Closing Thoughts on Spring VON
Some closing thoughts on this year's Spring VON in San Jose. Coolest Product: Developed in partnership with Adobe, CommuniGate's Pronto is a Flash-based rich media platform that promises to integrate a user's e-mail, IM, voice, video and digital photo experience in a single, intuitive interface that allows for easy sharing of information and media between applications and friends. The slick Pronto client interface seemed much more polished and responsive than than AJAX-based interfaces we've seen. Of course, Pronto is marketed toward carriers and providers and needs CommuniGate's Pro Internet Communications Platform on the back end, so the chances of anyone using Pronto depend solely on whether your ISP or carrier decides to adopt CommuniGate's solutions. Best Food for Thought: Spread around the show floor were a number of vendors looking to solve the problem of VOIP quality measurement and assessment. We talked to Psytechnics, Network Physics and Apparent Networks, among others, and we came away with some highly different perspectives on some technical questions. Everyone acknowledges that a predeployment assessment and ongoing monitoring are critical components of a healthy and usable voice network, but how to get there? For instance, is it better to have an active (periodically sending sample traffic to get performance results) or passive (listening only off a span port) assessment solution? And can you glean enough information from the packet header to elicit an accurate MOS score or do you need visibility into the voice payload? And if the latter, how to deal with encryption? Most Intriguing Development: During his keynote presentation Wednesday, Mark Spencer -- Chairman and CTO of Digium and the guy who created Asterisk -- asked the audience how many people in the room were actively using Asterisk. I'd estimate that about 30 percent of the audience raised their hands, myself included. That level of adoption seems startling at first, but we need to remember that Asterisk can be used for more than just central telephony service and applications. Asterisk can be used for just a piece of the puzzle -- voice mail only, conferencing or service integration, for instance. Or Asterisk can enable out-of-left-field, innovative new applications. Spencer told the audience of some of his favorite weird Asterisk deployments, the most notable one of which was Botanicalls. To quote its Web site: "Botanicalls allows plants to place phone calls for human help. When a plant on the Botanicalls network needs water, it can call a person and ask for exactly what it needs." All Asterisk-enabled. Excellent. In truth, the VON show is turning into something of a Digium/Asterisk showcase. I know that Digium held back some announcements that could have been made in the previous weeks at voice shows like VoiceCon Spring in Orlando, and Digium folks instead waited for VON -- presumably to deliver the news to the already faithful. To highlight this point, Digium and Pulvermedia (the group that put together VON) jointly announced that Fall VON in Boston will share space with the first Digium/Asterisk World.