4 Nov
Posted in: Technologies, VOIP
By    Comments Off on VOIP – It’s a wondrous (but not new) thing

VOIP – It’s a wondrous (but not new) thing

It must have been around a decade ago. I was in the USA on an education exercise finding out about the various large scale data centres around the traps, and one of the sites was Cisco. Looking around their centre, they had a demonstration phone with an invite to phone anywhere for free. I was working for a telco at the time, and didn’t realize that this was really my first exposure to VOIP.

Several years later, I was chatting online (using VAXNotes or VMSphone – technology that predates most of you “pups”)nwith John Covert, who I had worked with when I was in the US many years before (pre-dating even the trip that I spoke of), and Bob Bowles (or Bubbles, as I called him) both of whom were telephony gurus, They introduced me to the world of Asterisk. An old PC (a Pentium III/1Ghz with 512MB of RAM and a 40GB disk), and I was rolling – oh, and a Cisco ATA186, as well.

John, being one of the smartest software engineers I have known, was a purist, and believed in hand-coding the complete Dialplan management himself. While interesting, this was not fun, as the “DialPlan Language” is, in my opinion, non intuitive – possibly a legacy of the “old days of telephony”.

I soon found that there were a number of “package environments” coming out to run Asterisk, and each of these has progressed towards making it simpler to implement. Trixbox was an open source environment, but when it was acquired by Fonality, the “Open source” motivation, sort of disappeared, and the “Free version” became a poor second cousin to their paid version. I moved towards Ward Mundy (et al) and the PBXinaFlash variant. It still has a level of secrecy about how some of it hangs together, but the group (including Ward) maintaining it, are far more responsive, and innovative with respect to new features and enhancements. This couple with the folks at “Freepbx” who have built a beautiful XML based, Database-backended system for configuration management, has made for a reasonably stable, yet dynamic environment.

I worked with Ben Sharif, author of a number of ebooks on this technology, in a range of areas, and have deployed Asterisk for a few other people. I am looking to build a “package” environment around it and some other software as a commercial product (and that’s all I am going to tell you about that, as I plan to make money from that). In addition, I have designed multiple Large Scale Asterisk environments and currently in the process of implementing yet another.

Enjoy the world of VOIP, and if I can elaborate on anything, please let me know.

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