A recent post on the Elastix community page yielded the following:

Guayaquil, Ecuador, May 4th 2015 – PaloSanto Solutions, the company behind the Elastix Project, has established today a GIT repository for the development of a brand and distro agnostic GUI for unified communications servers. Additionally it conceives multi-tenancy.

The project will be independent and will start off with the mutiltenant GUI from Elastix MT. Currently this development is focused on using Asterisk as the telephony manager at its core, however, the project seeks to establish the basis for the inclusion of other projects that currently exist in the industry like FreeSwitch.

This project will be initially hosted and moderated by PaloSanto Solutions; it is an idea together with the PBX in a Flash team.

“We believe that by using Elastix GUI to kick off the project will help in assimilating it faster”, said PBX in a Flash’s CEO, Ward Mundy. “PaloSanto Solutions’ decision to create a GIT repo for development cooperation is also important because it will attract new actors to the project that will enhance its functionality”, he added.

“Since the release of Elastix MT we believed that there is the possibility to continue revolutionizing unified communications, and to establish tools that had not been integrated before”. Said Edgar Landivar, CEO of Elastix. “With the establishment of this repo we hope to establish a standard in the industry that will replace the concept of VoIP PBX”, he concluded.

The project is available today at https://github.com/elastixmt/elastix-mt-gui, and rules are being set regarding contributions to the development so that all interested people can join immediately.

Well, I think that I can understand where Elastix/PIAF are going with this. For a while now, I’ve seen various communications and rants roaming the community, regarding the way the FreePBX GUI is dominating the “Distro Market” – so to speak.

In general, I see this as a good thing, as it means that people will start re-focusing on technology. On the other side, we will end up – again – with the normal Open Source/Commercial debates (should we do? why shouldn’t we do?).

I know that people are going to jump me for what I’m about to say right now, but since the introduction of Asterisk 13 and ARI, the gaps between Asterisk and FreeSWITCH are rapidly closing in my book. I’ve already deployed several systems using ARI – and I don’t use a GUI at all. FreePBX in my book had become a large set of code, assembled partially by people who know what they are doing and partially not. With the Sangoma buy-out, I suspect that we’ll see more and more “Sangoma Centric” modules and features – and that’s normal. Same will apply to the Palo Santo alternative, as it becomes more and more acceptable by the market.

Is it truly the destiny of an Open Source product? to become dominated by their creators? to become a mere vessel of their creators to market their solutions and services. A recent conversation I had with a prospective client went somewhat sour, with me at a loss of answers to a very simple question. The client asked me: “Is there a FreePBX high availability solution? – one that is off the shelf”, my responses were these:

  • You can use the Schmoozecom High Availability solution
  • You can use the Digium High Availability solution
  • You can use the Xorcom High Availability solution

He replied – “What? isn’t there an Open Source alternative? something that had been tested and verified?” – my answer was: “We can always use Linux-HA, Heartbeat, mond and other Open Source tools to create the solution. But it won’t be as slick and neat as the commercial solutions, simply because that requires time.

About 9 years ago, Digium had a product called “Asterisk Business Edition”. The business edition was a highly regressed version of Asterisk, with slightly less features, aimed at being an Enterprise Grade product to work against. Digium realized fairly fast that the product had no place and had abandoned it several years later. Open source is about choice, make your choice, aid others is making a choice – but don’t take our freedom for choice. In my view, the distributions should target themselves to be “Market Aggregators”, not “Market Shapers” or “Market Makers” – this is not the stock market and no wolves den. The Asterisk Exchange is a good idea, if Digium would turn that into something that is embedded into AsteriskNOW and allows people to buy and install, directly from the UI, that would be a winner.

The Apple Store and Google Play became a success not because Apple or Google promoted them, they were made into success by the developers and people who wrote new things. Asterisk, FreeSwitch, Kamailio, OpenSIPS, FreePBX, Asterisk GUI – at least as see it, should be regarded as platforms for innovation, the things that make us go: “Hmmm…. interesting”, the immortal “Facsinating” comment made Mr. Spock.

