Mark Spencer kicked off the 13th Internet Telephony Conference & EXPO today with a keynote speech entitled “Digium Got Punk’d.”
Rich Tehrani, TMC president and Conference Chairman welcomed the crowd and introduced the show’s first keynoter. Spencer is founder and president of Huntsville, Alabama-based Digium, the creator and primary developer of Asterisk, the Open Source PBX.
Dressed in a bright orange Asterisk polo shirt — a nod to his developer roots — Mark spoke to the assembled crowd and told them a story about how Digium got “Punk’d” and was forced into using VoIP more than they had originally planned.
“Digium is an unconventional company,” he said, “yet even as an unconventional company, we actually use VoIP in rather conventional ways.” He explained how the Digium phone network is really a worst case ‘don’t-try-this-at-home’ (or at work) network running absolutely every latest, bleeding-edge technology utilizing every standard known to man ( and then some) and so on and so on… “Since we’re a company of engineers,” Mark said, “our network has no redundancy, no load balancing, etc… in order to truly test the network. If mistakes happen, it happens here first.”
One day something happened that changed things, forcing digium into a more exciting use of VoIP. A customer service rep received several strange calls from people getting e-mail messages telling them to call in and dial extension 6026 for an “urgent message.”
They quickly rerouted the extension to the customer service rep, to see what was going on. The phone starts ringing off the hook, probably over 100 calls in 20 minutes. Most people hung up, but one person finally explained what was happening. The caller said he had received a message from his daughter who said to call her back at this extension.
It was a very funny message, with an IVR voice telling the caller that they have no chance of ever getting their call picked up. "Hang up now," the voice says. Go back to your life, spend time with your family, etc…
Very funny stuff.
Of course, there was a serious side effect to all of this. All of the calls came in on the Digum toll free line, eating up all their bandwidth, making it difficult for legitimate customers to reach the company. So like a conventional company facing a conventional denial of service problem, Digium was forced to call their provider, and asked them to send the toll-free calls over IP.
So at the end of the day, the calls were rerouted over VoIP and VoIP saved the day. The quality was so good that Digium decided to keep the toll-free calls coming in over IP
“I guess the lesson learned, is that you simply need to have faith in the stuff you create.”
One interesting note: at the very outset of the speech, Mark asked the audience who had heard of asterisk. To this reporter it appeared that over 90% of the crowd raised their hands. What struck me as interesting was that when Mark asked the second question — Who has already deployed Asterisk? — an incredible 45% (my estimate) raised their hands.
It just shows that open source is definitely making inroads into the telecom space.