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Is Linux Used in Production Telephony? 354

Posted by Cliff
from the interactive-voice-reponse dept.
jamesva asks: "The telecommunications industry is rapidly converging on Windows NT/2000 for all telephony and voice-related needs. Most ACD systems, virtual operators, and voicemail are being ported to Windows if they're not already running on it. In the past, telephony apps have existed most notably on OS/2, SCO, and even DOS. However, free Unix (or unix-like) platforms have absolutely no penetration in this area, with seemingly no chance on the horizon. The Bayonne app server from the GNU folks seems to be the one exception, but even then there doesn't seem to much built around it or anyone using it. It reached a 1.0 release in September and was met with no fanfare. Even the LinuxTelephony doesn't seem to have much news. Can someone prove me wrong? Why is this the case? I'm interested in finding out if anyone is using Linux (or any free OS) in a production environment for something like voicemail or ACD. These types of systems require high availability and reliability and Linux just seems like a natural fit."
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Is Linux Used in Production Telephony?

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  • I tried! (Score:4, Funny)

    by CySurflex (564206) on Tuesday October 22, 2002 @05:49PM (#4508005)
    I tried to install Linux and Slashcode on my homebrew hacked PBX telephony system, but then all my calls were being routed to goatse...
  • Wait a second.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 22, 2002 @05:50PM (#4508012)
    Either this is complete & total ignorance on my part, or, well, it's just complete & total ignorance. I thought that Large scale Unix based systems basically ran the switches, backbones/large servers behind Telephone/Telecommunication Networks. That's how the uber geeks found out about it, trashing for manuals to all of these VAX/VMS/UNIX systems, dialing in to them, and hax0ring their way in to screwing with their friends/enemies who may have flamed them on a local BBS. Am I wrong?
    • Re:Wait a second.. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Spamuel (246002)
      There's a lot of Solaris being used from where I'm looking, and absolutely no Linux. It's still considered a "baby Unix" in the board room. It's not even considered.
      • But what about for PBX applications for a smaller shop, or VOIP gateways?

        Sure for many things, Linux doesn't have support for the high-end, High availability hardware (though this is on its way). But for smaller things, it makes a lot of sense. And you can get HA built into the software by essentially bridging halves.
      • by Hater's Leaving, The (322238) on Tuesday October 22, 2002 @06:58PM (#4508534)
        Yup. What the user sees has bugger all to do with Unices of any type. However, I know that a certain Finnish telecommunications company that do infrastructural products as well as mobiles, certainly do a fair amount of development for their embedded code using HP-UX and Solaris systems for these infrastructural products.
        You're not a real hacker until you've built a 2.5GB binary (unstripped of course) on a fuck-off Solaris machine.

        From the look of their UIs, the mobile phone division does development using an abacus and a poorly trained monkey.

        THL.
    • The PBX, ACD, and similar applications are not large scale. Such systems are often located at the customer's facility and sizes of 50 to 300 users are a huge chunk of this market. I've been out of this industry for almost ten years but the actual switches and routers tended to be embedded applications and then some form of PC would be used for monitoring, configuration, generating reports, etc. If the PC crashed a supervisor didn't get a report, and had to reboot and issue the print command again. Not a big deal. The embedded software kept running during all of this happily switching and routing calls.
  • Avaya (Score:5, Informative)

    by Krypt Keeper (29245) on Tuesday October 22, 2002 @05:50PM (#4508013)
    Avaya does this now, and they are porting more and more of there application VoIP services to LINUX, as well as Win2K like you said.
    • Re: Avaya (Score:5, Informative)

      by bb_referee (548705) on Tuesday October 22, 2002 @06:19PM (#4508257)
      Currently, Avaya (previously part of Lucent) has ported over its proprietary DEFINITY PBX software and AUDIX software to Red Hat. You have the option to purchase the PBX software/hardware as either based on Linux or based on the previous operating system, Oryx/Pecos (created by Bell Labs).

      Avaya is betting the farm on Linux. It hit a performance ceiling with the propietary O/S (Oryx/Pecos - written by Bell Labs), and has some impressive results in its first Linux boxen. The PBX has three times the call processing capacity (counted in Busy Hour Call Completions) under Linux.
    • Re:Avaya (Score:2, Interesting)

      by tourettes (97445)
      The company I am currently employeed with use Avaya for their VoIP needs (an in-bound call centre), it works just fine on the win2k network we are currently running. I have thought about trying to convince the IT department in moving us away from the win2k to the linux platform, but one of the major stumbling blocks of this was the compatibility of VoIP with Linux systems. I was unaware that Avaya offered linux services as well. Is this on the server side only? Or is the CentreVu IP Agent being/has been ported to Linux? If so, this could change everything.
    • Re:Avaya (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Last time I worked at Avaya/120th, I was under the impression that Avaya had given up on the poor performance of W2k and their blue screams of death. 1 year ago, avaya was betting everything on Linux and had ordered any new projects to be RHL.
    • ...and it is utter crap, a complete pile of stinking shit. I was the original engineer on the implementation project, and I switched jobs just to get away from it.

      Top it all off with draconian licensing and grotesque consulting fees, and you have every IT managers worst nightmare.

      I cannot say this more forcefully: Avaya software sucks.
    • http://www.theinquirer.net/?article=3041

      I sent this contact to Magee a while ago after a dinner conversation that floored me. The person was dropping hints at me for MONTHS about something happening, and one day, he told me that Avaya outright dumped NT/2K for linux on everything. Windows will be supported for basically as long as existing clients want it (years and years and years), but from now on, everything is linux.

      I asked for a press release, and was pointed to an utterly forgetable announcement that never mentioned linux, or that MS was on the shitlist, it was sad. When I went back to the source, he told me that 1) yes it was the correct release, and 2) it was indead a total shift from one to the other. Like the Inq aricle says, it was not a snap decision, or a vapor release, it was developed, tested, and debugged for 18 months before it was... err.. not announced with no fanfare.

      Overall, the products are quite real, you can buy them, they run linux, and have displaced MS. Yay. Next niche to conquer is......?

      -Charlie
  • no linux (Score:4, Informative)

    by Archfeld (6757) <treboreel@live.com> on Tuesday October 22, 2002 @05:51PM (#4508016) Journal
    but a lot of solaris/sparc machines doing our telephony. The uptime is just too good on a *nix vs 2K.
    • Yep. I belive our VRU is powered by solaris as is our switch. Maybe Linux isn't being used because of the GPL? Maybe some devlopers want big support contracts for the big UNIXES? I don't know. But what I do know is that the article seems to wrong. I don't see more telephony on Windows unles you count small systems, or user interfaces (operators would be more comfy on a Windows based screen then on a UNIX based screen). Any place that's large enough can get a UNIX based one and be much better off.
      • You've answered your own question. Linux isn't being used because such systems are already working great on Solaris or SCO platforms (we use an SCO-powered box for much of our voice functionality). There are plenty of reasons to move from Windows as a server platform to any *NIX, Linux included, but I really don't think we're going to see much move to Linux from commercial UNIXes that are already doing the job with minimal or no maintenance. The cost of the OS just isn't a big part of the deal on such things.
    • Building a production VOIP/ISDN/POTS system on Linux. There are definitely some challenges but between asterisk and bayonne and the hardware support on Linux, I think there is definitely the possibility. Bear in mind that when I started, I did not know anything about telephony, but I am picking it up rapidly.

