Open source software rings the changes
An open source PBX platform helped to kick-start competition in SA's VOIP market.
When voice over IP (VOIP) services were finally made legal in SA around a decade ago, a number of players descended on the market to compete. Open source software, in particular the Asterisk PBX software, helped most of these start-ups get on their feet quickly and at low cost.
Connection Telecom and BitCo are just two examples of independent service providers that used Asterisk to get their environments running at low cost. Rob Lith, director at Connection Telecom and a former executive at MWeb, Internet Africa and MTN, says open source software has allowed his company to contain costs as well as remain in control of the evolution of its own business.
"For us, open source tools have provided a low-cost point of entry into the market, because we haven't needed to pay enormous amounts for proprietary tools," says Lith. Open source tools have also given Connection Telecom the ability to quickly scale up and evolve its environment in response to a changing market.
Since the directors of the company were already comfortable with open source, they started out their business using basic open source solutions to handle basic Session Initiation Protocol trunks to their customers. But Connection Telecom's business evolved towards implementing on-site PBX services for customers and then eventually to offering hosted PBX solutions.
Open source tools have provided a low-cost point of entry into the market, because we haven't needed to pay enormous amounts for proprietary tools.Rob Lith, director, Connection Telecom
Its open source environment has kept up with relative ease, because it has the skills to maintain, build and enhance its own solutions. As the voice network has grown, Connection Telecom has generally favoured open source software over closed solutions.
The platform today includes Asterisk in its core, the MySQL database and a range of open source systems tools such as DRDB and Heartbeat. "Whether we use open source software, compiled (commercial) open source solutions or proprietary software, we always insist on open standard for interoperability," says Lith.
"You do need to have the internal solutions to succeed with open source in your business, but it's more cost-effective than depending on someone else. I couldn't have my business aligned with someone else's timeframes for rolling out new patches and features for my software."
First published in the September 2013 issue of ITWeb Brainstorm magazine