoo docs on the wiki [aussievoip.com] - However, just checking over them they seem to be a bit lax (well, ok. A lot lax). The CentOS instructions [aussievoip.com] are far more verbose.

I'd love for someone with some gentoo clues to help out!

--Rob

Re:On the subject of Asterisk (3, Informative)

gremln007 (993534) | more than 7 years ago | (#16120024)

Hey Rob, I've seen you on a lot of the forums. Great work on FreePBX by the way! I have seen a number of folks posting about TCO and needing Asterisk experts, etc. I just wanted to mention TrixBox (formerly Asterisk@Home). It is a great, EASY way to play with Asterisk in a test or even real environment. You can start out using this and then move on to a plain vanilla Asterisk install if you feel the need for greater control. That being said a lot of people use TrixBox (or Asterisk@Home) as-is. TrixBox with its new better update functionality is really great in my opinion. For those interested, check out their site and download an ISO (http://www.trixbox.org/). Also, there is a version you can run from within VMWare. Sorry, I don't have that link handy but you should find it on the Trixbox site. Jonathan

Re:On the subject of Asterisk (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16120181)

It's possibly the most used, but it is _NOT_ the only open source GUI.
There are lots of others: http://www.voip-info.org/wiki/view/Asterisk+GUI [voip-info.org]

SCCP support? (3, Interesting)

OffTheLip (636691) | more than 7 years ago | (#16119665)

Seems like the majority of Asterisk support has been for SIP phones. Some support for SCCP phones such as the 7910. Be nice if more low end phone support was available. Overall, Asterisk seems much nice than CCM and does not rely on a OS/Application installation.

Re:SCCP support? (5, Informative)

Rob from RPI (4309) | more than 7 years ago | (#16119717)

I was really trying hard not to reply to _every_ post here, but SCCP is an awful protocol. And the 'low end' VoIP phone are all SIP or IAX, so you're barking up the wrong tree a bit. For example - Google for PA1688. This is a VoIP phone _chipset_ that the manufacturers have open sourced the firmware for. You can usually buy PA1688 based phones for about US$50. Or if you want more of an office phone, the Grandstream GXP2000 has a reasonably professional look, and are around US$100 or so. Going up market from there, you're looking at the Snom 320 or 360. Plenty of buttons and lights, and it runs Linux.

--Rob

Re:SCCP support? (2, Interesting)

cduffy (652) | more than 7 years ago | (#16119790)

the Grandstream GXP2000 has a reasonably professional look

A professional look, sure -- but the bloody things crash constantly if they don't like the network they're plugged into, their autoprovisioning is cranky at best, and our order (of about 20) had a very substantial number of duds (we RMA'd at least 3). Also, their speakerphone support doesn't work well -- IIRC, the folks on the remote end hear massive amounts of echo (though it sounds fine locally). I'd call the Sipura SPA-841 a reasonable step up from the GXP2000; it still has lousy speakerphone support, but at least it's reliable.

The Snom 360s -- those, I agree, are damn good phones. Their provisioning Just Works, the speakerphone sounds great, and they're a whole lot of fun to play with.

Re:SCCP support? (2, Informative)

Rob from RPI (4309) | more than 7 years ago | (#16119810)

Well yes. Their GXP firmware goes from featureless, to cranky, to bugfix, to feature+, to even more cranky than it was originally. I'm currently running some beta firmware on the GXP on my desk that has all sorts of display corruption issues.

They did, however, get the speakerphone echo well sorted out a while ago. The snoms, on the other hand, do _not_ have echo cancellation in their speakerphone, which means it can't be all that loud. Which leads to user complaints 8-\ However, apart from that minor niggle, yes, the Snoms rock. But they are 2-3 times the price of the GXP's.

If you want good speakerphone, apparently the Polycomm phones are the best.

The reason I don't like the SPA's is that you can't do BLF (Busy Lamp Field - eg, bind an extension to a lamp to see who's on the phone, pick up someone elses call by just pushing a button etc) which is pretty much a prerequisite for any compay upgrading from a Key system. And most of 'em are 8)

--Rob

Re:SCCP support? (1)

cduffy (652) | more than 7 years ago | (#16119833)

The snoms, on the other hand, do _not_ have echo cancellation in their speakerphone, which means it can't be all that loud.

I have trouble believing that -- our single Snom 360 sounds as good as the (POTS) polycom units when on speakerphone, and we certainly don't run it quiet. Looking through their release notes, it says they added echo cancellation as of firmware version 3.60b. I don't see any complaints about lack of echo cancellation at http://www.voip-info.org/wiki/view/snom+360 [voip-info.org] .

I haven't had a chance to work with a Polycom SIP phone, which is a little surprising since they're literally right down the road a bit (before we moved, they were the next building over). We hired one of the engineers who used to work on firmware for their videophones, though, and he had nothing good to say about how their software group was run. That said, I don't doubt their speakerphone support is excellent -- it's what Polycom is known for, after all.

Re:SCCP support? (1)

Rob from RPI (4309) | more than 7 years ago | (#16119856)

Wups, there you go. I'm quoting outdated information. Sorry. I've got a 360 sitting right next to me too! (Actually, as I was writing that, I was thinking that I hadn't had any bad handsfree echo issues recently, but I hadn't seen anything in the changelogs about it - obviously it went in back then, and they spent a couple of releases cleaning it up and I didn't notice it)

--Rob

Re:SCCP support? (1)

tzanger (1575) | more than 7 years ago | (#16120093)

Polycom phones are simply the best bang for the buck. They are professional, "feel" right (handset is weighted correctly), sound perfect (polycom's been in the speakerphone business from the start), they are *designed* to be provisioned properly, and they fit in any business or small office environment.

My complaints with them are few:

  • NO NORMAL RINGTONES!!! UGH!!! GIVE US A BASIC SET OF BUSINESS-FRIENDLY RINGERS!!!
  • Can't set VLAN ID via DHCP
  • 430/501 can't use that beautiful screen, 601 can at least use XHTML
  • lack of backlight
  • shitty web interface (honestly, drop this and give us XHTML on 430/501!)
  • SSSSSSSLLLLLOOOOOWWWWWWW bootup time
  • some minor menuing issues (why do I have to be an admin to reboot the phone from the menu?!)
  • Idiotic lockdown of firmware (have to go through your vendor to get it, can't get it direct from Polycom's FTP site)
  • MWI warble is not tuneable or turn-offable
  • minor issues involving presence and directories

I've got several shops running these. It's a beautiful thing to just ssh in, alter the xml file, and send a reboot to the phone remotely to change *anything* on these phones. I'm VERY satisfied with them, aside from my quick shit-list above.

Polycomm acts like SGI, only worse (1)

r00t (33219) | more than 7 years ago | (#16120207)

Just try to get a price for buying a plain old VoIP speakerphone.

You can't. You have to go via one of their vendors, who are required to sell you some crappy VoIP service. The excuse is that you get the full Polycomm experience this way. Yeah, I sure do!

The "small room" phone I bought a few years ago, the only analog one I found for sale in a store, suffers from terrible echo problems. I'm just about certain that there is a "suck really bad" setting in the firmware that Polycomm sets if you don't pay at least $500 or more.

The company must be run by asshole marketing executives. Please, don't help them stay in business. Let the fuckers die.

Re:SCCP support? (1)

OffTheLip (636691) | more than 7 years ago | (#16119852)

Sounds easy but if you already own a couple hundred SCCP only capable phones you lament SCCP support. Such is life...

Re:SCCP support? (1)

battery841 (34855) | more than 7 years ago | (#16120372)

SIP is supported in CallManager 5.0. Then again, the licensing for CM5.0 is pretty horrable.