      Anyway, I just thought I'd throw in my $.02 (USD).
    • Re:no linux (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I consult at a large telco.
      There is tremendous fear from the legal part of the house that using Linux _could_ open us up for lawsuits, primarily in the area of intellectual property, but stability and support is also a concern. What would happen if a 911 call didn't get through and somehow linux was to blame? Lawsuit?
      In fact, use of any GNU or other free/shareware licensed SW is completely forbidden throughout the enterprise. There are exceptions, but those are difficult to get signed.
      Uptime, huge amounts of support (SUN, EMC, HP, STK, Nortel, Cisco) are required. For Linux, I don't believe the support companies could keep up with our support needs for even a small subset of the applications (we have 1,000s). We won't get into scalability, but it is routine to have 8 64-way servers performing a task and to be considering adding a few more for additional processing and failover. Sometimes I wonder why we're leaving mainframes, then I remember the costs.
  • Last year I tried to find linux software to use with my voice capable hardware modem. I looked *hard*. All I could come up with were a few pre-alpha apps that needed to be compiled that worked either very badly or not at all.
  • by ALecs (118703) on Tuesday October 22, 2002 @05:51PM (#4508030) Homepage
    How many quality telephony cards are out there with equally quality drivers? I'll admit I've done no research on this but could this be the answer?

    Linux being the DIY operating system that it is, people tend to write drivers for the hardware that they have. How many linux hackers have dialogic boards in their machines? At >$500, I doubt the number is very high. No drivers, no applications.

    • by CBackSlash (613476) on Tuesday October 22, 2002 @06:13PM (#4508211)
      How many linux hackers have dialogic boards in their machines?


      I do! But guess what? I didn't have to write the drivers because someone [intel.com]
      already wrote them.


      In my opinion, there is not a device driver problem here. Intel/Dialogic isn't the only vendor supporting Linux. And they don't support it out of the kindness of their heart: they support it because doing so helps sell hardware.

      • "In my opinion, there is not a device driver problem here. Intel/Dialogic isn't the only vendor supporting Linux. And they don't support it out of the kindness of their heart: they support it because doing so helps sell hardware."

        All it takes is for there to be a perception that Linux isn't supported in the drivers area for somebody to say "I'll go with Windows". The solution for Linux may be out there, but I wouldn't bet >$500 on it.
    • by ALecs (118703)
      Now that I think about it, I remembered constantly seeing ads for telephony, etc. cards on BSDMall. I would assume that a card proudly flaunted there would have BSD drivers at least, if not Linux.

      This one here [bsdmall.com] lists Linux compatibility.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      www.quicknet.net

      guy named ed okerson did the linux drivers originally. dont know who maintains them now.

      Quicknet had some great engineers back in tha day - but due to shitty people management and poor business planning lost most of them. There were some very solid linux guys there pushing linux telephony....

      anyway - they did have really good linux products. check them out.

      Too bad they flushed their team down the toilet - otherwise we would probably be looking at this topic very very differently.

      greg youngblood over at linuxtelephony.org worked there for a time. maybe he can shed some light on what went down and why they failed to be the leader in linux telephony people were hoping for.
  • by Rimbo (139781) <rimbosity AT sbcglobal DOT net> on Tuesday October 22, 2002 @05:51PM (#4508031) Homepage Journal
    The first question I'd ask is: Are the applications there? If not, there it is.

    You mentioned one application that uses Linux. There are probably many more that work under Windows, because that's probably what companies are developing for. More to the point, that's probably what companies are asking for -- "Give us something that looks like what we're used to for web surfing already!"

    Now granted, within the past few years Linux's desktop has grown leaps and bounds beyond where it was -- but then, it wasn't there when these companies first started developing their apps, and wasn't an option then.

    That, ultimately, is the issue.
    • I think the reality is actually the inverse of your observation. Remember that SCO/UnixWare were market
      leaders in this area until a few years ago (I haven't been keeping track, so they still may be).


      But all the 3rd party vendors recognized that UnixWare was a sinking ship, and started asking the hardware vendors (DLGC, NMS) for Linux support. Why? Because it's cheap and it at least looks like the redheaded stepchild UnixWare never had. So with a little work, the 3rd party vendors have their app running on Linux.


      Add into this the fact that Microsoft also recognized UnixWare was a sinking ship, and started marketing. Remember, it's all about developers developers developers. So many 3rd parties were confused and switched their app to Windows (partial rewrites) instead of switching to linux (minimal porting effort).


      I think that for some people who ended up on Windows, there may be some displeasure with the reliability / quality. But I think they are probably outnumbered by the people who are having positive results with W2K/NT in these setups. The net effect is that Windows is gaining in this market.

    • You mentioned one application that uses Linux. There are probably many more that work under Windows, because that's probably what companies are developing for.

      No, not in the telephony market.

      Solaris has lots of penetration there, as did SCO and as do lots of little proprietary real-time operating systems. Windows? Not hardly.

      Linux is a fairly natural choice if it can meet the reliability requirements; quite a bit of money and engineering time is being put into just that. My former employer, MontaVista Software, has a high availability add-on [mvista.com] to their embedded Linux distribution; this add-on is aimed at folks in markets just like this one. Hopefully in a few years efforts such as theirs will make Linux a strong competitor in markets, such as this, requiring extreme reliability. (No, Linux is not "extremely reliable" -- not in a market where it's not unusual to have two or more completely independant hot-swappable CPUs sharing a backplane).

      Your nice, stock little "are the applications there?" answer is useful in 99% of all relevant situations -- but the telephony market (and most particularly the embedded telephony market) isn't Yet Another Area where Windows is used by most of the computing world. Neither Microsoft nor the Linux vendors have a strong foothold there. Likewise, where the "Linux desktop" was a few years ago was utterly irrelevant to telephony applications, because the desktop has nothing to do with telephony -- and nobody even pretends that a monkey with a MCSE can configure or administer a heavy-duty PBX system.

      Mind you, I'm not a telephony engineer. I'm just some guy who worked at a damned good embedded systems house for a while and got a chance to see some of the hardware and software needs the telephony folks have, and appreciate exactly how serious they are about their uptime. The desktop? They don't care about the desktop. They care about reliability -- really, really heavy-duty serious reliability. Linux doesn't really have it yet, and Windows sure as hell doesn't. But we're working on it.
    • The first question I'd ask is: Are the applications there?

      Short answer: Yes.

      Long answer: Both open source (Asterix and Bayonne) and proprietary (by Avaya, Lucent, et. al.). I would assume that given the widespread driver support that analysts are betting the farm on Linux.
  • Asterisk (Score:5, Informative)

    by redactor (1989) on Tuesday October 22, 2002 @05:52PM (#4508033) Homepage
    Perhaps you should look into Asterisk: link [digium.com]

    This is Mark Spencer's most recent project. Same guy that did Cheops and started GAIM. Really cool stuff.

  • by h2oliu (38090) on Tuesday October 22, 2002 @05:52PM (#4508042)
    Within the last 6 months I went through a phone system evaluation process. I was focused on IP telephony to a certain degree, so it was limited.

    I agree that most items are being ported to Windows (scares the heck out of me, it's one thing for your web server to be down 6 hours, try having your phone system down for 6 hours).

    The primary area where new development was being done, that wasn't Windows, I found to be in VxWorks. This makes sense to me since a RTOS really is a better platform, and at the same time, bypasses all of the Windows worms, etc.
    • Hmmm... A year ago I got a phone call from my US counterpart about a "PC" that was spreading Nimda.

      Turned out that it was the PABX control system. It didn't run any virus protection software, because all antivirus software tested brought down the software.

      Now, here's the horrible bit. The PABX itself is a solid bit of engineering, with an ASCII only bit of RS232 based interface controlling it. If those bits had even remotely been documented, anyone with experience with something as simple as expect could have coded up an interface to it in a day at most -- much less time than what was invested in bringing the Windows interface to it on line.

      To this date, we're not using the advanced features of the system because just getting it to work right on the supported platform turned out to be too great a nightmare to offset the possible gains from it.

