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Mark Spencer talks 10 years of Asterisk

Mark Spencer talks 10 years of Asterisk

Mark Spencer, founder of Asterix, looks back on 10 years of the open source PBX and discusses its future and that of the VoIP industry in general.

Asterisk founder Mark Spencer

Asterisk founder Mark Spencer

Some VoIP users have complained about poor voice quality compared with TDM systems. How can Asterisk lead the way here? Is Asterisk fostering the use of Speex and other free codecs to users who do not have to rely on a proprietary codec for good voice quality, especially across low-bandwidth links?

I use this analogy a lot, but the best thing that ever happened to VoIP was the advent of cell phones because this changed expectations of what is acceptable voice quality. But now with high fidelity you are getting much better audio with VoIP.

Asterisk uses the codecs that are supplied, so we are making the experience better by enabling the existing technology phone vendors are coming out with.

Some of the better 16KHz codecs are proprietary, but that is driven by the people that develop them, and Digium is obligated to keep them proprietary. We also improve the user experience by providing a GUI.

What timeframe are you working on for Asterisk 2.0?

We haven’t decided on anything like a 2.0 release yet. At this year’s Astercon developers will decide on improvements to the code.

10 years of Asterisk also coincides with 10 years of SIP -- an interesting intersection of technologies that opened up telephony. Any thoughts on a decade of SIP for VoIP?

I think of SIP and Asterisk as completely different models of how innovation takes place. Asterisk was created out of a pragmatic need and then standards came from it; when you look at SIP, it came in as a standard and then products were built around it. From there changes needed to be made to improve SIP.

What would you like to see happen with Asterisk over the next 10 years? What gets you excited about the future of telecommunications? Any thoughts on “unified communications” and integrating IM protocols like Google Talk with Asterisk?

The integration with other services largely exists in a layer above Asterisk. Accounting systems, maps, and CRM like Salesforce.com or credit rating scores can integrate with Asterisk.

In terms of core technology, the backend PBXs have advanced tremendously, but phones remain unsophisticated, so we will see the model of iPhone and Android carry over to the business phone space. So there will be a lot of innovation on desk phones.

Asterisk has a few GUI configuration tools and a number of projects behind it that “bundle” Asterisk into a complete phone system, like AsteriskNow. Is the level of configuration “ease of use” a concern for Asterisk? What’s likely to happen with Asterisk usability in future versions?

We have our own GUI and all of these GUIs are about bringing us closer to customers. In other geographies other GUIs have been successful and we have been happy to see that.

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Tags open sourceip telephonyvoipasteriskip-pabxIP PBXanniversariesMark Spencer

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