Re:SCCP support? (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 7 years ago | (#16120427)

SCCP might be crappy, but it's already installed on many thousands of Cisco phones out in the field and in their sales pipeline. So it represents an installed base - a target audience/market for development that doesn't require them to change much. Better Asterisk support for SCCP can compensate for its problems, while giving us control over the innards of the system.

Asterisk really is best bang/buck (3, Interesting)

QuantumFTL (197300) | more than 7 years ago | (#16119669)

I consult for a small Asterisk host, Lylix.net, and our customers couldn't be happier. It's a bitch to configure (hence we can charge $$$ for the service) but I'll be damned if it isn't a solid piece of FOSS, much like Apache. My hats are off to the Asterisk guys, it's likely to become one of the most important FOSS projects in the next 5 years or so.

Re:Asterisk really is best bang/buck (3, Informative)

Rob from RPI (4309) | more than 7 years ago | (#16119694)

Actually, Asterisk isn't _really_ FOSS, as you have to sign a disclaimer (before you submit code to them) giving them the right to repackage it in non a FOSS way. This is so they can sell the Asterisk Binary Edition, as well as (unclear, to me) licencing issues with Intel Dialogic cards.

OpenPBX.org (nothing to do with my FreePBX project, mentioned above) is a pure GPL fork of asterisk from about a year ago, that they've done significant amounts of re-writing on, including working on a new dialplan language, as well as being able to import a lot of Steve Underwoods work (www.soft-switch.org) with software DSP (eg, soft-faxing, T.38 [fax-over-IP], better DTMF detection) that he will only licence under the pure GPL.

--Rob

Re:Asterisk really is best bang/buck (1)

zotz (3951) | more than 7 years ago | (#16119804)

"Actually, Asterisk isn't _really_ FOSS, as you have to sign a disclaimer (before you submit code to them) giving them the right to repackage it in non a FOSS way."

Not that I particularly like this practice. But wouldn't pretty much any project with a dual license strategy where one is non-free need to do this?

Anyone know what mysql and trolltech do?

all the best,

drew
http://www.nanowrimo.org/modules/newbb/viewtopic.p hp?topic_id=33654&forum=157 [nanowrimo.org]
Coming to IRC this November - live novel writing...

Re:Asterisk really is best bang/buck (3, Interesting)

Rutulian (171771) | more than 7 years ago | (#16120000)

Not sure about mysql and trolltech (I think they are mostly developed in house, actually), but Apache uses the Apache license which allows for non-free distribution of the code. The contributors have to license their contributions properly to get them accepted into the main code base, but they don't have to give up their ownership rights.

Re:Asterisk really is best bang/buck (1)

zotz (3951) | more than 7 years ago | (#16120134)

Right, perhaps I erred and should have said any Free Software project with a copyleft license.

Can you pull that off with a dual license stratgegy and no assignments?

all the best,

drew
http://www.ourmedia.org/node/258456 [ourmedia.org]
Writing a novel in 30 days in an IRC channel? Can it be done? Come in watch in November 06. The result will be under a CC BY-SA license to boot.

Re:Asterisk really is best bang/buck (1)

Rutulian (171771) | more than 7 years ago | (#16120278)

Well, there is the MPL, although the FSF considers it to be a "weak copyleft" license. I can't think of any legal reason a project would have to take ownership rights of contributed code in order to distribute under a dual-license. The FSF requests contributions to GNU projects be transferred to them for license enforcement reasons, but they don't require it.

Re:Asterisk really is best bang/buck (5, Informative)

A.K.A_Magnet (860822) | more than 7 years ago | (#16119818)

You seem to have a good knowledge of Asterisk, yet I have to correct you on the fact that Asterisk *IS* F/OSS and *IS* released under the GPL. What you're talking about is giving your copyleft to Digium if you want *YOUR CODE* to become part of the official distribution. Nothing new here, it's a common practice, used even by the FSF which *MAY* change the license then, but you can be pretty sure that the FSF won't change it to a non-copyleft license (while Digium uses it to give non-free licenses), but how do you think they'll change all code from GPL 2 to GPL 3 [not counting GPL 2 or later, since some of the GPL'ed software owned by the FSF (ie you give them your copyleft) hadn't the "GPL 2 or Later" clause and they added it later, since the license can only be changed by an agreement of all the copyleft holders, so it's easier if it's a moral entity like the FSF, MySQL AB, Trolltech the Apache Software Foundation (even if they don't use GPL, they still may want to change their license)... or Digium. And they all ask for copyleft transfer.

My point being: yes, Asterisk is "100%" F/OSS. They just don't allow other copyleft holders in THEIR distribution. Nothing would prevent OpenPBX, to sync with each latest version of Asterisk, but as long as Digium wants to hold all copylefts, they can't include code made by OpenPBX folks. Digium wanting to hold all copylefts is a part of their business model (dual-licensing). Of course, it makes it harder for OpenPBX people to sync because of the two development trees (and I understand why they'd want to keep their copyleft). However, Asterisk remains Free Software. Maybe they're not using the "Open Source development model" at its maximum though, but who cares :). As long as it's Free (with a capital F), it's fine with me.

Re:Asterisk really is best bang/buck (2, Informative)

Rob from RPI (4309) | more than 7 years ago | (#16119937)

Well, yes and no. When OpenPBX was forked, there was a fair bit of hue and cry about suing them for Trademark violation, which they resolved reasonably quickly (sed s/asterisk/openpbx/i) and then there was threats about licence violations by linking to openssl.. I can't find the exact message in the digium archive, but here's a link [digium.com] to the same issue being discussed about the freebsd port.

I tend to think that they're a bit over-protective of their code. They release it as GPL to garner community support, then as soon as someone forks it, they're all upset. That does make me a bit grumpy, but I'm probably just overreacting.

(Whilst I'm not claming a coverup, Digium do have a bit of a history of removing things from the archive [digium.com] - That link, admittedly, is a valid reason to delete stuff from the mailing list archive, but it has happened before)

--Rob

Re:Asterisk really is best bang/buck (1)

A.K.A_Magnet (860822) | more than 7 years ago | (#16120034)

OK, but then again, trademarks have nothing to do with software Freedom (which is at the copyright level); Linux is trademarked too (and the trademark is actively enforced). And regarding the URL you posted, it has nothing to do, I think, with OpenSSL (which is licensed under the Apache License, which is compatible with the GPL), but with Open H323 which is under the MPL (Mozilla Public License, incompatible with the GPL). And Digium could link with OpenH323 by dual licensing the needed component linking with OpenH323 under another license (eg LGPL), what OpenPBX folks can't do since they must keep the GPL and there will always be the Digium copyleft in their OpenPBX tree preventing them from changing the license. So, there are some licensing "issues", if we can call them issues, but it doesn't change the fact that Asterisk *is* a Free Software. Proof is, OpenPBX forked it :).

Now, about being overprotective of their code, maybe, I don't know. Asking for copyleft is just to be able to dual-license though. And I understand they're not happy with the fork; they can't use the code from the fork (since, of course the fork people forked in the first place to keep their copylefts, so there's no point asking), and OpenPBX can use all the Asterisk code, which they develop full-time in Digium. But forking was a good way to get leverage to have a more community-driven developpment model (even if in the end or at least for now, it seems to have failed as such). Some F/OSS companies using a dual-licensing business model simply refuse contributions to avoid all these problems, though. So Digium's not that bad. Closed-source software offers you control; F/OSS offers you ubiquity. They tried to keep both, and they may lose both in the long run. Once again, the software being Free matters most (or else, there wouldn't be no OpenPBX around :)).