      PABX interfaces are the prototypical illustration of why documenting the low level interface can benefit the advanced user without impeding sales of the "integrated" windows "solution" to customers who can deal with interfacing Windows stuff. We're as shortstaffed in Windows DDE skills as we are in low level Unix stuff, but if the RS232 interface had been documented, we could've assessed the risks and benefits of talking directly to the hardware and make an informed decision on which group should handle the PABX interface and which tools to use.

      The PABX is basically on life support, because the bundled apps suck and implementing a simple toolkit that covers our basic needs is impossible for lack of docs. That, in management terms, is a "lose-lose" proposition.
  • OK its text to voice, but AFAIK they are selling hard to the telecoms industry with rVoice [rhetorical.com]
    Their development platform is primarily Linux. I only know because a friend works there, I am not associated with them in any way.
  • by Jsprat23 (148634) on Tuesday October 22, 2002 @05:53PM (#4508051)
    Digium [digium.com]. A GNU/Linux telphony company based in Huntsville, AL. They sell T1 PCI cards for GNU/Linux machines and distribute a free as in GPLed software PBX. Check them out!

    Disclosure: No, I don't work for them, but I have had lunch with them and they're pretty nice guys!
    • Disclosure: No, I don't work for them, but I have had lunch with them and they're pretty nice guys!

      OK, full disclosure. Who paid for lunch? ;-)

  • by TheViffer (128272) on Tuesday October 22, 2002 @05:54PM (#4508054)
    A company called West Telemarketing is working toward moving over their VRUs (Voice Recognition Units) from SCO to Linux by integrating the Dialogic (Intel) drivers into the kernel.

    From what I have heard, things are in Beta but very stable and soon to be moving forward to production systems.

  • by besh (10807)
    What runs on my 5Ess then? Or Voicemail system? UNIX has had fantastic penetration in the telecom industry, what with being written in large part by a telco, for telco use. (SYSV)

    Linux penetration is a totally different story. Unless I see less than 5 minutes a year of downtime, and more than 20 years of hardware and software support for a platform, I can't see using it any time soon.

    -Besh!
  • by doc_brown (73383) on Tuesday October 22, 2002 @05:55PM (#4508061) Homepage

    Here at work we use a 3Com NBX 100 system [3com.com].

    I've FTP'd into it and it seems to be running some sort of a BSD variant.

    I guess it could also run linux.. but I don't quite feel like pokeing around in our production telephone system.

    • Hi. I helped write the software for the NBX 100 system. The server runs vxWorks and the devices run without an OS. I'm sure you could get Linux running on it if you wanted - it's just x86.

      Disclaimer: I didn't speak for 3Com even when I worked for them, and I sure don't now.
  • by ka9dgx (72702)
    We're running voicemail on system called CallXpress (it has other names as well) on an older Pentium system with OS/2 Warp installed. There is NO network connection on it, nor will I ever allow it.

    The reason for having Linux on a machine is to be able to access it via the net and/or play with it. Both of these are VERY BAD ideas when considering a telephony application. Telephone systems shouldn't ever allow remote administration, IMHO.

    So, with no net, no place to play, what reasons are left to want to use Linux?

    --Mike--

    • by t0qer (230538)
      IBM officially dropped OS/2 support this year, it was on slash, can't find the link.

      And what's to stop you from just unplugging your spiffy new linux voicemail server from the network? So you're os/2 arg is pretty flawed there bud.
    • hmm well our system is quite different. We have IP telephones that talk to a call manager running on win2k. Now the network that the phones and call managers are on is a vlan that can't be accessed by anything but those devices but it is the same physical network as the desktops. The call managers are also managed remotly by a team that is spread around the country that access the machines through secure wan links. We haven't had any problems with them and I don't think we will. The biggest thing is to use clustering and redundant hardware so that there is no single point of failure.
      • Re:OS/2 (Score:3, Funny)

        by atrus (73476)
        Sounds like Cisco. Its a very strange solution... There are lots of "call Cisco before fiddling this knob" knobs throughout the interface. And the contracter that installed it at our former school was incompetent, so doing something like running multicast ghost caused the phones to completley freak out (different VLAN mind you, maybe they hadn't heard of the bandwidth reservation/QoS feature :)). They'd start rining randomly at times, but no connection on the other end, amongst other problems.
    • We're running voicemail on system called CallXpress (it has other names as well) on an older Pentium system with OS/2 Warp installed. There is NO network connection on it, nor will I ever allow it.

      I've run CallXpress on OS/2. VERY nice system. But I would consider throwing a nic in there. OS/2's networking is very much like *nix, so I wouldn't worry too much about compromises, unless you turn on Lantasic stuff, or any other services. By default, just like Linux, just adding a NIC and doing an ifconfig isn't going to turn anything on.

      Plus CallXpress has some additional features that make use of the NIC. Unfortunately we didn't have the room for the NIC, we already had 4 phone cards in the box.

      I feel bad for you though, you don't want OS/2 on the network, but beware, the next version of CallXpress runs on Win2k. :(

  • asterisk (Score:2, Interesting)

    by slashrot (564575)
    I just installed asterisk [asterisk.org] PBX software at home this weekend; not exactly a 'production' environment, but I was impressed. Bayonne looks promising too.
  • limited penetration (Score:2, Interesting)

    by CBackSlash (613476)
    Well, I wouldn't say free UNIX has "absolutely zero penetration". For example, Dialogic would never have released drivers for Linux if there wasn't a demonstrated need for them (i.e. they must have had a lot of their customers asking for them before hand). The same can be said for other board vendors, as well as software like SpeechWorks.

    In other words, I think the fact that vendors support creation of telephony systems using Linux at all is an indicator that it is in fact being used. I would not use the relative success/failure of a handful of telephony related projects as a guage for the success/failure of Linux in telephony.

    But for what it's worth, I am aware of a $7-digit custom speech system that's running reliably on RedHat 4.2

  • 3Com's foray into telephone systems runs a BSD variant (NetBSD, IIRC)... (This is the stuff that's supposed to compete with the Meridian telephone systems)

    We have an NBX100 system; the main chassis is modular, and connects to the telephones over standard ethernet ports (so there's no need to have separate phone wiring - the same jack used for your computer can be used for your phone; if you're short on network ports, the phone even has an RJ-45 passthrough, so you can plug your computer into your phone, and the phone into the walljack, which goes back to your switch.)

    By default, the phones run their own protocol (not IP - possibly IPX, but I've never put a sniffer on the line to find out), but there is a mode to have them use h.323, so you can have remote extensions running over the internet.
  • Yes! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Number44 (41761) on Tuesday October 22, 2002 @06:02PM (#4508120) Homepage
    Yes indeed, at least at the enterprise level.

    I used to work for Lucent/AG Communication Systems. The project I was on, their ClientCare call center system (think big... an entire in and outbound call center solution for arbitrarily large companies), ran on Solaris and FreeBSD. We had Solaris for the big Oracle Parallel server DB and FreeBSD tied the little bits and pieces together such as the CSR clients [which ran on Windows], the ISDN line management, and the playback of our utterly annoying hold music. It worked rather well, in the end. I think they're still doing it that way.

    Here's a link to the product itself: http://www.agcs.com/productsv2/CallCenter/works.ht m [agcs.com]

    #44

  • If you include voice of IP implementations on *nix, you have several choices. For instance, Clarent [clarent.com] does most of their implementation on Sun machines. This won't help you if you're looking for free stuff, but that is an entirely different question.

    Mythological Beast
  • by BrookHarty (9119) on Tuesday October 22, 2002 @06:04PM (#4508131) Homepage Journal
    We only run unix os's with a few NT machines (mostly admin consoles) in our datacenter. The problem with putting a Linux box in production, we have platinum support from Sun. Every server is a sun box, and its standardized for backup, database and clustering. If we put a Linux box, it has to run it on sparc hardware, and we have to have special procedures just for this one box.

