Open source identity: Asterisk founder and Digium CTO Mark Spencer

Software telephony systems in for a shake up

Asterisk founder and Digium CEO Mark Spencer

Asterisk founder and Digium CEO Mark Spencer

What do you think of Microsoft’s entrance into the software PBX space with Office Communications Server? Can a proprietary software PBX succeed in a space dominated by black-box appliances and open source systems like Asterisk?

Microsoft is a company I definitely worry about, largely because I think it will try to leverage the desktop experience into the back office with OCS similarly to how they did it with Exchange. Nobody uses Exchange for SMTP, they only use it because they have to for Outlook, or at least had to until Zimbra enabled you to get all the same functionality without Exchange. That's why one of our major focuses has to be on the Windows desktop experience — otherwise we will be vulnerable to people getting OCS forced on them because of the Windows experience.

Another hot topic at the moment is cloud computing. Telephony vendors like Cisco and Microsoft are working towards fully hosted unified communications offerings where all the customer needs is an Internet connection and the application integration lives in the cloud. Do you think this is a realistic goal and what role can Asterisk play in such an architecture?

Certainly a fully or partially hosted model is possible, and of course is already being done by a number of providers, including Digium, using Asterisk. The key is that with the hosted versus managed versus premise-based [architecture] each has a different set of advantages and weaknesses, especially with varying sizes of companies. What makes Asterisk, and especially Switchvox, particularly valuable in this area is that you can seamlessly migrate from hosted to premise and back as the nature and size of the business demands it — something pretty unique in the industry.

When you’re not running Digium what are some of your favorite interests?

I like riding four wheelers and flying airplanes and in good weather driving my hot rod! I guess I've developed an interest in vehicles with either four wheels or three wheels and a wing. So far I'm avoiding any two-wheel vehicles!

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