Open Source Momentum

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Rich Tehrani
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Open Source Momentum

By now, you may have heard that Sun has agreed to purchase open-source database company MySQL for one billion dollars. Many companies are betting on open source as the future and open source companies operating in niche markets such as databases and others seem to make good M&A targets. In fact we can expect another computer company to be making an open source niche purchase in the next few weeks. Stay tuned for details.

In the mean time, I recently had a chance to ask open source communications company Digium founder Mark Spencer about his company's one millionth Asterisk download. This is what he had to say:

            Digiums's Mark Spencer
1) At what point did you think one million downloads would be possible?

Well, we projected the number earlier this year but as things started to pick up even more in the Asterisk space, it came sooner than marketing had predicted.  In addition to the downloads we also have had a record number of Asterisk bootcamp training sessions, including:

    * San Jose, California
    * Mexico City, Mexico
    * Huntsville, Alabama (in our new headquarters!)
    * Montreal, Canada
    * Buenos Aires, Argentina
    * Madrid, Spain
    * Geneva, Switzerland
    * Dubai, UAE
    * Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
    * Melbourne, Australia

All in the last month!  Not only is Asterisk interest growing, it's growing worldwide.

2) Any idea when you might hit two million?

Hard to predict but there are lots of things pushing up downloads.  In addition to the continued interest and new development in the core Asterisk product, there are more choices available for download from Digium, like AsteriskNOW and Switchvox Free Edition, which provide much added functionality.  More recently, glaring recent security holes (most notably a remote arbitrary root execution in a hidden phone-home feature) in a competitive product, combined with the notable departure of several key supporters, has pushed increased interest from people to explore alternatives.  Many of those people who then download Switchvox end up realizing its technical and ease of use strenghts, in addition to seamless upgrade path to supported product.  For those in non-PBX applications or in applications where there is value in doing extreme customization of Asterisk, the AsteriskNOW distribution is giving them a much more straight forward way to interact with the system from a GUI but not give up the ability to interact by the natural config files and other programming interfaces.

3) What’s the next biggest accomplishment besides this one in 2007?

There are just so many accomplishments of the company this year, it's hard to pick just one.  Clearly the expanded management team has been a key boom, allowing not only a tremendous level of expansion of the company, but also has helped us do a lot of the core block-and-tackle work that we have needed.  In addition, we also did two key acquisitions (Sokol and Associates, and Switchvox) which are now integrated into the company and giving us a broader set of products and services to more seamlessly offer.  Of course, we also moved into our new facility in Huntsville, and it's great to have a place that everyone feels is home.

4) What excites you most about Digium?

I think that growing Digium has been a lot like what raising a child is like.  At first, you know everything going on in your child's life, and as it grows it starts to get a life of its own.  It's really exciting to see how Digium has gone from being just from the efforts of me as a single person to its own living, breathing entity, changing the world of telecommunications in such an increasingly recognized way.

5) Can you make one prediction about 2008?

Growth, both from a numerical perspective *and* from a product, business process and channel perspective.  Our management team really is a team and we're firing on all cylinders now.

6) Why should people come see you at your booth at ITEXPO in Miami this January?

The Digium booth will showcase the most advanced turnkey IP PBX solution and GUI (Switchvox SMB product family) and other world class open source solutions all based on Asterisk.  Like seeing the iPod when first released, there will be a special reward in seeing the real deal of innovation, and know what the others will be trying to imitate.


In related news, Balderton Capital, the European venture capital firm actually put out a press release congratulating MySQL on the SUN acquisition. I thought this worth passing along as it is an unusual thing to see a VC firm putting out a release like this. By the way the firm owns 15% of MySQL which is no chump change -- even with the low US Dollar to Euro conversion rate.

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