    Its much easier to run GPL'ed software ported to Solaris, than to switch the OS. We in fact run many GPL'ed software packages, the cost saving is amazing. The backend software is highly specialized, and will not be ported to linux.

    To make sure the software is locked in production, the developers put license strings for everything, and then they lock it down to IP/Domain/Hardware/os version/etc..

    Sometimes you want the software to be written in house, but with the features, support, updates to software, its easier to write a check and get everything at once. If you want to know who the main players are, Nokia, Nortel, Software.com and Ericsson are the largest players.
  • Yes ... and no (Score:3, Informative)

    by databaseguy (537504) on Tuesday October 22, 2002 @06:05PM (#4508136)
    For us it was a balance of Windows and Unix.

    I used to work for a Fortune 100 software and hardware distributor that also has one of the highest revenue-generating sites on the Internet. We ran a all of our call routing and control services on Unix (can't remember if it was Solaris or HP-UX for those servers). BUT we then transferred all the post-event descriptive information to an MS SQL Server to do data mining against the data. Some people might have thought that MS software ran the whole show, since most managers would use the SQL app to see how their sales teams were doing, but the whole thing was in fact fed by Unix.
  • Not the fit you want (Score:3, Interesting)

    by shoppa (464619) on Tuesday October 22, 2002 @06:06PM (#4508152)
    These specialized applications are generally installed only with a single Windows OS release. The OS is not patched or updated unless by the vendor. Applications other than what the vendor supplied are not installed. The user does not configure the hardware or the software; all of this is done by the vendor. If the user does tweak the machine, it becomes unsupported by the vendor, unless you pay them big bucks to come in and reinstall everything.

    They probably *could* do the same thing under Linux, but I'd rather that they not do it. (The situation with Oracle on Linux is already too close IMHO).

  • A company offering telephony related services has enough to sort out without having to use a non-established(for telephony) platform. If other operating systems have already proved suitable and reliable in this field, then why should they increase their workload by working out how to do it on Linux?
  • by Shishak (12540) on Tuesday October 22, 2002 @06:07PM (#4508159) Homepage
    VOCAL is a SIP based phone switch for handling VoIP calls. It works with Cisco 7960 phones and most of their VoIP POTS boxes (NM-HDV-1T1-24 on a 2620, or 5300 series with VoIP DSP's installed). I've used it and it is production ready. A recent test processed several million calls/hour if I remember correctly. seems pretty robust to me.

    VOCAL [vovida.org]

  • Voicemail System (Score:5, Informative)

    by Hobophile (602318) on Tuesday October 22, 2002 @06:07PM (#4508162) Homepage
    I use VOCP [sourceforge.net] for my home voicemail system. It is essentially a Perl script that sits on top of mgetty+sendfax to provide entry level voicemail functionality (using the vgetty program that comes with mgetty+sendfax).

    The real bear in getting this to work was finding a modem suitable for use with vgetty; vgetty's docs list some voice modems known to work, but most of these are 5+ years old and $300 and up, if you can even find them for sale.

    Clued in by a Usenet post, I found a modern modem that works: the 3Com 2976 Voice/Fax/Data modem. It sells in online stores for around $50. (Note that not all modems which purport to have voice functionality are supported, and controllerless "winmodems" are not likely to work.)

    I also tried using Asterisk [asteriskpbx.org], but it wasn't really suitable for my voicemail needs. As I recall it did not handle disconnect detection very well, potentially leaving the phone off the hook for a long time. There was also a pronounced lack of any HOWTOs or detailed documentation available either with the program, with the PBX card I purchased from them to run the program, or on the Internet in general.

    My sense is that Asterisk's creator actively discourages freely available documentation, in order to have people avail themselves of paid support. To his credit you do get one month of free support for the software and the card when you purchase the latter, and he was helpful in IRC when I spoke with him.

  • by dmsetser (7663) on Tuesday October 22, 2002 @06:08PM (#4508172)
    Let's see... Linux RedHat 7.1 and 7.3 for the Operating system, Oracle 8i Database, Oracle 9i Application Server, Oracle's integrated Apache, X.25/HDLC hardware/drivers. Collecting 100's of thousands of AMA/OCC/CDR/EMI call records a day from telco switches... DMS, 5E, EWSD, DCO, Softswitches. Loading the call records into Oracle, running statistical reports against the call records. Collecting OMPR traffic reports. Mediating call records, sending them to billing. Nope... I guess that Linux isn't involved in telephony at all...

    http://www.nams.net/
    doug@nams.net
  • I know for a fact that the AUDIX system from Avaya/Lucent/Bell Labs runs on SVR4 Unix. I watch it boot up every time we loose power. :)

    I also know that Avaya is moving a lot (maybe even all) of their voicemail stuff over to Linux and W2k.
  • Answer (Score:2, Informative)

    by AUsBandit (601113)
    http://www.digium.com/

    In 2002, Linux Support Services, Inc. changed their name to Digium, as the focus of the business had grown to include not just Enterprise Linux Support but Linux-based Telephony development. Digium has developed the Open Source Asterisk PBX Software Suite. Finding a lack of high-quality, reasonably priced telephony hardware for Linux, Digium has moved to develop powerful hardware solutions for Linux based telephony. Digium offers a range of professional services to complement our hardware and software offerings. Custom software development services are available. We can enhance and extend our software offereings to provide custo mized solutions for telephony customers, and consulting services are available to help plan and implement enterprise telephony systems and Linux based data networks. Digium, based in Huntsville, AL, is located in Cummings Research Park, 3 minutes from Interstate 565 and 10 from Huntsville International Airport. If you are interested in visiting, please contact us for driving directions and staff availability.
  • There has been a lot of Linux buzz over at Ericsson [ericsson.com] for quite some time now. They are betting the shop that the underlying JAMBALA architecture [ericsson.com] will run on Linux Clusters [linuxjournal.com]. The lab that is working on this initiative is located in Montreal, Canada.
  • With Microsoft's new product life cycle plan here [microsoft.com],
    windows NT and 2000 are now approaching their decayed support eras.
    This would mean no new licenses for Windows 2000 only three years after the release. So "new" products are going to have to use something else. I don't know how dependant on the OS the applications are but the savings and customizability should make it worth it.

    Microsoft would push them toward XP embedded.
    • This would mean no new licenses for Windows 2000 only three years after the release.

      Have another look at the document you link to. Mainstream support for 2k (and XP, etc.) was extended to five years from release very recently, so 2k has a bit of life left.

  • by ipmcc (466386) on Tuesday October 22, 2002 @06:12PM (#4508208) Homepage Journal
    I can't speak to what software runs on phone switches, but I can speak as a user at the "medium sized company" level, and as a user I can say that the industry seems to work primarily with embedded boxes for telecom. When you want a switch you buy a switch, and it does what it does. Whether that switch runs linux or SunOS or VxWorks or some proprietary OS is pretty much irrelevant to you if it functions for you in its capacity as a switch. If linux is being used as the basis for phone switching equipment, people probably wouldn't know, unless they had some contact at the company who developed the switch. This is a traditionally very embedded market, where name recognition of an OS like "Windows" or "linux" or whatever is irrelevant to the function of the device. Telecom can be thought of as the ultimate high availability application. In all my dealings with telephone switches, nothing ever crashed or needed to be rebooted. EVER. Even when installing new hardware. This kind of high availability doesn't readily lend itself to traditionally end-user oriented operating systems. I suspect the reason linux isnt perceived as penetrating the telecom sector is because its not, and if it were, it wouldn't matter because people who set up and managed the switches, by and large, dont give a shit how it works, just that it works, that it works all the time and never stops working. :) If your job is to turn a nut, does it really matter if you use a wrench, pliers or your fingers as long as the nut gets turned?