Re:Asterisk really is best bang/buck (2, Informative)

A.K.A_Magnet (860822) | more than 7 years ago | (#16120053)

Woops. My bad, The Apache Software License isn't compatible with the GPL:
This is a free software license but it is incompatible with the GPL. The Apache Software License is incompatible with the GPL because it has a specific requirement that is not in the GPL: it has certain patent termination cases that the GPL does not require. (We don't think those patent termination cases are inherently a bad idea, but nonetheless they are incompatible with the GNU GPL.)
And OpenSSL isn't under the Apache Software License but under the OpenSSL License! So there was a problem with OpenSSL too :).
The license of OpenSSL is a conjunction of two licenses, One of them being the license of SSLeay. You must follow both. The combination results in a copyleft free software license that is incompatible with the GNU GPL. It also has an advertising clause like the original BSD license and the Apache license. We recommend using GNUTLS instead of OpenSSL in software you write. However, there is no reason not to use OpenSSL and applications that work with OpenSSL.

Sorry :)

Re:Asterisk really is best bang/buck (1)

cullenfluffyjennings (138377) | more than 7 years ago | (#16120138)

It seems to me that the inevitable outcome of this is that someone will fork Asterisk and Digium will have one stream and the open source people will have another.

Re:Asterisk really is best bang/buck (1)

hpavc (129350) | more than 7 years ago | (#16119969)

Your saying its more closed than CCM in some way?

Re:Asterisk really is best bang/buck (1)

Rob from RPI (4309) | more than 7 years ago | (#16119697)

Hah. I just clicked on your tagline, and you're reselling Trixbox, which is based on FreePBX. Read the top comment, upgrade your sites 8)

--Rob

Asterisk versus CCM features (5, Insightful)

Alistair Cunningham (20266) | more than 7 years ago | (#16119691)

From the article:

"While Asterisk and the SIP protocol lack some of the more extensive features on the Cisco CallManager..."

This may be true for vanilla Asterisk, but there is an extensive community adding a wide range of additional features and services to Asterisk. For example, <plug>our Enswitch product [integrics.com] </plug> provides a layer of billing and commercial services on top of Asterisk and SIP Express Router. Having work extensively with both Asterisk and CCM, I would claim that with Asterisk plus all the applications that work with it already surpasses the features of CCM, and Asterisk has the momentum behind it. Over the next few years, CCM will fall further behind, and before long Asterisk will be the dominant telephony platform in the same way Apache is the dominant web server platform now.

They went just a little bit too cheap.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16119698)

"The Asterisk functions are spread across six redundant Dell servers"

How is it that you can save thousands on Cisco licensing, and yet still see the need to try and save more by buying crappy Dell hardware.

Are they at least running Solaris 10, which can improve performance?

http://www.thrallingpenguin.com/articles/asterisk- solaris.htm [thrallingpenguin.com]

Re:They went just a little bit too cheap.... (2, Insightful)

thecashcow (1003199) | more than 7 years ago | (#16119704)

I'd be interested to see the total cost of ownership including ongoing maintenance of Asterisk vs Cisco which has an abundance of specialists.

Re:They went just a little bit too cheap.... (2, Informative)

HeadbangerSmurf (649736) | more than 7 years ago | (#16119761)

I used to work for a company that did a buttload of Call Manager. Well, they still do but I don't. I love Call Manager. It's an incredible platform but it's just so damn expensive. Both systems need care and feeding and I would say that Asterisk needs more of that at this point in time. The Call Manager systems I've worked on ran smoothly and required little to know intervention. Asterisk is a bit more of an attention whore right now but I figure that will change as time goes on. The big thing with Asterisk is the price. Even if we charge a ton for setup we still beat the traditional VoIP phone vendors by quite a bit. We beat one by half earlier this year, $35k to $17k for Asterisk and that was using expensive phones. I've got a CM 3.3 system installed here in town that has been going strong for 4 years. Every so often it needs to be rebooted and I did end up replacing a hard drive in the Exchange/Unity server two years ago, but that's it. It just runs. We seem to reboot Asterisk about once a month right now instead of once every ten months. That and echo tuning on Asterisk is a pain in the rear. I don't think I've gotten one system to be echo free. Of course, that could be because everyone likes to crank the volume on the phone so high I can hear it in the next room. Tom

The Grammar Police (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16119828)

You know, I'd hate to be labelled the Grammar Police, but I stopped reading the above post as soon as I hit this gem: "and required little to know intervention." Or should that be "You no, I'd hate to be..."

Re:The Grammar Police (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 7 years ago | (#16119913)

God forbid someone makes a grammar mistake in a long post... jackass.

Easy there, Cowboy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16119964)

How the hell does the length of a post affect an individual's grammer? "Know" for "no" is a truly boneheaded error, much more so than "then" for "than". I never fault the sometimes ridiculous spelling/grammer of posts from English-as-a-2nd/3rd/4th-language folks, but you can usually spot one of those when you're reading it. This one doesn't have that feel. The quality of spelling/grammer/communication in the US sucks; the only reason things keep working is that English is such a contextual language you can relay huge amounts of meaning with next to no (correct) words. This is probably also why email loses in efficiency much of what it gains in speed, it's hard to convey the context (which might be carrying a non-trivial percentage of the message's information.) But hell, don't listen to me. I write with a '57 Pelikan 140 and only yesterday got a cellphone (so I'd be able to get the call that every parent fears.)

Re:Easy there, Cowboy (4, Insightful)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 7 years ago | (#16120037)

"Know" for "no" is a truly boneheaded error, much more so than "then" for "than".

You forgot a question mark in your post correcting him - that's an even more bonehead error.

His message was adequately communicated - you don't need to be annoying and correct him. If you were adding clarity to his post, it would be one thing, but you are just nit-picking. Add something to the conversation or go the hell away.

Re:Easy there, Cowboy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16120125)

How the hell does the length of a post affect an individual's grammer? "Know" for "no" is a truly boneheaded error, much more so than "then" for "than". I never fault the sometimes ridiculous spelling/grammer of posts from English-as-a-2nd/3rd/4th-language folks, but you can usually spot one of those when you're reading it. This one doesn't have that feel. The quality of spelling/grammer/communication in the US sucks; the only reason things keep working is that English is such a contextual language you can relay huge amounts of meaning with next to no (correct) words. This is probably also why email loses in efficiency much of what it gains in speed, it's hard to convey the context (which might be carrying a non-trivial percentage of the message's information.) But hell, don't listen to me. I write with a '57 Pelikan 140 and only yesterday got a cellphone (so I'd be able to get the call that every parent fears.)
Do you find it just the least bit incongruous to complain about the grammar in a post, while not even knowing how to spell the word?

Re:Easy there, Cowboy (1)

Ph33r th3 g(O)at (592622) | more than 7 years ago | (#16120135)

"Know" for "no" is a truly boneheaded error,

Almost as boneheaded as "grammer" for "grammar" -- next time you feel like self-righteously criticizing another's writing, you would do well to spell correctly.

Re:The Grammar Police (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16119932)

That's not bad grammar, it's a typo. Is it annoying? Yes. Can we still understand him? Yep. Does it really matter? Not really.


:)

Re:The Grammar Police (1)

HeadbangerSmurf (649736) | more than 7 years ago | (#16120240)

I'm tired. Excuse me for letting my fingers spell the words and not my brain.

Re:They went just a little bit too cheap.... (1)

nikkoslack (739901) | more than 7 years ago | (#16119836)

Well, I have run asterisk in a business environment for 3 years, and my TCO is 0. nada. zip. I use $169 Polycom SIP phones, pay NO licensing for any audio codecs, it runs on a PC that was once a desktop that we replaced as a result of desktop upgrades. So a pc unsuitable for a desktop runs my entire PBX, on Slackware 10.1, and with 0 downtime for 16 months. Asterisk just runs, and cheap.

