Many in the industry have told me how concerned they are about the open-source telecom movement and how the margins in the telecom business are being stripped out. But in the brave new world of the internet companies like Skype seem to have a model others need to emulate.
As we know Skype gives away software and many features but charges for many calls – incoming and outgoing.
Asterisk and Pingtel took the concept further with an open-source PBX which effectively gave the enterprise a free software based phone system.
Now the concept has evolved again as companies such as Pactolus look for ways to leverage the open-source movement to help them gain traction in the more complicated application server, and software media server markets.
To launch this effort, the company has introduced its online developer community, www.SIPdev.org, which features a SIP-based service creation environment, application server, and software media server-a comprehensive environment including everything developers need to rapidly create innovative, media-rich applications for next generation VoIP and IMS networks.
So what does this mean for the market? It seems taking your proprietary products and “open-sourcing” them is the next big thing. Perhaps we will call this VoIP 3.0. There will likely be a huge land grab here to see who can have the best development environments in telecom. One thing we have learned from Asterisk is being first is important. In addition the open-source community is a different beast than the commercial developers we are used to. For them the whole use of open source is more like religion than a way to make money.
So now a slew of these so called penguin-worshippers will have an opportunity to play with the Pactolus development environment and give great products back to the community.
The question worth asking of course is how to make money in a world where increasingly more and more of the intellectual property is given away for free.
If you can gain critical mass, you can monetize open source with service agreements, consulting and business edition type plays. Digium the creator of Asterisk also sells hardware – which puts them at odds with many of the other companies selling hardware for the Asterisk PBX. How Pactolus makes money from all this will be worth watching.
In the end, open-source success is about scale and your ability to attract top-ranked talent to your platform. There is a limited window of opportunity for companies to go open source as the developer community is likely not endless.
I applaud Pactolus for making this leap and taking the risk to do what they have done. Now I can’t wait to see if some truly cutting edge open-source IMS applications are developed on their platform.