  • There does seem to be efforts afoot to use Linux in the telecom arena, maybe slanted towards embedded Linux, but evidence here. [linuxjournal.com]

  • 3 linux solutions: (Score:5, Informative)

    by Geminatron (616988) on Tuesday October 22, 2002 @06:14PM (#4508222)
    Quicknet has a low - cost 1 port card that will do the trick with Linux and Windows drivers:
    http://www.quicknet.com [quicknet.com]
    Also check out Pika for 4 port cards with traditional analogue and VoIP capabilities with Windows and Linux drivers:
    http://www.pikatech.com [pikatech.com]
    Aslo check out the Bayonne project. Linux based Open Source telephony system with interfaces to Quicknet, Pika, and other cards:
    http://bayonne.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]


  • If you are talking about OSS (Operational Support Software), then you are talking big-boy UNIX (AIX, HP, SUN). You are also talking big honking hardware (32-way boxes, 16 gig ram, terrabyte disk arrays, etc). Nothing suitable for linux or windows.

    However, if you are talking GUI junk (CSR front end, billing system GUI, middleware junk) then you are probably talking windows. You won't see these ported to LINUX any time soon.

    For the record, I work as an integrator for telecom software.
  • I know of several call-center (telemarketing) solutions that run on Linux. There are Dialogic drivers (and isn't $500 a bit conservative for a dialogic board?)

    In any case, if you're looking for some sort of call center solution with built in data and scripting solutions, one of the largest developers of such a product uses Linux - Noble Systems http://www.noblesys.com

    I certainly wouldn't say that they've got the best solution or the most intuitive interface, but they have the best call prediction engine that I've seen. They actually just (18 mo. ago?) re-outfitted the 2nd largest telemarketing company in the world with their solution.

    Warning: even though their server software is Linux based, their client software is either terminal or Win32 based (through FourJ's)
  • by funaho (42567)
    I manage two Asterisk servers used in production environments. It's rock solid and the hardware is inexpensive and reliable. Best of all the code is freely available so you can hack on it to your heart's content. In fact I'm working on integrating it into the billing/provisioning system of my ISP so we can get customer info pulled up on the help desk person's screen as the phone is ringing.

    Check out http://www.linuxsupport.net/ for information on Asterisk and telephony hardware. I believe they sell some starter kits ranging from about $100 (with a USB FXS adapter and an FXO card) up to $1000 (includes a T1 card and channel bank.)

  • Why are people still using the outdated PBX system? Why should
    you be limited to 64 channels on a T1 line? What about VOIP???

    Case [cisco.com]
    in point... Cisco 7900 Series IP phones..

    Cisco IP Phones are designed to enhance productivity and address the
    specific needs of the variety of users in your organization. The Cisco IP
    Phones 7960G and 7940G feature a large, pixel-based LCD display and can support
    additional information services including Extensible Markup Language (XML)
    capabilities. XML-based services can be customized to provide users with
    access to a diverse array of information such as stock quotes, employee extension
    numbers, or any Web-based content. The possibilities are endless



    Last time I checked, XML was everywhere which means you could build a
    phone system to suit your needs


    • Rofl

      People don't use VOIP because VOIP is a trainwreck, and doesn't have the maturity of a PBX solution. I can pump your 9-1-1 "help me I'm dying" phone call through a Meridian 2616, which consists of about... 5 chips and a UART? Or I can pump that call through a PC with over 1 gazillion components, all of which are primed to fail if the user screws up, let alone the if system screws itself.

      I dunno about you, but critical communications demand simplicity and uptime. VOIP has neither. It's great for games, though.
      • Rotf back on you...

        Let me see your precious PBX re-route a call around some huge disaster like let's say 9-11. Because the internet was designed inherently to deal with routing packets around bad hops I would think it's MORE reliable than point to point connections.

        There was a ton of people without phones after 9-11. The whole "it's unreliable" is fud put out by bells so they don't have to upgrade a degrading infrastructure.

        And don't think for one minute the telco's are overlooking packet switching either. If I remember right MCI uses nothing but packet switched networks for transcontinental links. It's cheaper to multiplex a line rather than to dedicate one.

        Right now the only hurdle for VOIP is the lack of IPv4 address space, which is being addressed by IPv6 which is supposed to give us like a trillion trillion addresses.

        BTW, do you think all cell phones use analog transmission? No, PCS is a packet switching network if I ever saw one. Plenty of people call 911 on cell phones.

        So keep your little trolling FUD about VOIP being a trainwreck to yourself, it's just not true.
  • There are quite a few different systems for telephony -- everything from traditional PSTN systems to VoIP protocols such as H.323 and SIP. [columbia.edu]

    In the SIP community, Linux is used quite extensively. I just returned from an even called SIPIt [sipforum.org] which is the major interoperability event for SIP based telephony. There were around 50 vendors there -- everyone from big players like Cisco and Polycom to little startups. Many, many people there were using Linux for their products -- I would say at least 50%.

    I also have worked with several SIP companies recently, Vovida [vovida.org], and open source SIP stack and suite of applications later aquired by Cisco, and Jasomi [jasomi.com], a company that produces telephony boundary control products. These places used Linux extensively as the deployment platform, and there are real working deployments out there using these products.

    So for SIP anyway, the answer is a resounding yes!

  • Telephony apps are big bucks. Combine that with who usually buys them for a company (non technical managers, or committees) along with 50 rounds of RFPs... you'll end up on a platform already used by the customer, every time. After all, the client is already using Win32. As the switch side is tied tighter and tighter to the computing side, Win32 becomes even more attractive since it's on every desktop, and on the back-end as well. No sales pitch is needed in that respect... the myth of "seamless integration" is offered as a benefit, and what sounds more seamless to a customer using already Win32...

    You combine this with the reality that small switch products are typically gutted versions of the real ones. Feature sets of Real Ones are dictated by Real Companies with Real Money. They buy things like Nortel(Wiltel/Nextera/whatever it's called this week), Compaq (or whatever they're called this week), HP (again). They don't buy switch products like ROLM, Panasonic, or Fujitsu... and they don't put E-Machines or $200 Walmart boxes on their user's desktops. All are great at what they do, but try to put any in a real telecom center and you'll be laughed at.

    Make a (freeOS) version, none of the large places will buy it. That means your large-scale version will need to be either embedded or Win32; and as a vendor, once it's built you won't double your development costs by making a totally separate (FreeOS) smaller version when you can simply cut-n-paste from from a system that's already done(since the development is already paid for). From the large solution, a smaller one is made for the rest of you... and it's pure gravy, because designing it didn't cost a dime. And quite frankly, low-end users like it... it's Win32, they use Win32... they can have their little Screen Pops and "seamless integration". Yeah, they can have it with a FreeOS just as easy, but... apples and oranges aren't seamless to the layperson. They've already got Win32, they already know it. You tell me which one you'll buy, and remember your name is "Sally, the GM", and you don't care to learn about Telephony. Or computers for that matter... you just want this idiot sales pig to give you a switch and leave, so that you can get back to work.

    There are a few FreeOS tel things around, but by and large, they're anecdotle when compared to even an Option11. The ROI for developing a large scale FreeOS solution just isn't out there yet, which means you won't be seeing any gutted "small" versions either... only small (anecdotle) solutions that hope to some day be scaled up into something useful. It may change (hopefully,) but not yet.
  • Have you looked at HP's telephony apps on LInux/Unix?

    They are third to fourth in sales in the industry..

