The question is why would Amazon switch out their existing PBX and the answer is the leading e-commerce site already runs about 20,000 Red Hat Linux servers so they are what you might say is comfortable with Linux to begin with. This install will add 3 more Linux servers to the mix.
As you might imagine as voice is mission-critical to Amazon they are running these Pingtel PBXs in a redundant manner with failover built in. Failover was obviously an important issue to Amazon and with the Pingtel solution the company can also take advantage of the SOAP interface as well as the ability to manage the system 100% from the web.
In addition the system has a built in ACD which can be used in Amazon’s call center. Amazon will be coupling the Pingtel solution with softphones and IP phones from Polycom.
I had a chance to speak with Bill Rich the CEO of Pingtel about this news briefly and I also had a chance to speak with Martin Steinmann, SVP Marketing at length. They are obviously very happy about this news and see it as something that they hope to build momentum around. Certainly this deal is a huge validation of the Pingtel technology that once manifested itself exclusively in some of the most creative IP telephones in the business.
Pingtel and Bill Rich were some of the earliest entrants in the VoIP market in fact and I remember when Rich received dozens of millions of dollars to launch a company whose core mission was to design IP phones. This was in the telecom bubble days of the late nineties and shortly after Internet Telephony Magazine was launched. Rich was successful in his endeavor designing really unique and usable phones but the market for these devices was small so sales were slow and over time the company decided to focus on the IP PBX space and later open-source and SIP. The rest is history as they say.
In a related press release and attached e-mail the company goes after Asterisk in a manner unusual for most press releases I have seen. Here are the exact words below:
While Asterisk has received a lot of media attention, Pingtel and the open source SIPfoundry community (www.sipfoundry.org) have busily built a true next generation enterprise solution based on a superior architecture and technology. Rather than being limited by a home grown and TDM-like first generation architecture, the SIPxchange ECS is a set of standards-based SIP servers that provide full PBX functionality and core SIP routing. As a result, ECS easily scales as a fully distributed system, does not have any single points of failure, offers better voice quality as media flows peer-to-peer between end points, does not limit the total number of simultaneous calls in a system, does not force the user to use simple PSTN gateway cards from a single vendor, supports unlimited number of PSTN or SIP trunks, and is easy to use providing centralized plug & play management for the entire system including phones and gateways.
While comparing and contrasting the technical differences between Asterisk and SIPfoundry is beyond the scope of this article, Asterisk has received the lion’s share of attention in the open source space. I would say Asterisk and Digium get about 90% of the mind share from the press and other vendors in the space.
What I have witnessed first hand however is attendees at TMC’s expos such as the VoIP Developer event (now called Communications Developer) come in large numbers to SIPfoundry educational events. This means the press may be distorting the interest level between these two platforms. With high-profile deals like this on, the rivalry between the two open source IP communications companies can only increase and as this rivalry heats up we can expect more quality products from both sides.
In the end I look at this deal as a shot in the arm for the open source IP communications space and certainly if Amazon adopts a technology it should be good enough for any and every other company as well.
If you are looking to learn more about open source communications and VoIP, you are in luck as Internet Telephony Conference & Expo takes place this week in San Diego California. This is the best event to learn about the wide range of open source PBX solutions from the experts themselves.