Re:They went just a little bit too cheap.... (1)

justinbiscuit (1003210) | more than 7 years ago | (#16119924)

Did you work for free? No maintenance on the hardware? What happens if you get run over by a bus? TCO is never 0, nada or even zip.

Re:They went just a little bit too cheap.... (1)

nikkoslack (739901) | more than 7 years ago | (#16119970)

Well, I DID do the initial install on UC (uncompensated overtime), because my management was not convinced to pitch our commercial pbx which was costing us $300/month. It took me two evenings of free time.

Re:They went just a little bit too cheap.... (1)

justinbiscuit (1003210) | more than 7 years ago | (#16119996)

Two small pieces of advice (its free so I know you will have to take it) - 1. Never work for free 2. Never do IT work for a company that even blinks at $300 a month! Remember that its not your money. Try to look at it in terms of total revenue.

Re:They went just a little bit too cheap.... (1)

tsajeff (925056) | more than 7 years ago | (#16120243)

I disagree. Work for free when it benefits you in the long run; for instance, you are learning a new technology, language, etc., which makes you more marketable in the future. Just don't list on your resume that you work for free!!

Re:They went just a little bit too cheap.... (1)

glomph (2644) | more than 7 years ago | (#16119949)

Ditto here. I have numerous asterisk machines, none fancy, around the world (also running on Slackware!). No problems at all. Also with the $169. Polycom 501. Great central administration, excellent sound. The users love them. Hint: DO NOT go cheap and get Polycom 301 phones. They work fine, but the UI is unusable. And NEVER have both in the same office, the people with the 301s will hate you and feel they've been branded as second class citizens.

Re:They went just a little bit too cheap.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16120030)

This university has tried stuff like this before. They end up going back to Cisco when they can't figure out why something doesn't work and end up spending a shitload on consultants that more than make up for the difference. It barely made a yawn at Cisco when became known earlier in the week. Why, because its a university techie trying to flex his muscles and show how he can do it on his own and is not indicative of a larger migration.

SIP is nothing more than an industry buzzword right now. Has anyone actually looked at what features it DOESN'T support without doing some additional coding? Sure almost anything is extendable, but why should I use have to write a hook or code for features that I get native with SCCP? I'm not talking obscure features, I'm talking mainline things....

There is a reason that Cisco is the number #1 VoIP provider (sorry Avaya fanboys, its the truth...) and they continue to take market share. The product works with the features that users want/need. Now with a migration to Linux for the OS, its only going to accelerate.

Yep I'm biased as I work for Cisco, but I'm also not blinded by the lemming mentality of Linux/FoSS that open=good, closed=bad. Its just not that simple in the real world.

Re:They went just a little bit too cheap.... (1)

r00t (33219) | more than 7 years ago | (#16120259)

The Cisco setup was keeping them on Windows 2000 and limiting the patches they could apply. Fuck that!

Your "Now with a migration to Linux for the OS" comment is interesting though. Does Cisco stuff run on that now?

I'm surprised you don't just use your own OS. Isn't Cisco IOS something forked off of BSD ages ago?

Re:They went just a little bit too cheap.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16119787)

Solaris 10? The only OS that has a word processor in its "base" install? The OS that makes M$ bloat look lean? The last Sane, Secure and Stable OS from Sun was Solaris 9.

Re:They went just a little bit too cheap.... (1)

alienw (585907) | more than 7 years ago | (#16120105)

What the hell is wrong with Dell servers? They are the #1 vendor, for a good reason. Who exactly makes better servers?

Re:They went just a little bit too cheap.... (1)

Nicolas MONNET (4727) | more than 7 years ago | (#16120451)

They're not #1 in the server market, they're #4 down from #3, as Sun just passed them.

Re:They went just a little bit too cheap.... (1)

smchris (464899) | more than 7 years ago | (#16120328)


Doesn't surprise me coming from an academic background. Business in the last few decades has had a lot of gall saying colleges have to learn to be lean like they are. I know in our state money to the state colleges has been stagnant for years after a year of significant decline. You might think your tuition pays to keep a college running but it doesn't. Working at a couple private colleges I have become acutely aware that they are charities and walking through a private college campus in particular is like walking through a mausoleum. Every building, every rock garden or artwork, heck, probably every TREE is in memory of some dead person. It isn't surprising when you see even a state-subsidized college or university taking the initiative on something like this because their intellectual talents _are_ their most fluid assets. And making due with the hardware they can afford. If it bothers you and you are a Sam Houston grad, I suggest making a dedicated donation to your alumni association.

Asterisk in the workplace (3, Interesting)

HeadbangerSmurf (649736) | more than 7 years ago | (#16119705)

My company sells Asterisk solutions to business clients and we're very happy with it. Once you figure out what you're doing the sky is the limit when it comes to configuration. My only issue with Asterisk is the voicemail subsystem. If Digium would put some time into that I would be the happiest person alive. Tom

Re:Asterisk in the workplace (1)

thecashcow (1003199) | more than 7 years ago | (#16119726)

This should certainly be an indication boost for the sustainabilty of your employer Tom.

Re:Asterisk in the workplace (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 7 years ago | (#16119843)

Once you figure out what you're doing the sky is the limit when it comes to configuration.
In other words you mean it is not intuitive to use, and will take a while to learn to use. It doesn't seem like a good project for a company to start on its own if it isn't its core business.

Re:Asterisk in the workplace (2, Insightful)

HeadbangerSmurf (649736) | more than 7 years ago | (#16119866)

While I understand what you're saying it makes me wonder what projects you WOULD start if you only look at your current experience. How did you get where you are today? You obviously didn't know everything when you first started. :) Check out the Asterisk forums at http://forums.digium.com./ [forums.digium.com] Using those forums and the Asterisk: The Future of Telephony book from O'Reilly I've learned enough to build some nice systems. Tom

Unversites are overrated. (3, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 7 years ago | (#16119727)

This is not an attempt to troll or anything. But this doesn't seem like to me as a major blow to Cisco. Universities and Corporate and Government user are a much larger sectors at large compared to universities. And dont tell the College recruiters this the rest of the world doesn't follow what universities do. for the following reasons.

Universities have cheap skilled labor. A slew of talented kids/young adults who are willing towork for free or near minimum wage, but when they leave to the real world they will be demanding $35,000 and up a year for the same job. This is the reason why many Open Source projects work and save money in Universities but when a Corporation gets it, it becomes a money pot. Because for a company it is cheaper to call Cisco and pay them $1000 for a fix to their problems then having a team of 10 people at your company taking a day to fix the problem because they do not have the answer sitting right in front of them or able to contact the engineer who created it. vs. a University where this 10 people 8 bucks an hour are much cheaper then calling Cisco for help.

Universities are allowed to experiment almost by charter. If something goes wrong this screw all the people who are not getting phone service. You will have wait until we fix the problem, it is not like we are loosing money with the phones down for a couple of hours. Private companies loose money when their communication are done so they want Cisco to come and fix it right away and they better know what they are doing. Being an Education facility it is allowed to experiment in different products while Companies find better value in using what they know works.

Liberal University vs. Conservative Corporations, basically means if it not exactly what we want we keep on trying and trying until we get it right (perhaps making it worse in the process) or If it does what we need we hold on to it until we find the perfect solution (which guarantees that they are going to use a product they don't like for a long time)

This is why Open Source is popular in Universities but in Corporate and government use they need to work a little harder to get acceptance.

What you say is true ... as far as it goes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16119846)

The people who learn their chops in university are hired by major corporations. The major corps then have the talent they need to implement and maintain something like Asterisk. So, maybe the universities aren't that important in the short term but in the long term they sure are.

