When Sydney-based IT services company Glintech discovered the benefits of IM and required a PABX replacement, it took the Asterisk and Jabber open source projects under its wing and created and integrated, unified communications service.
Glintech managing director Dimitri Spyridopoulos told TechWorld an initial trial of XMPP as an IM service was successful, but at the same time the company was “fast outgrowing” its existing PABX.
“We needed a communications platform that could adapt with us,” Spyridopoulos said. “When we first introduced Jabber internally, it was to help stay in touch with staff who were either in offices interstate, or out on client sites where they were unable to access legacy IM services like MSN and Yahoo!.”
Jabber was immediately seen as useful due to problems imposed by the “legacy IM protocols” with people maintaining their rosters so that everyone had other people's contact information.
“One thing that Jabber allowed us to do was to provide server side rosters so that when a new user starts, they already had everyone else in their contact list,” he said. “By looking at another user's profile, they can also get their mobile number and other contact information.”
All this information is pulled directly from the Active Directory LDAP server at near real time, so there was little maintenance to do once the server was set up.
With Jabber working for IM, Glintech replaced its PABX with Asterisk which Spyridopoulos said allowed “near unlimited flexibility and scalability” at a much cheaper price than “legacy” systems.
Linksys SPA942 SIP phones were deployed for use with Asterisk, and with some custom PHP code – now public – Glintech was able to provision them with data from Active Directory. These scripts also allowed the phonebooks on the handsets to stay current, and set custom logos on the screens.
Integrating the phones and Jabber was then possible with an Openfire (previously Wildfire) plug-in. The plug-in integrates Openfire with Asterisk giving users call notification messages so that they will receive a small pop-up window on the screen when a call is coming in containing the caller ID of the caller.
“When a user is on a call, their Jabber presence is also set to “on the phone” so others know they are on a call, and probably don’t want to be disturbed,” Spyridopoulos said.
Another plugin then gave the Spark Jabber client the ability to be used as a softphone on a PC.
Spyridopoulos said after being initiated as a “small R&D project” Glintech’s open source UC platform “created an environment that could increase productivity with a lower cost of communication”. And while videoconferencing has been used for interstate meetings, the uptake remains minimal.
Glintech’s custom scripts are running on Linux, Apache, PHP, and Bash and Spyridopoulos said very little “hacking” of the core open source products was required.
“The main contribution we have made has been the custom scripts to keep the system running and integrated with other components,” he said. “These scripts (or basic versions of these) have been released on one of our employee's personal blogs and will also soon be exposed via Glintech’s blog.”