  • Having worked with the Cisco AVVID IP telephony system, I can say that in it's current form, it runs *quite* well on Windows. I've got a phone sitting on my desk right now, and we've deployed it throughout our company. Since deployment, it has been completely trouble free. There are many extremely cool features that it picks up, through it's integration with Microsoft Exchange and other Microsoft services. The expansion and customization ability for the system is tremendous.

    That said, I believe that the biggest problem in getting a telephony system under Linux will be pulling it all together in one package. With Windows, Cisco has the advantage (or disadvantage, depending on who you are) of working with a single company. Aside from the management interface, everything is based on Microsoft technology. They're using MSDE for their data engine, along with Microsoft Exchange, and Microsoft Windows 2000 for the server.

    It all really depends on how much work Cisco wants to put into it. With Microsoft they have pull to help get things done, because of the opportunity it represents for Microsoft. They've got a vested interest in keeping the system running, and keeping good relations. Because Cisco would (potentially) have to use different technologies from different companies, they may have more trouble getting everything pulled together. The software Cisco needs exists, but free software developers may not have as much drive to support such an endeavor, since Cisco is essentially the only group who would profit from it.

    I think Cisco would be more apt to port it, if someone could easily demonstrate that the interoperability and features exist to support the platform.
  • In a word, no. Will it happen? No. Why not? Because it's Linux

    This isn't designed to be a flame, or a troll and this isn't an attempt to start a my OS is better than your OS flame war. It's just a fact of life that I've observed.

    As a manager responsible for exactly these types of things for a very large corporate, I wouldn't use Linux in these applications, or in any business related way in my company. I cannot.

    'WHY EVER NOT?' I hear you ask (and yes, I can hear that indignant tone, and the anger rising in your voice from here).

    My Answer to why not (You're not gonna like this): "Because it's Linux".

    My business-based perception of Linux is that it's a random assembly of a large assortment of independant programs. They probably all work together, but no-one ever checked that to a level that I, in my position, can rely on to the extent that I would be prepared to put my butt on the line with.

    Linux is a *kernel*. That's it. I can, to some extent, rely on that - but even that has it's issues.

    There are too many operating systems that call themselves 'Linux'. So tell me, which one is the One True Linux(tm)? And while you're there, answer me this: Do you answer rhetorical questions?

    I don't hate Linux. I *love* the open source movement, and I love free software almost as much. There's an incredible array of absolutely brilliant work out there. I use Linux lots, every day. I run Mandrake and Red Hat at home. The fact that, despite that I've been a professional unix administrator for over ten years, but the fact that I still have problems with the most basic 'these should have been fixed before release' problems on a daily basis with both my samples of 'Linux' tells me that I absolutely cannot put my nuts on the line with these OS's in a business critical production application

    Telephony is exactly that: A business critical production application. Even more so for a company that makes it's money from telemarketing or customer service. I absolutely *cannot* send the entire staff out for coffee mid-afternoon because the flurgenhurger didn't work with the dooverlacky and it took the production box down.

    Because Linux is so loose, so uncontrolled, and so 'random', I cannot - in my capacity as a senior manager responsible for the uptime of business critical systems - risk using 'Linux' in any of it's incarnations in this environment.

    What I must do is stick with the tried, true, and proven. Those that are whole operating systems, not just kernels, that are centrally managed and controlled by one body.

    What are those? Which are the OS that I /would/ use in my production environment? Solaris, FreeBSD, and HP-UX of course, in that order. What else?

    Now, one more thing: If you've read this, and you're angry, and you feel that you need to flame me for this: You didn't understand what I just said.Regardless of that, I'm expecting a raft of "you're stupid" and "you like goatse.cx" and "your mother smells of elderberries" and other well considered counter-arguments. Save it thanks.

    • Granted, a lot of what you said is subjective, and as you acknowledged, there is no point in arguing over opinion. Furthermore, I feel I understood what you said. In support of this, allow me to summarize your post: You a manager responsible for critical systems, and you absolutely do not modify your production environment without significant justification and complete risk-management.

      I don't think you're alone in that position. In fact, there are likely a number of Slashdot readers that are also responsible for business-critical systems. I even read an occasional story about businesses switching their mission-critical systems over to the Linux platform.

      What this means is that even if you aren't comfortable with Linux, there are those in positions similar to yours that are, and they are growing their business in areas they could not otherwise.

      It is possible that there does not exist a Linux application that could grow your business in any significant way. If the benefits of a change do not outweigh the effort involved, I admit it is a pointless modification.

      However, if there exists a tool that could provably benefit your company, for example, by increasing profitability or decreasing the costs of operation, would you be biased against it because it runs on the Linux platform?

      I am planning to start a business myself, and there is no part of it I would trust to the Windows platform. To use your words, I find it "loose, uncontrolled, and random". It does not suit my needs, and Linux does.

      In closing, I interpreted your comment on the whole not as "Linux apps are too risky for me because of ..., etc.", but as "I do not have enough information about Linux and its tools to implement solutions for that platform". I firmly believe that _with proper procedures_ the appropriate Linux tools can be implemented in a risk-free way, its just a matter of knowing how to do it or knowing someone who does.
  • Back when I did telephony programming, it was all on OS/2, largely because OS/2 was a realtime OS, while Windows is not. *nix also generally has realtime kernel support available as well, and the high-end switching software that isn't proprietary generally runs on *nix.

    At the time, however, hardware providers were working on Windows APIs, probably because of the prevalence of Windows in the workplace. There was a big push years ago towards PC-managed telephony over old proprietary PBX systems. It gave businesses the ability to have their IT staff do a lot of customization without very much training.

    The important thing to note is that the migration to Windows was on the corporate end, not on the provider end. There's no way any seriously critical switching software is going to be running on Windows.
  • The company I work for provides ehanced telecom services (sorry, no names, just in case they don't want this information public) that has hundreds of call centers across the US and thousands of full time operators.

    We use commodity linux systems on dell hardware to drive dialogic record/playback/synth on carrier T1's and our switches. We also use linux based systems for some limited text to speach operations as well.

    I would put a rough estimate on the number of these systems at around 200 with 4-16 T1's per machine.
  • I submitted this as a story when Avaya first cut over to Linux. Currently only their small business server runs W2k. I promise that thing was/is an abortion (pardon my crudeness). As another poster said, Linux is the horse Avaya is betting on, and the new servers supposedly are selling like hotcakes.

    Basically Avaya ported their software to Linux and it just runs as another application. My question though, is how come I can't download the source to the GPL'ed parts of the server (none of Avaya's SW is GPL'ed)?

    When I think of those poor lost souls using Cisco's AVVID :-(
  • I'm not up on my telephony definition but VoiceGenie [voicegenie.com] runs on Linux
  • Some Nortel products have processoring units that run a flavor on Linux on them. I'm not sure if they've made their way into any shipping products yet.
  • by linuxwrangler (582055) on Tuesday October 22, 2002 @06:53PM (#4508497)
    Dialogic (now Intel) used to support SCO. Now it's Linux and Windows. Our app (fully automated telephony system handling IVR, call transfers, bridging, etc. features and a volume of over 10,000,000 minutes annually) runs on Dialogic/SCO but we're porting it to Linux. It's been reasonably painless - we're just testing extensively due to the platform change, Dialogic driver change from 2 to 5.1, etc. Downtime is not an option so our CEO will not allow the app to run on Windows (tee hee, how often do you see an enlightened CEO like that??).

    There are some Linux CATI (not strictly telephony but call-center support) projects over at FreshMeat. Ericsson is using Linux in their "Carrier Class" systems. I've spent time with Vovida and Bayonne at LinuxWorld Expo and some Telephony conferences and they seem to be reasonably vibrant projects.

    So yes, Linux is used in telephony.

  • "Is Linux used in production telephony"?

    What the HECK do you mean by that?