Just my 0.02$ on the issue…

Open Source – What really drives it? is the desire to change and create something new? is it a firm belief in the idea that knowledge wants to be free and that software should roam the world? or when you boil down – is it just plain Ego?

I’ve been an Open Source advocate and evangelist for the better part of the last 20 years. I’ve started my days with Slackware Linux, moved to RedHat, then to Mandrake, then over to CentOS – which is now my choice of OS for the desktop and server. During these 20 years, I’ve seen various project come and go, companies rise and fall, technologies adopted and abandoned. A recent post on facebook from Dovid Bender got me thinking about this issue again:

Now, let’s put aside the grand discussion on the way the OpenSIPS project came about, their domain hijacking tactics, their overall confusion in the initial stages in regards to the difference between OpenSIP and OpenSER/Kamailio – let’s just put these apart for a second. Honestly, I can’t really tell the two apart, they use the same general configuration syntax and in most cases (over 95%), you can use the same configuration on both and it would work exactly the same. So, what does it boils down to? it boils down to Ego. Do I want to be considered traditional and stable and work with Kamailio, or would I like to be perceived as cutting-edge and work with OpenSIPS (although that isn’t true at all).

The same issue can be attributed to the ever growing battle between Asterisk and FreeSWITCH. Now, each one was built for a totally different class of operation (although, Asterisk 12 does introduce new functionality that makes it shine much harder than FreeSWITCH). People repeat the old “You’re melting our switches” FreeSWITCH urban myth, but again, I still hadn’t seen one installation that truly did everything with FreeSWITCH and is truly focused on using FreeSWITCH to leverage something else. So, if FreeSWITCH is only used as a media/application server, then I see no difference between it and Asterisk in that regard. More than that, if the added value of using FreeSWITCH is just a mere 5-10% increase in performance, it just isn’t worth my time to do so. Now, I’ve used FreeSWITCH in the past, don’t get me wrong – it’s a wonderful tool in that respect, and for Class-4 switching it is a massive tool. But when it comes to Class-5 and high-level services, sorry to say, Asterisk will always be my choice – not because it is better, not because it’s support and community is far more experienced, not because it out-performs FreeSWITCH – it will always be due to one simple reason – it is the one I know will require the less amount of ongoing support and maintenance and will bring me to my target much faster than FreeSWITCH.

A few weeks ago, I put the following status on facebook:

Now, the two have direct correlation – When a CTO/VP R&D isn’t a telecom’s guy – and he takes decisions for development of the platform – simply based upon the writings of others on the net – which is purely influenced by a religious war – he is incapable of making the right decision. Take Jajah for example, when Roman and Daniel started Jajah, they only tool they used back then with Asterisk@Home – because that’s what they had. When the company grew, they could have easily moved to new grounds – FreeSWITCH was already around. Why didn’t they? Why did Jajah remain with Asterisk – adding OpenSER/Kamailio into the mix later on? Why didn’t they move to a new platform? was it because they have loads of code developed? companies throw away code like dirty socks every other day – they had the resources. Fact remains, the service was alive for a long time, the company was bought out by Telefonica Digital at a price of $215 Million.

On the other hand, let’s take a company like Truphone (and pardon me James, I know you’re gonna kick my ass next time we meet). Truphone had changed technologies over the course of times many times. Each time, abandoning the previous tech and going for a new one. So did companies like Rebtel, Spikko, Skuku and others. Amazingly enough, none of them could be considered a massive success. Word on the market currently says that Truphone is looking for additional investors, as their existing ones aren’t willing to put in more cash. Spikko’s original model is totally gone and the company literally caved-in on itself – and same applies to many others.

So, what does it boil down to? is Asterisk better? is OpenSIPS better? – these are the wrong questions. The questions should be:

  1. Is your R&D lead actually knows the arena he’s treading in?
  2. Are your decisions based on actual investigation or just by whim?
  3. Are you completely aware of the various obstacles and challenges you’ll meet?
  4. Are you building your development and product on rapidly changing technology?
  5. Who is backing your choice? a proper business entity? or a mere group of people with an idea?

