Sangoma: From Open Source to Unified Communications

I recently had a chance to speak with David Mandelstam at the Communications Developer Conference last month in Santa Clara, CA. Sangoma was one of the highlights at the show as the company had produced a few record quarters in a row just prior to the event. Even more impressive the company turned in yet another record-breaking quarter of 24% growth quarter over quarter.
It was great to catch up with David and hear his thoughts on where the company is going. One thing I mentioned to David is how his customers consistently tell me how great the voice quality and reliability is of their cards. He mentioned the four areas the company wants to be known for are the two above as well as robustness and compatibility.
By all accounts Sangoma has done a good job of providing premium enabling technology cards for open-source communications at a price/performance level VARs and customers can get behind.
One interesting point he referenced was how Sangoma has been helping a number of open-source communications initiatives such as FreeSWITCH.
In addition the company is up to release an ISDN BRI card which David says is needed. He points out it will not have a Zaptel interface. David says the open-source BRI stack is not very good and no one has an interest in fixing it. Instead, Sangoma has purchased a commercial BRI stack and will soon make it available.
Mandelstam says there needs to be a good way to put blobs of closed source code into open-source so the two can be mixed together. This can be done with a socket-based architecture he says. He goes on to explain his company did the same thing with SS7 and may also do it with other stacks such as voice conferencing.
In fact in the future we can expect the company to come up with an open-source gateway/interface allowing you to hook anything into your open-source solution without falling foul of the Free Software Foundation.
One of the reasons Sangoma has been able to deliver such superb voice quality is the company’s partnership with Octasic, the company who makes echo canceling technology. Sangoma saw the opportunity to popularize Octasic’s solutions years before the rest of the open source market followed suit.
Another area the company is striving to be known for is availability and to make this a reality I am told the company keeps massive inventory allowing distributors to order and have product drop shipped immediately.
The primary competition in the market for Sangoma’s cards comes from Digium, the company behind Asterisk. Sangoma has an interesting relationship with Digium as they sell products which enable Asterisk-based telephony solutions and at the same time compete head to head with Digium for the sale of telephony boards.
Mandelstam mentioned his company supports many open-source initiatives and would definitely support Asterisk too if it were to be separated from Digium.
He also mentioned there is growing momentum behind FreeSWITCH and he further elaborated by saying that some people are using FreeSWITCH with no Asterisk at all. He says this is partially due to the licensing model and the code. He went on to explain that the second person to come along always does a better job than the first as they see what the [software] architecture could have been. David summed it up by saying, “The FreeSWITCH architecture and capability is better – not that there is anything terribly wrong with Asterisk.”
But even though so many people think of open-source telecom when the name Sangoma is mentioned, the company is soon looking beyond this space for even more growth. According to David they believe the UC market being driven by Microsoft has the potential to be somewhere between 50 and 100 times bigger than open-source telecom in terms of revenue.
So at the end of the day, Sangoma seems like they are in a great position to capitalize on the growing market for PC-based telephony cards regardless of operating system or open-source type. As the ultimate arms dealer if they can keep their reputation for voice quality, robustness, reliability, compatibility and availability they have a shot at growing nicely with the telecom market for years to come.
The author is a shareholder of Sangoma Technologies.

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