Re:What you say is true ... as far as it goes (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 7 years ago | (#16119894)

That is assuming the Company can gather a team of Asterisk people. I most cased the person will be hired and do what they learned with Asterisk and use many of the Ideas on Cisco Stuff. Still when they are hired they are going to get paid more money where on the spot Cisco support is cheaper then them figuring out the problem. It is not about the product being bad it is just the Cost savings in the university are far greater then what corporate savings are. Asterisk will have a better chance if there is a RedHat/Novel/Microsoft/IBM Backup.

Re:Unversites are overrated. (1)

cullenfluffyjennings (138377) | more than 7 years ago | (#16120119)

Cisco has helped many universities experiment with open source call control such as the sipexchange PBX at sipfoundry.org and SER at iptel.org. They bought Vovida and open-sourced all the software including a very large PBX system at vovida.org.

Re:Unversites are overrated. (1, Interesting)

daigu (111684) | more than 7 years ago | (#16120132)

I disagree with almost with everything in your post. Corporate environments tend to follow university practices because the so-called skilled labor gets a job and wonders why the corporation they work at is paying so much for X, doesn't use X and what have you. I know I personally was involved in changing some of the infrastructure of the company I worked at after college because they were practically stone age in their thinking - and still are. I didn't even work in the IT department.

Open source is not a money pot. It is simply a skill. It's like the introduction of computers. Everyone had to learn how to type - not just secretaries. However, the advantages were there to warrant the investment. It is the same with open source.

If you think the people that actually run the infrastructure the university needs are making minimum wage, are students/professors, or whatever, then you definitely don't know what you are talking about.

Universities, particularly the people that run them, aren't any less conservative than the people that run corporations. The difference is that they need to figure out how to roll out new services and do it will less money. Most corporations are simply fat and can afford to pay for some consultant or other company to fix their problems for them. Universities don't have that luxury.

Re:Unversites are overrated. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16120287)

just cause the system isn't featured on house md doesn't mean asterisk isn't viable.

running a call centre here and it does the job just fine. Cisco would have been money down the drain

Re:Unversites are overrated. (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 7 years ago | (#16120464)

If it is successful, supporting 6000 users is certainly significant, whether at a university or anywhere else. I think that is the point. Most companies, as you say, are risk averse and won't know if something is better until somebody (yes, often a university) takes the plunge and shows them it is possible. In the long run, I think that makes universities more (not less) influential. Google, Oracle, FedEx... the number of companies that started as school projects or that used a university as an incubator are too numerous to count.

Asterisk needs improvement. (2, Interesting)

nblender (741424) | more than 7 years ago | (#16119735)

I work for a SIP hardware provider. We have a whole department dedicated to interoperability testing with other vendors of SIP infrastructure and user agents. Asterisk is approximately the least SIP compliant bit of software out there. It's great if all you want to do is basic calls but the reason why it's perceived as working so well is because vendors (like us) have to hack our software to work with it because our customers demand it, even if it makes us non-RFC compliant. Why has Asterisk never shown up at a Sipit bakeoff despite having been repeatedly invited? Asterisk has unfortunate momentum.

Re:Asterisk needs improvement. (3, Informative)

Rob from RPI (4309) | more than 7 years ago | (#16119759)

That's totally incorrect. OEJ (a leading developer) has taken Asterisk several times to SIP Interoperability Testing meetings, and has acted very proactively to fix perceived or real incompatibilities.

I just did a quick search of the Digium bugtracker, and I didn't see any 'SIP Incompatibilty' bugs there apart from an issue with sipgate.de.

I honestly think you're trolling, or you have no concept of how FOSS works. If there's a bug, you fix it, and if you can't fix it, you report it and someone who can fix it, will.

--Rob

Re:Asterisk needs improvement. (1)

Rob from RPI (4309) | more than 7 years ago | (#16119764)

And this is [asterisk.org] exactly the link I was thinking about. Please, don't feed the troll.

No PCWorld? (1)

Mr2cents (323101) | more than 7 years ago | (#16119746)

I mean, before bashing on other people, they might just have looked at their own site.. The page contains 160 images (is that really neccesary?)), When I hit back I got a "malformed URL" message, and frankly, it's just an ugly and awkward site IMO.

SCCP = Skinny? (1)

Zygamorph (917923) | more than 7 years ago | (#16119770)

OK I give up why is SCCP called "Skinny" instead of "Skippy"?

Re:SCCP = Skinny? (1)

saridder (103936) | more than 7 years ago | (#16119850)

Good question. I'm going to call it Skippy from now on.

Re:SCCP = Skinny? (2, Informative)

saridder (103936) | more than 7 years ago | (#16119862)

But if I remember - and I'm too lazy to look it up - SCCP stands for SKINNY Client Control Protocol, and is a modified, scaled-down (skinny) version of H.323. The original Selsius (company Cisco bought in 1998 which gave us Call Manager) designers didn't have a SIP or other protocol to use back then and H.323 was too much, hence why SCCP was first created.

Re:SCCP = Skinny? (1)

cullenfluffyjennings (138377) | more than 7 years ago | (#16120151)


SCCP is skinny - don't ask why

Skippy is what you get when you cross SIP and SCCP.

Re:SCCP = Skinny? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16120265)

Skinny Client Control Protocol

Spoofing Caller ID never gets old (1)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 7 years ago | (#16119771)

My friend at my last job wrote his own VOIP software and he told me it wasn't very hard. If I had my own voip system, all I'd be doing would be making calls to my friends from the White House, Pentagon, or other famous places for fun.

Re:Spoofing Caller ID never gets old (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16120389)

Spoofing caller ID has nothing to do with VoIP. Depending on the configuration of your trunking interface, you can happily send any digits you want to you carrier using PRI. Take a hard look at Q.931, you'll see that the presentation IEs contain no restrictions on caller ID, and most carriers don't enforce any restrictions either. Don't make this a VoIP issue, it isn't.

Why do they price themselves out of the market? (2, Interesting)

Cicero382 (913621) | more than 7 years ago | (#16119773)

Or, more puzzlingly (that a word?), how do some companies get away with competing against FOSS products with highly expensive proprietary offerings? I'm assuming that the proprietary solution has the same functionality as the other; maybe some bells and whistles on the fringes, but essentially the same.

They must make their money from licencing fees (and maintenance, but FOSS can do that, too). So why don't customers choose the cheaper option. Don't get me wrong; while I approve of FOSS and use it whenever I can, I won't hestitate to buy a proprietary product if it does what I need and there isn't a viable FOSS alternative.

I'm no expert in this - which is why I'm puzzled. Can anyone tell me (us) why? Is it any combination of the following?

1. "Noone was ever fired for buying IBM" (MS/Cisco/etc).
2. The bells and whistles are what the buyer craves.
3. Proprietary products have better support.
4. It's free, so it can't be worth anything.
5. What's FOSS?
6. We only run Windows (Solaris, whatever).
7. Proprietary products are better "rounded" or "easier to use".

I know that all these have flaws and, sometimes the reason is valid. But overall, I think my question still stands.

BTW. If anyone can think of anything to add to the list - I'd love to hear it.

Re:Why do they price themselves out of the market? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16119802)

"how do some companies get away with competing against FOSS products with highly expensive proprietary offerings? I'm assuming that the proprietary solution has the same functionality as the other; maybe some bells and whistles on the fringes, but essentially the same."

Your assumptions are a bit broad. I'll toss out a couple of things here, you tell me how FOSS does it.

1. Cisco phones support 802.1q trunking. Plug phone into switch, plug pc into phone. Phone creates a trunk to the switch supporting multiple vlans, the phone & the pc plugged into the phone share one physical wire, but exist on two seperate vlans. This saves switchports as well as physical wiring.
2. Cisco makes call managers on a card for their routers.

