IP telephony veterans on Monday will launch what is perhaps the first serious initiative to create a large open-source community around Voice over IP.
As the networking industry moves toward a software model for IP PBXs, tiny Pingtel Corp. is spearheading the initiative by releasing its Session Initiation Protocol software platform into the open-source world and forming a nonprofit organization charged with providing the legal and technical foundation for advancing open-source work. Its mission: to do for IP telephony what Apache and Linux have done for enterprise servers.
The effort, which will debut next week at the Voice over Networks conference in Santa Clara, Calif., pulls together the work of several open-source projects with their own associated communities. Those include the Vovida project, an open-source SIP effort used by Vonage, as well as reSIPprocate, which provides an SIP stack and tool kit allowing any developer to build applications that use SIP in order to initiate a session and establish communication.
Pingtel formed the SIPfoundry nonprofit organization to shepherd efforts to create open-source Internet Protocol (IP) telephony, messaging, presence and collaboration software. A proposed board of directors for the nonprofit comprises several people who have worked on open-source IP telephony projects, including Robert Sparks, Cullen Jennings and Jason Fischl of the reSIProcate and Vovida projects; Bob Andreasen and Dan Petrie of Pingtel; Martin Steinmann of St Paul Venture Capital; and an additional member still to be decided.
The newly formed board will host its first public meeting next week at the VON conference.
SIPfoundry aims to represent the SIP community and offer the premier information repository for the development of VoIP, said Martin Steinmann, a partner of St. Paul Venture Capital in Woburn, Mass.
“It is a nonprofit company we incorporated as a completely independent entity to be the overall umbrella organization to care for SIP-based activities in the open-source community,” Steinmann said. “Its governance structure is open to others to join and participate in the effort going forward.”
Steinmann said he believes that by drawing on the work already performed in other SIP communities of interest, SIPfoundry has a “jump start” on the process of building the open-source initiative.
“By bringing together existing functioning communities that have proven they can deliver on key components of the infrastructure, [SIPfoundry] has the critical mass,” he said.
SIPfoundry also will work to ensure interoperability of implementations “across a broader set of industry players,” Steinmann added.
.org to Go Live Next Week”>
The nonprofit will go live next week with its Web site, SIPfoundry.org, which will lay out the communitys objectives, projects and infrastructure—including mailing lists, a source repository and the ability to report bugs.
Whether its efforts will be successful depends on how well the market embraces an open-source approach to VOIP. Without a single point of contact to consult when something goes wrong in an open-source IP PBX, it could be an uphill battle.
“If this were to take root, it could really shake up the enterprise PBX market as its structured right now,” said Brian Riggs, industry analyst with Current Analysis Inc. in Sterling, Va. “But the movement from systems to software has not really been complemented by any real movement from proprietary to open systems.”
Its possible that the initiative is too early in the nascent market for IP telephony, Riggs said. “Im not entirely convinced now that this meets a need or solves a problem that currently exists in the enterprise. As IP telephony staffs gain more experience actually supporting software-based telephony platforms, this sort of strategy seems like something that they would be interested in.
“As it stands now, a lot of the individuals implementing IP telephony networks arent accustomed to thinking of the software in the products this way,” Riggs said.
“No one knows [how enterprises will respond to open-source VoIP],” said Cullen Jennings, distinguished engineer in Cisco Systems Inc.s voice technologies group in San Jose, Calif.
“A lot just wont care how they bought their technology. They are interested that theres some way to support it,” added Jennings, who is on SIPfoundrys proposed board.
Thanks to the involvement of projects such as Vovida and reSIProcate, a year from now anyone doing development will be aware of the ongoing work in SIPfoundry, Jennings said.
“I think that within the telecom engineering community—people who actually build SIP phone systems—everyone will be aware of whats on that site, what code they can use, what it does,” he said.
Still, large industry vendors wont welcome the initiative with open arms. “What were doing is very disruptive. It wont be embraced by Avaya, Nortel or Cisco. Avaya is a hardware company selling proprietary boxes, Steinmann said. “As enterprise communications becomes an IT application, software will run on standard PC servers sold by Sun, HP and others.”
The first open-source release under SIPfoundry will be Pingtels source code for its SIPxchange IP PBX and Instant Xpressa soft phones, under the GNU Lesser General Public License. Projects under way include sipXpbx, a small- to medium-sized enterprise SIP PBX; sipXpublisher, an SIP subscribe/notify server for handling SIP event subscriptions; sipXregistry, a SIP registrar/redirect server; and a call-processing library dubbed sipXcall.
Other projects include sipXmediaLib, a media processing library; sipXvxml, an XML-based voice-processing engine; sipXproxy, service-level routing and forking proxies; and sipXphone, an SIP soft phone that runs on Linux and Windows.
With the release of its intellectual property into the open-source community, Pingtel of Woburn, Mass., will shift its business model to sell a subscription service.
“We will acquire code from open source on a regular basis, test it on different hardware and SIP platforms and certify it to work [reliably] with those platforms,” said Bill Rich, Pingtels president and CEO. “We will offer the best of both worlds—low cost and the flexibility of open-source software with the support you get with a proprietary solution.”