    Are you talking about:
    1) The core of a telephone carrier's network?
    2) The core of the network of an ISP that is providing some telephony-related application (like POTS-emulation-over-cable, VoIP, or VoIP-related QoS enhancements)?
    3) Commercial standalone PBXes?
    4) PBX replacements (as a plugin card/driver/app for a PC)?
    5) Modem-based answering machine/fax applications?
    6) Desktop VoIP applications?
    7) Server-room network VoIP servers?
    8) Server-room VoIP/POTS bridges?
    9) Voice menu hell servers - standalone or part of one of the above?
    or a host of other "Production Telephony" applications?

    When I saw the question the first thing I thought was 1). But the text seems more directed to 3) and 9), while responders are all over the map.

    EACH of these seems to deserve its own item!
    • 9) Voice menu hell servers - standalone or part of one of the above?

      That's all I've seen.. I think people are getting PBX confused with ACD/Voicemail system.

      Voicemail systems (which are usually utilized in your voice menu hell system) can double as low-end ACD's, but neither can be considered a PBX.

  • Too new (Score:3, Interesting)

    by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Tuesday October 22, 2002 @07:36PM (#4508811)
    ...even then there doesn't seem to much built around it or anyone using it. It reached a 1.0 release in September and was met with no fanfare.

    So I'm supposed to bet the farm, our company, and MY job on recommending a 1.0 release of a pivotal tool that:

    a) no one else uses
    b) requires a massive $ investment to get off the ground
    c) has only been out for 30 days.
    d) has no support from the company that builds the call center respondent database.

    Not likely.

    If for whatever reason it craps out, we are out of business. I don't care so much about the operating system as I do the combination of operating system AND application. A crappy tool that runs under Linux is far, far worse than a good tool that runs under a properly administered Win2k OS.

    Recommending Linux merely because it is Linux is a fast way to the unemployment line.
  • Simple: complexity (Score:4, Interesting)

    by LiamRandall (257243) on Tuesday October 22, 2002 @07:39PM (#4508830) Homepage
    In addition to our WAN/LAN I also run a medium size phone switch (195 nodes / 16 IP Phones / 2 PRIs for switched access / 1 dedicated Long Distance T1). When you get to the corporate level you're buying a solution; not building one in house, because phones are essential to the day to day operation of the company. Period. I think generically when you say phone switch you're referring to everything telco past the demarc; switch T1s/PRIs, operate internal digital stations, provide analog lines, route calls, manage security, reporting/tracking/billing, Voicemail, Auto Attendants, Hunt Groups, Digital Faxing- the whole 7 layer enchilada. Few corporations are going to allow their IT departments to go the Slashdot way w/ so much on the line. A modern phone switch must reliably scale to thousands of nodes including IP devices, support Unified Messaging (receiving faxes & voice mails through PC), have reporting right out of the box, must be easy to use, and work on the first cut over. While the word 'easy' is certainly a very relative word- in my experience most geeks (a word of complimentary endearment in my vocabulary) can easily master telco while the reverse is not often true. Believe it or not, in the old days these were sometimes the roles of separate administrators / departments.

    You're right that *nix is a perfect fit for all of this; remember Unix was invented [bell-labs.com] at Bell Labs [bell-labs.com]. The auxiliary applications are there; to support your phone switch you need to reliably record and report all activity across your switch for billing, acct. tracking, etc. I would guess that *nix runs the backbone [montagar.com].

    If you'd like you can become a dealer [1cti.com] for the company that claims to have 'the world's first Linux technology based voice processing [1cti.com]' including Unified Messaging.

    By the way I think that Bayonne [gnu.org] is encompassed in the umbrella project of GNUComm [gnu.org]; hopefully it's just a matter of time before someone finishes the Embedded Linux Phone Switch [sourceforge.net]. As an incentive to anyone who develops and releases a free system: even used [telemovers.com] handsets cost big money for a particular phone switch; pick wisely 'cause you're most likely stuck with it for a little while. Caveat: you will most likely be pushed out of the market by softphones.

    Since you're in the market and I just went through this myself contact me off list and I'll share my experience with Inter-Tel Technologies [inter-tel.net] which is one of the fastest growing [business2.com] companies in the US (short version: no I don't work there and overall positive).
  • by bytesmythe (58644)
    The last (and only) telephony project I worked on ran on AIX. The software package we had didn't support rewinding to hear the last few seconds of a message, so I had to write some plug-in code that would be triggered when the rewind key was pressed, keep track of the current negative offset, and only play back the correct number of bytes from the stored wav file.

    It was kind of nasty. Not because it was particularly difficult (although debugging required a group effort to make multiple incoming phone calls to test it thoroughly), but because it was, in a theoretical sense, totally unnecessary. No telephony software package that costs MONEY should lack a simple rewind-replay feature.

  • by telcom-by-linux (619730) on Tuesday October 22, 2002 @08:03PM (#4509048)
    I've been involved in many Large carrier switch control application platforms being delivered using Linux since 1994. Sprint was an early adopter in Asia. Hutchison Telecom also used Linux in their cellular network application switching platform. British Telecom deployed a worldwide unified messaging platform in 2000 that was controlled by Linux in the U.S.,U.K.,Japan, Australia, Norway, Spain, Italy and Germany. NTT used a Linux controlled calling card platform in Japan that ran well over 20,000,000 minutes per month. Embratel and Worldcom deployed the first carrier installed calling card platform in Brazil in 1999/2000 that was running a Linux based switch control platform. If I remember correctly the platform at Hutchison made it over 400 days without a reboot.
  • QUALCOMM Is Unix.. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by TheCeltic (102319)
    QUALCOMM (CDMA/wireless/etc) is entirely Unix based.. do/will they use Linux? I have no clue.. will they use windows? NO.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Why's that free platforms don't perform well at Telephony servers? The Linux telephony is just not structured enough. Because there's not for Linux one guy who's going to application writers (ACD, pre-dialers etc) and telling them "Hey, we're going to build a soft-PBX platform which is going to enable you to sell applications for more platforms than today. We're going to build a Telephony API for ya, how do you want it to be?"

    And then the same one guy gets to telephony H/W manufacturers and says "Hey, we're going to build a soft-PBX platform which is going to enable you to sell more stuff. Only thing we need to do is get the drivers right, and you wouldn't want to see your cards unusable with our platform. So we're counting on your help."

    The key there is that when the middle-man (MS) says he's going to build a soft-PBX platform, others know they can rely on him because he's got an interest in the thing (selling more licences), so they actually help him out. Application developers and hardware manufacturers think alike: "Why invest into a relationship with a bunch of noncommitted hobbyists who have no clear interest in making the technology work? What if I don't like what they do, can I say anything? Why don't I just go with the guy whom I know shares an interest in the technology? And in the end, you've got a system running and everyone finding a way to profitability.

    It's a partnership between people or companies that works.

    I think it's more of a mystery why certain free projects perform so well rather than why many fail.
  • by PenguinX (18932) on Tuesday October 22, 2002 @10:12PM (#4509773) Homepage
    First and foremost I'm a wireless guy, landline is pretty much a black hole to me these days....

    Telecom has been undergoing many changes at the lowest levels for a few years. Most UNIX systems in telephony are used as SCP's (Signaling / Service control points) / HLR's VLR's.. etc. A SCP will provide a service such as SMS, E-911, prepay, or something over the SS7 network. The SS7 network is at the lowest levels very similar to DAP, being a heavyweight protocol that requires its own circuits (ISDN, T1, ATM, etc.). While SS7 has been fabulous for creation of large and wonderful telecom networks it is becoming harder and harder to find people who understand even the basics of it. What's worse is the SS7 solutions of yesteryear (produced by say Lucent, NewNet, and Tandem) are no more. The newer SS7 solutions (say SignalWare, Distributed7, etc.) haven't really been able to cut the mustard. Things have been getting worse for a while, and people know it... but the fine people at ANSI and IEEE, Lucent, Nortel, IBM, and the like have come up with a solution. Make SS7 lightweight (I.e. IP based like LDAP).

