Skype has terminated its partnership with Digium, effectively killing Skype for Asterisk, which integrated the VOIP service with the open-source telephony platform.
Two weeks after Microsoft
said it would acquire Skype, the voice over IP company has begun cutting
its ties with the open-source world. Asterisk was the first partner cut loose.
Skype decided not to renew
its agreement with Digium, which allowed Asterisk, the open-source telephony
system, to be integrated with the Skype service, Digium
said May 25 in a letter to users. Digium is behind most of the work on Asterisk
and sells commercial products based on the platform. Skype for Asterisk uses
some proprietary code from Digium to connect the two products.
proprietary software from Skype that allows Asterisk to join the Skype network
as a native client. Skype has decided not to renew the agreement that permits
us to package this proprietary software," according to Digium's letter.
Skype for Asterisk sales and
activations will end on July 26, but Skype has promised to continue supporting
and maintaining the software for two more years. Skype may extend this time
period "at their discretion."
Many businesses and
governments around the world rely on Asterisk for its free and flexible PBX to
power their VOIP deployments. The integration with Skype gave access to
low-cost voice and video calls without complex integration. After July 26, new
Asterisk users will not be able to connect to the Skype network.
Skype may be moving away
from Asterisk because Microsoft is expected to launch a Microsoft-hosted
version of its Lync unified communications server this summer. Asterisk
competes directly with Lync.
Digium may have seen this
one coming, as the CEO predicted shortly after the $8.53 billion deal was
announced on May 13 that Microsoft may "wall-off" Skype from competing products.
Microsoft's tendency toward "notoriously proprietary tactics" will slow the
development of Skype as a business tool, Danny
Windham, Digium's CEO, wrote on the company blog.
"Microsoft plus Skype equals
Microsoft," Windham wrote.
While it may be easy to pin
down Skype's decision as yet another example of Microsoft trying to shut down
the open-source community, Tim
Panton, a Skype developer, pointed out on his blog that Skype for Asterisk has
been dying slowly for a while because of issues with scalability and
maintenance. Skype had "hobbled" the product with a number of license
restrictions and the company delayed development, according to Panton.
"Skype probably never
envisaged renewing, so when it came due, they pulled the plug," Panton said.
"I do love a good
conspiracy, and it would be great to pin this on Microsoft," wrote Dave
Michels, president of Verge1 Consulting, specializing in PBX strategies.
However, Michels noted that it was unlikely Microsoft was calling the shots
when the deal hadn't even closed yet.
Michels also pointed out
that while Asterisk is open source, Skype is not, so claiming Microsoft will
ruin Skype because of its anti-open-source stance is "hypocritical
jabberwocky." Skype uses its own clients, its own codecs, its own signaling and
its own firmware licensed to hardware partners. It does not interface with any
other networks or equipment other than basic voice services. "If anything,
Skype might teach MS a thing or two about being proprietary," Michels said.
A Gartner analyst agreed
that Skype's decision had nothing to do with Microsoft. This is a sign Skype
will open up its service to other telephony platforms via Skype Connect, Steve
Blood, research vice president and agenda manager at Gartner, told eWEEK. While Skype for Asterisk was a
bit deeper than what Skype Connect (formerly Skype for SIP) offers for other
telephony platforms, it's a "stronger business proposition" for Skype
to offer more customers Connect than to support a proprietary product for a
specific vendor, according to Blood.
"I don't think Skype
for Asterisk was compelling enough, nor did it generate enough money for Skype
to continue to support it," Blood said.
Skype Connect currently
works with telephony systems for Avaya, ShoreTel, and Cisco, among others.
Digium will be validating Skype Connect next month, according to Blood, so
Asterisk customers will continue to have some Skype support.