Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Thank you to the MLAC

Hi -

I wanted to thank all of the employees of the Massachusetts Legal Aid Corporation that I met with today in Boston. I spent a few hours with them to speak about Voice Over IP and deploying it in their system. If you are unfamiliar with the organization, or their misssion, The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation is the state's largest funder of civil legal aid programs. MLAC-funded programs provide free legal advice and assistance to low-income Massachusetts residents with non-criminal legal problems. You can check them out at

They had some questions for me, which I promised to answer for them. Here's the first few :

Q: Can VoIP work in conjunction with an older phone system?
A: In general, yes. Devices called VoIP gateways translate between older phone systems and VoIP based systems. They work well for most purposes. The biggest problems come in when you need to have a "feature" work between new and old systems. As an example, if you have a phone system on one side of the gateway transfer the call, it may have problems on the other side. You've probably got to test those feature interactions pretty carefully.

Q: Will the cost of VoIP outweigh the benefits of the system?
A: Well, VoIP is pretty much a slam dunk for nearly all applications. It either makes sense because of the cost savings in toll charges or maintenances, or it can do things that your old system can't. If you have to get a new phone system, you probably don't have any other reasonable choice.

Q: Can you name reliable sources of information of independent information on the VoIP industry?
A: There's so much out there, the basic problem isn't necessarily in independence - it's in digestion. If you are considering deploying VoIP, get an expert to help you understand the issues and guide your purchases. In general, find someone independent from vendors if you can.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Ernie site is launched!!!

Hi all -

After months of threats, and months of head scratching, the Open Ernie site is now up and running at . Off we go to the races - I make the formal presentation at the VON Europe show tomorrow.

So, Ernie's mission is to enable LAMP developers to quickly develop VoIP applications using an architecture that scales. I've been looking at other open source efforts for raw material, including Asterisk, Yate, Shtoom and the offerings from SIP Foundry. Although the design stage will take some time, here's my thoughts on how things should be put together :

0) Ernie is open, free, standards compliant and quite SIPPY. Open means only open source will be used. Free means that no one should become the God of Ernie (that means me). Standards compliant and quite SIPPY means not only do we only implement with published and reviewed standards, but that we follow standard SIP and 3GPP architectures.

1) The SIP stacks from SIP Foundry are as good as it gets, commercial or open source. I can't think of a good reason to use anything else. There's too, too many SIP implementations already, so making a new one is just way out.

2) My personal feelings about Asterisk architecture are well documented, but the Asterisk developer community is large and vibrant. Many of them are taking Asterisk to make new applications. We need to find a way to integrate these efforts without inheriting the architectural problems.

3) Ernie should not be in any way a switch. It should be an applications platform, and that means that calls are present during the applications time, then should be ended or passed off. B2B = BAD

4) I think the basic top level API should be very close to TAPI in view and model, but implemented in Python/PHP/Perl. I happen to like Python very much. Es muy bueno.