    Many things have happened in order to get SS7 (a very demanding protocol indeed) to work over IP. The first milestone was essentially dumping TCP for SCTP/IP. Much has been going on in this realm, the lk-sctp [sourceforge.net] project has been busily cranking out code for the 2.5 series kernel, and will likely make Linux one of the first *NIX based operating systems to have a NATIVE SCTP implementation. Adding SS7 to the top of this is about as easy as creating an SCTP daemon.

    While SCTP and the Sigtran suite of protocols (M3UA / SUA ) are moving ahead quickly there are other projects that are working on implementing a heavyweight implementation of SS7 - such as openss7 [openss7.org], and even the PBX / softswitch project asterisk [asterisk.org].

    While all this may be nice and good, it may be worth noting that Inet Inc. [inet.com] has an SS7 network monitoring solution called GeoProbe. While some parts of the system run on a solaris server the actual cardcages and "proprietary" equipment actually run Linux. (at over 300k a site, that's a pretty big win for Linux).

    As always I'd love to hear what's going on in other sectors of telecom with Linux.

  • DRIVERS!!! (Score:5, Informative)

    by cgleba (521624) on Tuesday October 22, 2002 @11:07PM (#4510030)
    I've worked for a few telephony companies in my time. . .two that stick out succinctly in regards to Linux are Priority Call (makers of Oryx) and Boston Communications (do the pre-paid calling back-end to most large cell carriers).

    Priority Call (http://www.prioritycall.com) makes an uber-trunk-switch that does all types of cool stuff from one-number-anywhere to pre-paid calling to massive e-mailed voice-mail to web voicemail -- it is the swiss army knife of telephony (thier main competitor, BTW is Comverse). Priority Call has sold switches to the likes of Bell Atlantic and a lot of Mexican and South American cell vendors).

    Anyway, their systems were passive-backplane PIIs (at the time) with Dialogic (owned by Intel) ISA-bus switch boards (Dialogic boards also have thier own bus to interconnect them to aide the ISA bus) and Mylex RAID controllers runnning 9 Seagate Cheetahs. They used SCO OpenServer because SCO was just about the only telephony OS 'back in the day' and it was pretty stable. As a side note they also legally used a fair amount of OSS in Oryx, including a hacked-up apache and ncurses.

    SCO OpenServer, though, has not been actively developed on for a *long* time and not only does it show its age, but frankly it is just about the worst OS I have ever worked on (I don't mean to flame you OpenServer-lovers out there). Support was a bitch. Bug-fixing was a bitch becuase SCO was not longer developing OpenServer not to mention that later versions of OpenServer were hacks to old ones in attempt to add new features without the proper architecture. As much as I want to flame I'll leave my beef with OpenServer at that.

    Needless to say the limitations of OpenServer were apparent and they found that *it does not scale* well at all. Thus, they moves their home-brew proprietary Oryx database to Tru64 using rack-mounted Alphaserver DS10s and kept OpenServer for the fron-end and switching to keep migration smooth (Comverse, BTW, uses Tru64 on Alphas -- which this whole push by HP to move to HPUX is going to really piss off a lot of telephony companies). For massive installs they used Sun Netra T-1s in a customer-specific manner.

    Later, they finally realized that not only did OpenServer SUCK, but it was *expensive* too ($500 a copy). Thus they started to port to Linux and wrapped it into one massive migration strategy that included new hardware (Compact-PCI).

    The fact of the matter is that people hate change. People complained about how Linux companies weren't doing so well not to mention that run-of-the-mill support people FEAR UNIX and the migration from the OpenServer database to the Tru64 was painful (had to re-do all the flow-chart-like step-by-step hold-my-hand this-is-how-to-use-unix cutsheets for some people)
    My manager at the time (and the best manager I have ever had) sold Linux -- simply stated, "who cares if the Linux companies go under -- what is better security then HAVING THE SOURCE CODE TO THE WHOLE OS!). During the port, though, Linux had a few limitations that slowed the deployment:

    1) OpenServer is such a hacked beast that porting to Linux from it was non-trivial.

    2) Dialogic (the heart of the telecomm industry) did not make Linux drivers at the time. Thus they decided to move to NMS (Dialogic competitor) cards
    that did support Linux as well as Compact PCI.

    3) At the time Linux did not support hot-plug PCI which was one of the design specs and the main reason for moving to Compact PCI.

    4) Not even NMS would ship source-code drivers -- only compiled modules. THIS IS A BIG THING as one can only run stock RedHat kernels or specific versions they support or else you'll get unresolved symbols or flakiness in the drivers. Face it, the stock RedHat kernel is *not* meant for telephony. Not only that, but the whole security argument of having the source code to the OS is negated because if NMS for some odd reason decided to stop developing Linux drivers then the company would be stuck with one version of Linux forever.

    In the end it was not Linux's limitations that killed the migration but the fact that they rolled the whole migration into the massive hardware/software roll-over and when hard economic times hit and the person who spear-headed the project left, those that hate change won and the whole project was scrapped (some people think it is better to live with what you know versus venturing into the unknown, right?)

    In summary, the things that I think would help adotion of Linux in the telecomm world are:

    1) Above all else, open-source NMS or Dialogic drivers. People fear Linux companyies instability too much and if their vendor decided to stop supporting Linux it would screw them.

    -OR-

    2) A company come about that makes hard-core telecomm-grade switch boards with open source drivers that gives Dialogic a run for its money. I'm not talking about the "internet phone jack" guys, I'm talking about boards that can handle dozens on trunks (read T-1s). Dialogic used to be the main reason for companies not adopting Linux because they basically own the PC-based telephony market and they used to ONLY speak NT and SCO and trust me, as much as I hate to say it NT is better then OpenServer from a support and development point of view (although OpenServer is more stable then NT).

    3) Keep moving forward with Linux on the desktop. Most people to this day *fear* UNIX and if Linux can be made common and user-friedly the managment types (and support types) that fear change will be less reluctant to let the engineers use Linux. It sounds convoluted, but this is how MS did it. Linux on the desktop indirectly helps all those who want to convince managment to use Linux a LOT as it shows that support costs will not be as high
    as it is 'user-friendly' and they can hire monkey support cheap.

    4) Linux clustering. Linux NEEDS good high-availibility open-source clustering. No matter how good your hardware is you can not get the telecomm "five nines" of uptime with one computer! A good first move would be a good filesystem that supports mutiple hosts sharing one fibre channel array.

    Why do telephony companies migrate to NT/2000?

    1) Tru64 is dead thanks to HP.

    2) People are starting to fear that Solaris will go the way of Tru64 and future migrations are *very* expensive.

    3) People fear UNIX and support costs are high due to this fear (need more geeky support people).

    4) Dialogic only used to speak OpenServer and NT (I don't know if it is the same any more). NT is by far the lesser of the two evils in development and support (not reliability).

    4) Managment fears Linux companies instability because they are thinking in the 'old school' support issue -- if a vendor goes under and you can't buy support your company is screwed. Please, educate them that HAVING THE SOURCE CODE TO THE WHOLE OS is teh best security. And please coerce NMS or Dialogic to make open-source drivers as their proprietary drivers negate the last argument!!!

    As for Boston Communications, I did support for them and they used NT. That was one of the worst nightmares I have ever experienced. Try remotely managing hundreds of telecomm nodes all over the country over 56K frame-relay links using Remotely Possible (PC Anywhere clone). Not to mention the BSODs and managment blaming you when they could not report "five nines" to the carriers and thus had to pay them mucho $$.

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