Re:Why do they price themselves out of the market? (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 7 years ago | (#16119882)

The trunking is a feature of the phone, not of the backend PBX software...
You can use cisco phones with asterisk, i`m using a 7960 at home with multiple asterisk servers (the 7960 has support for 6 "lines"), and the vlan trunking works on it, although i don't use it at home...
Many of the Nortel phones support trunking too, tho i can't speak for any of the other vendors.
In terms of the backend, linux will also support trunking if you need such a facility on the backend.

Re:Why do they price themselves out of the market? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16119823)

1. "Noone was ever fired for buying IBM" (MS/Cisco/etc).

Nobody ever got fired when the PIR yielded the reason for the outage was vendor error. The vendor takes the blame, the employee looks clean.

Employee uses unsupported platform with nobody else to take the blame: employee has to suck it up and admit a bad decision.

2. The bells and whistles are what the buyer craves.

The bells and whistles are often critical functionality. I've seen one place pay up for bounty after bounty to get all their features in open source, however, so that can work.

3. Proprietary products have better support.

If my Linux box panics, I get to google for it and eventually give up. If my Sun/Solaris box panics, I get to send a core dump to Sun and annoy them until I get an answer and a patch.

4. It's free, so it can't be worth anything.

Nah, this one has pretty much gone away. Used to be a HUGE amount of this mindset though.

5. What's FOSS?

"FOSS" is a really, really stupid sounding abbreviation. It sucks. Most people in the industry will respond to "Open Source", but they'll either glaze over or burst out laughing if someone says "FOSS". Besides, in a number of industries "OSS" is not free software.

6. We only run Windows (Solaris, whatever).

Windows has no free software culture. It has even less than zero open source culture. A lot of Solaris shops run a lot of open source, but a lot of open source is ... LINUX ONLY. Proprietary. Want X feature? Only compiles on Linux. User-mode app requires kernel headers. Only supports PC hardware. Requires glibc. Requires gcc. Won't compile on a 64bit platform.

7. Proprietary products are better "rounded" or "easier to use".

Yep. They're supported on your platform, don't require as much screwing around just to get them running. The big meaty enterprise applications are just as hard to deploy as anything free, so that isn't it. The winner is when you get stuck you can raise a support request and the vendor is obliged to answer your question, whereas the appropriate newsgroup crowd would probably just turn around and respond with "n00b", "RTFM", "piss off" or "give up and run windows, n00b".

Re:Why do they price themselves out of the market? (1)

Cicero382 (913621) | more than 7 years ago | (#16120066)

Well, you have some good points, but...

++"Nobody ever got fired when the PIR yielded the reason for the outage was vendor error. The vendor takes the blame, the employee looks clean.
Employee uses unsupported platform with nobody else to take the blame: employee has to suck it up and admit a bad decision."

Or, in the real world: "The reason for the outage was vendor error: employee has to suck it up and admit a bad decision."

++The bells and whistles are often critical functionality. I've seen one place pay up for bounty after bounty to get all their features in open source, however, so that can work.

Err, no. I defined "bells and whistles" as fringe functionality earlier in my post - no cigar. I also pointed out that if a FOSS package won't do what I want, I'll go the proprietary way, so I would certainly not throw money at a dysfunctional FOSS product.

++If my Linux box panics, I get to google for it and eventually give up. If my Sun/Solaris box panics, I get to send a core dump to Sun and annoy them until I get an answer and a patch.

Linux box panics? SOLARIS BOX PANICS? Very rare; however I get your point - I assume you mean O/S or application problems. A few points here: for Linux, I'd google for the correct *forum* and ask there. Funnily enough there are also Solaris forums which can be more helpful than Sun support. In my experience, if the problem proves intractable, an email to the original author of the Linux code usually provides a helpful response within 48 hours. For Solaris I send a full report from the Solaris diagnostic tool (can't remember what it's called, but much more than a core dump). I try not to *annoy* them, because that's usually counter productive.

++"4. It's free, so it can't be worth anything.
Nah, this one has pretty much gone away. Used to be a HUGE amount of this mindset though."

I agree that this is much less of a problem than it was but it's still there more than I would like.

++"FOSS" is a really, really stupid sounding abbreviation. It sucks. Most people in the industry will respond to "Open Source", but they'll either glaze over or burst out laughing if someone says "FOSS". Besides, in a number of industries "OSS" is not free software.

I have to agree. FOSS is not a well recognised acronym and, as you say, it sucks. Also, the little internicene wars between the various licences, definitions (GNU, OSS, etc) are doing very little good for the "Open Source" cause. I can (sort of) understand the "religious" differences between open source licences and the GNU licences (no, they're *not* the same - look it up). I can't help feeling, however, that these disagreements within the community are slowing down the adoption of FOSS in the business community. My view is that as soon as FOSS/OS/Freeware/GNU/etc present a united front, business take-up will improve enormously. Remember that these entities are effectively run by bean-counters and lawyers (spit).

++Windows has no free software culture. It has even less than zero open source culture. A lot of Solaris shops run a lot of open source, but a lot of open source is ... LINUX ONLY. Proprietary. Want X feature? Only compiles on Linux. User-mode app requires kernel headers. Only supports PC hardware. Requires glibc. Requires gcc. Won't compile on a 64bit platform.

You're partially (mostly?) correct. I run a couple of companies which both use Linux and Solaris. I don't really have a problem with using OSS with Solaris, but that's probably because I only want OSS software to supply services on Solaris which Sun *hardware* is especially good at providing. Maybe that's why I can usually find the right applications in the OSS field. I don't use Linux as the O/S on Sun platforms - I use Solaris. Likewise, I don't use KDE/Gnome or anything else on the Sun systems. From my point of view, Suns are for heavy throughput systems - not desktops. I use Linux for desktop systems. (No, I don't use Windows because almost all our systems are UNIX based)

++Yep. They're supported on your platform, don't require as much screwing around just to get them running. The big meaty enterprise applications are just as hard to deploy as anything free, so that isn't it. The winner is when you get stuck you can raise a support request and the vendor is obliged to answer your question, whereas the appropriate newsgroup crowd would probably just turn around and respond with "n00b", "RTFM", "piss off" or "give up and run windows, n00b".

I can only surmise that you haven't done your homework and visited a totally inappropriate newsgroup, or you are asking a insultingly simple question. For my part, I have always found the groups that I visit to be courteous and helpful. On the other hand I haven't asked "where is the power switch" type of questions. As for your assertion that "the vendor is obliged to answer your question" - which vendor? More imporatantly - "which planet?"

Re:Why do they price themselves out of the market? (3, Insightful)

growse (928427) | more than 7 years ago | (#16120090)

It's the support. Company A spends a large amount of money buying (say, Microsoft/Cisco/whatever) and at the same time takes out an expensive support contract. Company B uses FOSS.

Something goes wrong. Company A gets on the phone, and they have an engineer on-site within the hour, and the problem is fixed within 3 hours. Total cost? Loss of 3 hours business + SLA payouts.

Company B runs around for a bit trying to figure out what the hell it might have been, before flash-hiring a bunch of software consultants (thing $$$) to try and figure out what the problem is. These consultants probably resort to asking the question as to what went wrong on the FOSS's community forum. Problem eventually gets solved in 3 days. Total cost? Company B goes out of business.

FOSS is fantastic, but big corporates don't have time for it. They can't afford to have downtime (total significance depends on what business they're in, but in the business I work for, you lose a minute's worth of data, people buy from your competitor) and so buy the only thing on the market that comes with a decent support contract. This just happens to be stuff that's expensive in the first place (Windows etc).

As has been mentioned earlier, Universities are fine. If their phones/IT goes down, they don't lose money. Business is not like that.

