Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Star wars: Asterisk versus SIPfoundry

By Ben King



So now that Asterisk has a serious rival in the open source VoIP world, which is better?
“They compare at a pretty basic level,” says Rich. “They are both open source communication platforms.”
The key difference, he says, lies in the fact that SIPfoundry cleaves much more closely to the SIP standards. SIP is essentially a peer-to-peer communications protocol, with most of the system intelligence distributed to the edge devices on the network.
As Rich puts it, “Asterisk is an open source PBX. It is an architectural model that works in a centralised control system. In SIPfoundry, the smarts enter the system at the end point.”
Mark Spencer, CEO at Digium and Rich’s opposite number in the Asterisk community, agrees, broadly:
“In a sense, I would say that whereas Pingtel views SIP as the be-all, end-all of all telephony, we hope that Asterisk will be that be-all, end-all to the degree that such a thing could possibly exist.”
Asterisk is SIP-compatible, but doesn’t have the same degree of closeness that SIPfoundry has to the Internet Engineering Task Force, which defines the SIP standards.
Rich points out that many of the key members of the key IETF working groups also sit on the board of SIPfoundry.
These include Robert Sparks, SIPfoundry president and co-author of the core SIP specification, who co-chairs the IETF’s SIMPLE working group (on instant-messenger style presence applications), and Cisco alumnus Rohan Mahy, Co-chair of the SIP and SIPPING (investigation of new SIP applications) working groups.
For those who are keen to stick as closely as possible to the SIP standards, that’s an advantage. But Asterisk will be more fleet-footed, says Spencer:
“As new needs come along, Asterisk (like any software implementation) can be completely changed at any level in order to accommodate the new requirements, whereas SIP (like any protocol definition) can only do so within the constraints of retaining backwards compatibility and with lengthy debates in a standards body.”
You pays money (or not, given that it’s free software) and you takes your choice. In a market which is likely to expand rapidly, there is certainly room for both.
“While one could view Pingtel and Digium as competitors,” says Spencer, “I think we both benefit from having someone else in the open source space, as it helps lend additional credibility to what we're doing and pushes us to work harder to deliver what customers and users are demanding.”
Bootnote
* We’re not quite sure what a commoditizee is. It may be like a chimpanzee – a gorilla after a thorough downsizing. Whichever Cisco becomes, it’s sure to raise a few eyebrows on Wall Street.

2 Comments:

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