When it comes to choosing between Asterisk and FreeSWITCH, here are my reasons for choosing Asterisk over FreeSwtich any day:

  1. The ability to rapidly prototype any application is 5 times faster and 2 times more economical than FreeSWITCH
  2. The installation path for FreeSWITCH is much more complex and convoluted than Asterisk, making future maintenance a nightmare
  3. Digium is indeed a young company, but it sticks by its products and makes all efforts to make it the best it can – I always have someone to talk to
  4. Barracuda Networks is a well established company in the Storage/Security market – if you go to their website, their support for FreeSWITCH (CudaTel) isn’t there at all – does that mean something?
  5. Asterisk is a very reliable, dependable, predictable piece of code – it is something I can put my money on and know exactly what I’ll get, FreeSWITCH still isn’t

This morning, I was greeted with the following message from the Asterisk-BIZ mailing list:

I have seen there are so many Palestine children have been killed in the Irasel-Palestine
collide from the news, I am so sad about this, how do you think of this war created by
Irasel army, I hate war, hate butcher, why UN discard this war, why Arabia countries do
not union to oppose Irasel invasion. Who has been making the mistake in this war, Irasel?
or Palestine?
But children have no any mistake.
Could you please kindly your comments?
--
andy<a href="mailto:andyspr@gmail.com">
andyspr@gmail.com</a>

In general, this kind of message that is not related to the mailing would have simply been discarded by the participants, however, some of the people decided to comment. While most people commented with: “SPAM!” or “This is an Asterisk list, not a political list” – some commented with some interesting remarks.

Before I go into these, I must say the following: While I’m considered a left winged man who truly believes in the need and possibility of peace and harmony between Israelis and Arabs – I also have family living in Sderot, Ashkelon and other locations – currently being targeted by the Hamas.

Mr. Savinovich (amazing proximity to my last name – isn’t it) commented:
1) Israelites don't know what Obama's doctrine will be, but their best bet is that he is
really muslim friendly, so  they are better off clearing up as much as possible before
Jan 20.  The rocket's thing, is an excuse.
2) Having said that, the Palestinians really do throw lots and lots of rockets to innocent
civilians in Israel, and they really got to be stopped for good.  Then again, I am not the
one living in poverty in gaza with 2 million people in 150 square km."

Well, in regards to 1, the rockets can be deemed an excuse – I admit to that. However, imagine that the US or the UK would have had a portion of their border, constantly being targeted day and night. 250,000 people are under constant threat (in US numbers that would be around 5 million people). In the terror attack of 9/11, the US basically sent thousands of soldiers to Afghanistan, and later on, send thousands of soldiers to Iraq – all the name of “Protecting the world from terror”. True, the attacks from the Gaza strip pose a threat to the southarn parts of Israel (currently expanding to the center of Israel) – however, it is still a threat. I totally disagree with both sides in terms of the way they approach the problems, however, I can’t say that I don’t understand both parts of the equation.

Mr. Argov of Tikal Networks, and Israeli Asterisk integration company commented:

"Because Hamas terrorist are firing rockets on Israeli children from schools and civilian
houses."

Well, the tactic of using civilians as human shields is a well know tactic in Guerrilla warfare. The difference here is this, Hamas is firing rockets directly into civiliant oriented areas, in the hope to hit something and show themselves as heroes. Hamas stores their weapons and ammunition within the civilian population of the Gaza strip, knowing for fact that they are putting their people in harms way.

One of the people on the list I truly admire is Rehan Allah Wala, who commented:

hi Andy
I am sorry that people are making fun of you on this mailing list,
The reason being that it is not happening in their own back yard
However the problem is caused due to many reasons i guess, and to Isreali's it is war
and they are taking the killing of childrens as part of the war.
Do remember that war is when 2 parties can fight, where as in this case it is one sided
Remember that Isreal says that Hamas sends rockets to Isreal, however do remember that
all water, electricity, grain, food, comes from Isreal to Gaza, and it is probabbly like
a Future war movie from Hollywood how they are attacking on Isreal out of desperation,
when for weeks power is cut on them.
I am very sure both sides are to blame, and it however should be solved by the Big Boys
asap , including US and China, I hope Mr Obama will take this issue very very seriously
and try to finally bring peace and harmony to the human kind, as if it can not be done
in this hugely connected world, it probabbly can never be done.
Some Facts on Gaza on gaza SHOULD be read by all, as I think in today's connected world
we all are responsible to end this conflict between the 2 parties.