Re:Why do they price themselves out of the market? (1)

binaryspiral (784263) | more than 7 years ago | (#16120184)

Customers like 24/7/365 support - and they're willing to pay for it. Cisco doesn't always handle the support for every Cisco installation. There are 3rd parties who support other company's infrastructure. If their network is already Cisco, and you're looking to go VoIP - CCM is the logical step. Especially if your infrastructure support teams already have Cisco support.

There is also the fact that Cisco is an established product with established performance and support record. Granted you have to pay for it... but you're not betting on a distributed support team of people who don't have a building, arn't traded on the stock market, and may just disappear next week.

I know it's a lame sense of insecurity - look at apache, and all the other really great OSS in use by companies today. Give Asterik some time and it'll be accepted as ready for prime-time software.

Re:Why do they price themselves out of the market? (2, Insightful)

mukund (163654) | more than 7 years ago | (#16120208)

There are several reasons, many of which you have stated.

One more reason I have observed is that people get used to a particular platform. More often than not, a commercial vendor enters a market first, or even creates the market. So people start using that vendor's products and then it becomes difficult for them to switch and learn something new. Many are satisfied if something just simply works, and they don't want change. In this SIP case, they probably purchase the hardware and software as a bundle.

This same thing can be said of peoples' reluctance to stop using Windows. Sure, some games don't run on Linux and there are some other drawbacks, but otherwise Linux can serve pretty well in the personal desktop area. ["OpenOffice doesn't open my Word document" is not really a great excuse as the Word document format is not an open standard, but Linux distributions do implement open standards well from basic internet protocols right till MPEG audio/video.] People start on Windows. So that's where things need to be changed.. in schools and universities, and at places where people get their first computer.

Re:Why do they price themselves out of the market? (1)

Cicero382 (913621) | more than 7 years ago | (#16120344)

++One more reason I have observed is that people get used to a particular platform. More often than not, a commercial vendor enters a market first, or even creates the market. So people start using that vendor's products and then it becomes difficult for them to switch and learn something new. Many are satisfied if something just simply works, and they don't want change. In this SIP case, they probably purchase the hardware and software as a bundle.

Yup! I can see that. But why can't OSS businesses offer the same solution.

++This same thing can be said of peoples' reluctance to stop using Windows. Sure, some games don't run on Linux and there are some other drawbacks, but otherwise Linux can serve pretty well in the personal desktop area

You know what? That aspect hadn't even occurred to me, but I bet you just nailed it. It's GAMES. Now I, as a UNIX administrator, don't have many games available to me, but I do remember how an MS administrator told me when DOOM hit the gaming market that his network was suffering badly because everyone was playing DOOM network games. So a large portion of the user community *don't* want to switch because they'd lose access to their favorite games. Someone *PLEASE* tell me I'm being too cynical. On the other hand... I have a single XP system here - why? Well, my *official* excuse is that we need it for a couple of critical applications which will only run on Windows. Unofficially? Err.. There are a couple of games on that system and.. we really need the shit-hot graphics card and 2G RAM and biiiiig processor and monitor because... LOOK - I OWN THE COMPANY - OK? SHADDAP!!

Ill-informed management and labor flexibility (1)

swb (14022) | more than 7 years ago | (#16120233)

Management is usually ill-informed and tends to approve money spent on name-brand products that are purchased through familiar sales cycles from established VARs. They're getting "something" for their money. Projects involving FOSS tend to have money spent and labor expended, but in a way that feels unfamiliar to management and on products they're likely very unfamiliar with.

Labor flexibility is two-pronged. Proprietary products can be faster to implement than FOSS solutions since the vendors usually sell installation (whole or support) as well. This enables full-time staff to keep doing their jobs without hitting a huge learning curve for a new system. FOSS solutions can have some of this, too, but often don't, requiring a lot of experimentation, testing, and dealing with the learning curve, taking time today's "lean" staffs don't have.

The other side of labor flexibility is that the labor marketplace tends to be filled with people used to the proprietary product sales/install cycle and experienced in its operation. Skilled open source people are harder to find, harder to replace, and tend to be able to demand higher salaries.

Another open source alternative (1)

cluge (114877) | more than 7 years ago | (#16119816)

I've used asterisk quite a bit and it works quite well. Also Sipx PBX is another good performer, although slightly harder to set up, easeier to configure. Sipx PBX is another open source solution that can be found over at the Sip Foundry [sipfoundry.org] . They have some good testing code that comes in handy when troubleshooting sip to sip issues. cluge

Support When Aaron Daniels Leaves? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16119853)

I hope they have some other Asterix or at least linux junkies in their grad programs when he takes off. Otherwise, he's given them lower cost over the short term only.

Asterisk? (2, Informative)

TCM (130219) | more than 7 years ago | (#16119991)

I know everyone hypes Asterisk and Open Source and all that.

But has anyone looked at Asterisk close enough? It's the most horrid piece of software I have seen in a long time. Its configuration is awkward at best and downright inconsistent and nonsensical at worst.

Its documentation is practially non-existent. Nowhere do you find a good documentation written by the programmers. All you have are Wikis and web sites where people try and guess how Asterisk works. Howtos consist of config snippets without explaining what the options mean, let alone explaining the grand scheme behind everything.

Maybe it works after you configured it based on some other guy's experience, but if you want clean and well-documented software, go look elsewhere.

Asterisk seems to be the PHP or MySQL of the PBX world.

</rant>

Re:Asterisk? (1)

alienw (585907) | more than 7 years ago | (#16120189)

Not to mention, have you looked at the code? It's some of the most hideous code you could think of. In fact, it's hard to think of a worse way to structure a program. It spawns a thread for everything, has random undocumented mutexes, absolutely bizarre ways of passing data (necessary because the switching core is primitive and does not have all the necessary capabilities). The architecture itself is some kind of pseudo-OOP thing implemented in C, with hacks on top to add random features. "Big ball of mud" doesn't even begin to describe it.

FreeSWITCH is better than Asterisk (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16120041)

Check out FreeSWITCH its much better. http://www.freeswich.org/ [freeswich.org]

It has more work to go but its on the road to whip Asterisk.

Freeloaders or open source pioneers ? (3, Interesting)

cullenfluffyjennings (138377) | more than 7 years ago | (#16120083)

There is some irony to this story - the expensive part of any phone system is (hold your breath) the phones. I will point out that the SHSU could pick an open standard protocol and move the phones from one system to another. Try that with Microsoft Office Communicator some time - you can't. I noticed that this story is under the Linux category and - I will point out that Cisco Call Manager 5.0 runs on linux and can run SIP to phones (as well as many other protocols).

Now, I know Asterix fairly well, Cisco fairly well, open source VoIP fairly well (as the joke goes I wrote the O'Reilly book), and SIP really really well. As was pointed out in Mark Spencer's Keynote at VON last week, the SIP stack in Asterix certainly has some room for improvement. And given SHSU does not seem to have any intention to support the development of Asterix by buying a support contract from Digium, I sure hope they are doing something to make sure that Asterix get the support that they will need it to have to stay relevant.

odd use of words .. (1)

rs232 (849320) | more than 7 years ago | (#16120358)

"the expensive part of any phone system is (hold your breath) the phones" - cullenfluffyjennings

"We thought that it will be more cost effective in the long run to go with an open source solution, because of the massive amounts of licensing fees required"

"And given SHSU does not seem to have any intention to support the development of Asterix by buying a support contract from Digium, I sure hope they are doing something to make sure that Asterix get the support that they will need it to have to stay relevant." - cullenfluffyjennings

The article actually doesn't mention a support contract. Daniel actually talks about adding to Asterix and engaging with the online community. Given that the drive for the project was is cost and since the SHSU can handle its own support it wouldn make sense if you can handle your own support issues. Senior voice analyst Aaron Daniel, did have this to say in relation to adding new features to Asterix:

"The only major feature missing .. is secretarial functions .. To fix this, Daniel is looking into extensions to the SIP protocol"

He also mentions getting (and contributing I assume) support from the online community and support from Digum for the T-1 cards

. "Daniel says he has so far been able to keep up with support issues through mailing lists and the online community that develops and supports Asterisk. Dell provides support on the server hardware, and Digium supports the T-1 cards installed in the boxes."

