Open source based telephony applications have been around for quite a few years now. Asterisk is probably the most well-known one. And given that Dialogic has been supplying media, multimedia, and signaling engines in the form of software and boards to the telephony independent software vendors (ISVs) for years, some of which are now open source-based ISVs, I frequently get questions like, “What is the real impact of open source development?”

(The VON Conference & Expo will include a panel session entitled “Tearing Down The Walls: How Open Source Is Transforming Telecom.” Please see the Conference education page for more information.)

To me, the impacts can be summarized as “commoditization” and “abstraction.” Commoditization at the telephony engine level (i.e. conferencing, DTMF detection/generation, etc.), and abstraction at the application development level.

Open source development allows the telephony ISVs to go get various components from the open source “community” that they would otherwise have to develop themselves. When physical interfaces are required (in the form of a board or a gateway), the open source community also works to develop the required interfaces if the engine is a piece of software. This all drives commoditization. Once people start using something from the community though, even if it’s “free,” if it’s not quality, it will not gain any traction and it will not be used. It will essentially die off.

Or worse yet, this commoditization drives the open source developers to look at the engines as pure commodities that are robust in every way, and to count on these engines to be even more robust than in the past because they’re not fully putting them through unforeseen customer use-case scenarios. Believe me, customers invariably use your products in ways you never imagined!

My point is that the open source engines need to be robust. The entire solution is built on them. They need support, they need to have been put through the paces, and depending on the global or non-global nature of the solution, they must work in all countries of deployment. As open source applications become more widely deployed, then as an open source ISV developer, you want to make sure the underlying engines are robust in ways you may not have thought about.

Using the least expensive engine option may not always be the best approach. That was true 25 years ago, and 12 years ago when I first started at Dialogic, and it won’t be any different 10 years from now.

I thought you said things were different, Jim? Well, next week I will explore the abstraction part of this impact.