I totally agree with the fact that both parties carry the blame, however, claiming that the fighting is one sided is untrue. It is true that Israel has a tactical advantage, after all, it does have a modern army. However, in the ground, when troops are going into the strip, Hamas has the upper hand – knowing the terrain and knowing the weak spots and strong spots of each location. The Israeli army is doing what it was trained to do, fight the battle, trying to suffer as low as possible casualties as possible on all sides.

It is true that Israel provides most (if not all) of the Palestinian authority’s infrastructure, be it power, water, telephony and more. The desperation is on both sides of the conflict, Israel is tired, fed up, angry and disappointed that almost any type of action it takes to bring peace to the area fails each time – every time due to the other side’s inability to live up to their part of the agreement. On the other side, the people from the Gaza strip are equally desperate. I don’t know exactly what is the nature of desperation, but I can only imagine. At the end of the day, what does a man want? to wake up in the morning, go to work, earn a decent salary, come back home and enjoy life with his family. Currently, neither sides is able to do so.

I honestly believe that peace in the ME is a possibility, more than a possiblity, it’s a MUST! We are all paying the costs here, Israeli families who had lost their sons and fathers over the year, Palestinian families who had lost the same, families who were teared to shreads by differences in political views and god know what.

I hope this conflict will end soon, it’s not serving any value to any side at this point.

Today is a historic day – and I’m not referring to the fact that my birthday is today!

Israel had finally adopted the anti-spam act, where companies are no longer allowed to send you spam email, unless you had specifically granted them the permission to do so. While the act in itself isn’t a new one in the world, it is surely a turning point in the Israeli market.

Over the course of the Internet’s existence in Israel, spam was more or less a given evil that all of us were required to endure. While initially is was more or less non-targeted, brute-force enabled spam, as the years progressed – it became more and more sophisticated and targeted. Unlike the US, where most ISP’s proud themselves by not allowing SPAM providers work with them – Israel went the exact way around.

I can easily recall a period of time I was working at one of Israel’s ISP’s, which was using a SUN Solaris based mail system. One of the customers wanted to utilize that system to send hundreds of thousands of emails to people, however, the system wasn’t able to carry the load. I was recruited to the task under the false pretence that the company (the ISP) needed additional mail-relays. I remember building one of the biggest mail relays I’ve even seen (well, at least in 1999) – a cluster of 6 Linux servers running Qmail. I later on learned that my highly evolved MX relay environment was actually re-configured to allow open relaying from specific IP numbers, thus, allowing spammers to spam from that specific ISP at ease. In addition, later on, the same ISP went on selling its email lists to spam databases as “verified email lists”, charging almost a dollar per email (over 50,000 subscribers in the list).

Over the course of the past 3 weeks, I’ve been getting emails from various emails I’ve been trying to get off from, asking me to confirm my membership with the list. I hadn’t confirmed these, simply waiting and lurking for the first spam message that comes in from one of these lists – and immediately following with a complaint to receive my 1000 Shekels for receiving their unsolicited spam.

So, in my book, December 1st 2008 is a day to remember and honor – and I will surely do so for the years to come (at least until some government ass-hole comes along and negates the act that is).

Apparently, according to the BBC, the most spoken language in Israel is most probably Arabic. Well, at least judging from their website. I was browsing the web for some information about the “Doctor Who” TV series (if you have no idea what I’m talking about – shame on you!). As it is a BBC series, I pointed my browser to the BBC website, to be greeted with the following:

While I’m not offended at all (really I’m not), I do pitty the people at the BBC that can’t seem to get their GeoIP working properly, and mistake Israel for another Middle Eastern country. It is true that there are many Arabic speaking residents and citizens in Israel, but still, the major language here is Hebrew.

Clicking the banner actually brought me to an HP page, fully in English, fully targeted to this region.

In the words of a great man: “Not bad – but not perfect”.