"Daniel has also created copious documentation on all the Asterisk configurations and changes he's made to the software. "Basically if someone were to have to come in and take over my job, they'd have a pretty quick turnaround on learning what needs to be done," he says."

I'm sure such documentation would be usefull to the support forums that would be doing something Asterix needs to stay relevant.

was Freeloaders or open source pioneers ?

asterisk kills call manager (2, Insightful)

mytrip (940886) | more than 7 years ago | (#16120086)

I work for a Fonality PBXtra reseller and the pbx absolutely rules. Asterisk on linux is the future of PBXs. The menu system, reporting, call queues and gui absolutely kill traditional phone systems. BTW, Vonage runs on Asterisk and so does broadvoice and other VOIP companies.

I'd say its a huge mistake (1)

sinij (911942) | more than 7 years ago | (#16120141)

At my work we have Asterisk PBX/VoIP and its still way too raw to use. Unending list of problems and bugs, things work differently with new releases and it is not that stable or efficient under heavy loads. We end up having to purchase very beefy hardware and hire a guy whoes job it to monitor/fix it 24/7.

A huge fib I'd say .. ;) (1)

rs232 (849320) | more than 7 years ago | (#16120213)

"too raw to use. Unending list of problems and bugs .. not that stable .. purchase very beefy hardware and hire a guy whoes job it to monitor/fix it 24/7."

was Re:I'd say its a huge mistake

Asterisk-based 200 wireless/wired phone deployment (5, Informative)

ipstacks (629748) | more than 7 years ago | (#16120378)

I just deployed an Asterisk phone system powering ~140 wired Polycom phones and ~70 wireless phones covering 31 acres. Here are some tips from what I learned in this process:

1. Pick a capable vendor for each job you outsource. I looked at Asterisk and decided it is too technical for a Asterisk newbie to build a production system, so I called Digium and they referred me to a dCAP certified Asterisk consultant in my area. Knowing Asterisk is one thing, but knowing how to pull off a great install is more than that. Our vendor developed a workbook that covers many parts of a successful deployment, such as reviewing the network (gear, configs, wiring plant), getting the users (names, current extentions, locations . .), getting the users to think about the dial plan and having them understand their satisfaction with the results is directly related to trying to get it right. When we distributed the phones to each desk, the boxes were labeled and sorted on the pallet this helped save a huge amount of time and allowed us to have the furniture installers help setup phones if we wanted too. Staging the phones: pre-configuring them, having the boxes labeled and sorted on the pallet was well worth doing. The wireless phones we signed out to the employees with some other stuff like work shirts. Having the right vendor to walk us through the process was critical.

2. Pilot your install before you deploy it. The environment I was choosing Asterisk for is an automall. Phones are a big part of the business (as with many) and setting expectations is important. We formed a phone users group to have them decide how we wanted to route calls (dial plan), the idea was to get them involved because it is really theirs to use. Some departments were easy and some were not. Sales was essentially create a call groups for the differnt brands we sell and have the operators transfer them to the appropriate group. Service was much more complicated, but having live operators helps a ton. Parts was easy as well, but all of that needs some serious consideration. Knowing you will get it wrong and tweaking it on the fly will happen, do it and move on.

3. We picked Polycom phones and that turned out to be a great choice, the 601's have six "programmable" buttons and great sound quality (handset and speakerphone). The Polycoms have a two port switch built-in and will trunk with the network switch which means the second port on the phone can be a differnt vlan than the phone. So we have them plugged in/wired like this: [network-switch]---[phone]---[computer]. The phones run Cisco CDP, when the switch detects the phone (via CDP) it assigns the phone as a trunk device and allows you to choose what vlan the phone will be on and what vlan the computer port on the phone will be on. Also you can have a differnet vlan if you were to plug the PC directly into the switch. The setup works well and I could go on and on about QoS, edge marking of traffic and PoE issues but I will stop.

4. The FOP (Flash Operator Panel) is a cool thing, but we had to do some customizing for our needs. We looked at Fonalitys HUD, but FOP works great. You can see which phones are ringing, have voice mail (whether it is new or old), transfer calls by drag and drop, monitor the inbound queues and really not have to touch the phone to work the system as an operator. Nicholas, the guy that wrote FOP is an invaluable resource. He was willing to help and has done a great job. I am asking our vendor and am going to make sure he gets paid in some way.

5. Wireless WiFi phones (OUCH): We chose the Hitachi IPC-5000 and Meru Networks for the AP's. Okay I was getting a little cutting edge here, but hey why not?! Lessons:

Meru Networks ROCKS!! They figured out the roaming WiFi thing for sure!

Hitachi IPC-5000's to be determined: it look like either the phones have a high failure rate or we have a bad batch or something. Also it looks like they aren't nearly as durable as say a cell phone/mobile phone (which is VERY IMPORTANT). We are having problems with most of the phones we deployed and haven't been to the vendor or manufacturer to talk about this problem yet. Email me and I will let you know how that comes out.

Being able to talk on the phone while on a golf cart is very cool, as is being able to ring the desk and WiFi phone simutaneously!

Hybrid cell/mobile WiFi phones aren't an option because we aren't paying the bills for a mobile plan.

6. Access Point installation: GET AN EXPERIENCED INSTALLER and GET AN EXPERIENCED INSTALLER!!! We had to have another company come in and finish/fix things. They work on military installs and putting a few bucks on this piece is worth it.

7. COTS: Commodity off the shelf parts - Digium develops and tests on Dell servers (hint in there somewhere). Get Asterisk Business Edition, it is worth it and it is worth it. They have been good to our consultants which is good for us.

8. Echo...echo...echo...is a fixable problem. Use good wiring and don't cheap-out just because you can use all COTS parts.

The circle is now complete (1)

mabu (178417) | more than 7 years ago | (#16120397)

I am amused at stories like this because this is an example of corporate maneuvers coming back to bite them on the ass. Lots of small companies have been put out of business because software companies have given away products and services in an effort to get market share. Now, the open-source/freeware movement is doing the same thing to the corporations.

Just said goodbye to Avaya (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16120413)

I work at a medium sized corporate in Australia and we have just had our Avaya 8300s / 700 system replaced for Asterisk for a few departments. Seems that the world was going toward SIP we planned to move to our Avaya System (H323 based) to SIP for IT & some new installs. In the end it was becoming too expensive and frustrating and as Asterisk was in our long term plan we made the move now as it was about equal in pain and obviously less cost.

The one thing I will say about Asterisk is that it *is* hard to configure in the end we needed help and got a good local consultancy company (ANX Solutions) to get the systems up and running. However, it is incredibly powerful.

I second the comments about the voice mail system that have been mentioned, its one of the only weak spots and most of our users found it a little odd and preferred the old Avaya system.

Open the Phones (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 7 years ago | (#16120420)

Getting off Cisco CM is just the first step into freedom.

The Cisco 7970G uses XML for its configs and customizable GUI (and HUI) connected to selectable features. Its startup screen has the Java logo. What OS is it running? How do I get it to download and run Java applets? How can I code, install and run native apps?

These little touchscreen phones should offer complete portable offices that even a PHB can use anywhere, without having to search for the "any key". Now that the server is open, how do we open the clients that run on the local HW?
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