I recently had a chance to interview Sangoma's CEO David Mandelstam... His company makes boards for open source telephony systems. Open source PBXs are all the rage these days so I decided it would be useful to get the perspective on this market from a company that makes its living selling hardware that is intimately tied to Linux telephony. Here is the Interview with David Mandelstan:
How old is your company and what is it's history?
The original Sangoma Technologies Inc. was started in 1984. Right from the beginning our business was PC-based WAN communications. We have produced a number cards not only for classical WAN applications but also to several specialized applications. We also developed software WAN communication stacks. In 2000 we were bought out by a public company which changed its name to Sangoma Technologies Corporation (STC on the TSXV exchange).
What sort of growth are you seeing in the open-source market?
Most of our growth is in Open Source. The data market continues to grow, but relatively slowly compared to the voice market. We are fortunate that much of our expertise is in TDM technologies such as T1, E1 and J1 up to T3 and E3, so the relatively new market in Open Source soft PBX and IVR systems is an ideal match for our product line. The voice market is increasing by about 20% per month.
Do you expect this growth to continue?
We expect it to accelerate for the next year or so.
What impediments do you see to continued open-source telephony growth?
The main impediment is the same barriers that Linux faced in the mid 1990s:
The community is currently dominated by extremely technically competent individuals who are not particularly interested in the business aspects.
Code is developed at high speed to solve immediate problems, but disciplined structure is sometimes lacking. Testing is often rudimentary. These are all functions of being absolutely on the bleeding edge.
Basically Open Source Telephony needs to develop some professionalism, and this will come with time.
You have aligned your company with Asterisk... Does this also mean you compete with Digium?
We are competing with Digium on the TDM T1/E1 side only. In our current Asterisk support we have been forced by the architecture to cripple our cards. But in the coming months we will be working to leverage our hardware advantages to provide better TDM support for Asterisk without higher costs.
Digium may or may not chose to follow similar paths, though the indications are that they are moving away from selling hardware as their revenue source.
And remember, Asterisk is only one of several similar initiatives, although presently the most successful.
How is your relationship with the company and why should a customer choose your products over others on the market?
I have known and worked with Mark Spencer for 10 years. He is a superb software developer. Of course we wish Digium well, and want to see them continue their development in growing prosperity. But they seem to see us as a threat. For instance, they refuse to list our cards on the Asterisk web site.
Do you see Pingtel/SIPxchange products as growing quickly as well?
Any plans to support SIPxChange?
Yes, they are very much on our roadmap as well as several others.
What is the biggest drawback to open source communications?
The fact that each installation is still very much a hand-tweaked enterprise.
What is the future of open-source telecom?
The future is excellent. For too many decades the PBX industry has been able to push completely closed systems based on proprietary, expensive PBX hardware and telephones. What you got was what you got: No changes or if there were changes they were outrageously expensive. "Features" such as outbound calling by inbound callers enabled by default! Specialist support from a priesthood who could extract monopoly-style service fees. You never owned a telephone system: It owned you.
With soft PBX technology you can pick and choose from commodity equipment by price and by function. You can build in exactly the functionality you need.
So once these technologies become mainstream, I expect to see an entire industry vanish like the dinosaurs.
There you have it. Aside from a few bumps in the road, Mandelstam thinks the future of open source telephony is as bright as ever and his point about being bleeding edge is correct IMO. If you get a chance, feel free to post your comments on what you think the future of open source telephony is for your organization. Is it a fit?