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CEO says Sangoma cards made Asterisk great

By Tina Gasperson on February 13, 2008 (9:00:00 PM)

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Sangoma produces telephony cards and writes drivers that work with open source applications such as Asterisk, Yate, FreeSwitch, and CallWeaver. Sangoma CEO and founder David Mandelstam says that before Sangoma started producing cards to work with Asterisk, the open source project was "kind of a toy for hobbyists."

Mandelstam launched Sangoma in 1984, at which time the company engineered data transfers using PCs. In 2004, Mandelstam noticed open source software. "As we grew, we found that technologies like Linux were natural partners. When you write applications, it is much easier to work in open source operating systems."

As Sangoma migrated toward telephony hardware production, Mandelstam saw the value of writing drivers to allow Sangoma's cards to work with open source projects like Asterisk. "Asterisk was kind of a toy for hobbyists in its early days," he says. "The original cards that were designed as part of the project were unreliable." People who liked Asterisk were happy to buy the hardware, but "it was not ready for prime time." Mandelstam says Sangoma's telephony cards brought a level of professionalism not seen before in the open source VoIP space. "We produced reliable cards that are compatible with all motherboards. That gave us a foothold in the market."

Entering the open source community hasn't always been a bed of roses, though. "Our biggest problem is that we are not the owners of the technology," Mandelstam says. "Digium owns the code and they issue the open source license. They keep control of their trademark and the source. You can't contribute to Asterisk unless you give your rights away."

Still, Mandelstam says, the benefits of providing cards and drivers that work with open source VoIP outweigh the challenges. "Open source [development] allows for very rapid growth in technology. If you're starting from a base of zero, with no money for marketing or PR and very little money for development, open source software allows you to get something out to the marketplace quickly." He calls it a "tradeoff" between money and fame for developers. "Most are happy with fame, and it can be converted to money if you're very good at it."

Mandelstam says the most important thing to remember when building a business rooted in the open source community is to give back. "The contributions can't always be in the form of code," he says. "But if you're making any money at all, you need to contribute to the open source project [in which you are participating]. A little money goes quite a long way. Projects can leverage very small amounts of money by giving bounties, by hiring students, and by arranging projects at universities. So you don't have to give $100,000, but those little contributions are the sort of things which keep the project alive, because they don't have other sources of income."

Tina Gasperson writes about business and technology from an open source perspective.

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on CEO says Sangoma cards made Asterisk great

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CEO says Sangoma cards made Asterisk great

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 24.214.179.90] on February 14, 2008 01:23 AM
Mandelstam is quoted as saying, "You can't contribute to Asterisk unless you give your rights away." This statement is not correct.

When you contribute to the Asterisk project, you submit a license agreement to Digium. This agreement grants Digium an unlimited license to use the code. However, it does _not_ have anything to do with the rights of the original copyright holder. As a contributor to Asterisk, you still own complete copyright of your work. You can do whatever you want to with your code. You have simply granted a license to Digium to use it, as well.

This is an important distinction to make.

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Re: CEO says Sangoma cards made Asterisk great

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 192.163.20.231] on February 14, 2008 03:09 AM
Exactly how is giving someone unfettered rights to my code not giving my rights away? I couldn't quite follow you're reasoning there.

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...but Sangoma kernel drivers are bitter

Posted by: Michael Shigorin on February 14, 2008 01:46 AM
Digium's cards are plain incompetent, but with more or less working Linux driver; Sangoma's ones are much better but the driver is PITA to even build.

A friend of mine got *that* desperate with those that they're running their own card in experimental production by now (he's available at www.seiros.ru).

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2 anonymous: it *does* have something to do with the rights, unfortunately: you have to waive quite something to a company who's never been nice upstream AFAIK (I've tinkered with * back in 2003 and still hear the same ol' tune on merging useful patches -- or fixing critical loopholes -- these days).

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Re: ...but Sangoma kernel drivers are bitter

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 192.163.20.231] on February 14, 2008 03:14 AM
Actually, the Sangoma drivers work pretty well. Much better than the Digium ones. Its just that bloody awful install that wrecks the whole experience of using them. The installer is troublesome, and the supporting documentation to configure anything the installer gets wrong, or doesn't understand, is almost non-existant.

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Re: ...but Sangoma kernel drivers are bitter

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 141.123.123.100] on February 14, 2008 07:46 PM
Sorry to say, but there's something wrong with you if you're having that much trouble with the drivers. I've worked with Sangoma for almost a decade now (I started out with their T1 PCI cards) and of all things related to Linux, I've never had an easier install. Sangoma's great company made up of some of the most technically competent people I've ever met in my life.

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Re(1): ...but Sangoma kernel drivers are bitter

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 12.169.163.241] on February 15, 2008 12:34 AM
Nice unbiased comment there! Is delusional thinking a Sangoma job requirement? Your CEO Mandelstam doesn't understand the GPL, either. But I give him points for proudly flouting his ignorance, and snarking at an important partner like a 12-year old.

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CEO says Sangoma cards made Asterisk great

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 192.33.238.6] on February 14, 2008 09:31 AM
> Exactly how is giving someone unfettered rights to my code not giving my rights away? I couldn't quite follow you're reasoning there.
You can still use, distribute, and license the code you wrote.

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Re: CEO says Sangoma cards made Asterisk great

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 192.163.20.232] on February 14, 2008 09:58 AM
>> Exactly how is giving someone unfettered rights to my code not giving my rights away? I couldn't quite follow you're reasoning there.

> You can still use, distribute, and license the code you wrote.

Would you care to actually think that one through, and try again?

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CEO says Sangoma cards made Asterisk great

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 86.18.160.121] on February 14, 2008 02:17 PM
>> Exactly how is giving someone unfettered rights to my code not giving my rights away? I couldn't quite follow you're reasoning there.

Them's the breaks, but your code is still protected by the GPL and you still get to keep all of your own rights. Aside from that, you get to contribute back to a great project that is clearly helping you out (else you wouldn't be writing code for it).

Regardless of whether Digium have always worked that well as an open-source company, Asterisk is a really high-profile project that has had a very positive effect on Linux.

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CEO says Sangoma cards made Asterisk great

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 86.18.160.121] on February 14, 2008 02:18 PM
You have to imagine that the previous post has line breaks. It makes more sense that way. Bah.

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CEO says Sangoma cards made Asterisk great

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 72.68.96.226] on February 14, 2008 03:25 PM
I doubt even Digium would argue that Sangoma cards are more reliable, its not even a question. Its part of the reason that Digium needs to control the code. It's their only real advantage. There are a ton of vendors, and contibutors that have made Asterisk what it is. Rather than helping or supporting these groups, they use them better Asterisk, while taking money from their pockets. This was not the case early on. Its sad to see what some investment money will do.

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CEO says Sangoma cards made Asterisk great

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 24.214.179.90] on February 14, 2008 06:00 PM
Michael, you said "I've tinkered with * back in 2003 and still hear the same ol' tune on merging useful patches -- or fixing critical loopholes -- these days". Please check out the following post on the asterisk-biz mailing list that shows how many patches and fixes Digium really did handle in the year 2007: http://lists.digium.com/pipermail/asterisk-biz/2008-January/024819.html

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CEO says Sangoma cards made Asterisk great

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 192.168.1.32] on February 14, 2008 06:51 PM
Digium gave the world Asterisk and we should be grateful for that. Digium is a software engineering company struggling with hardware. Sangoma gave the world PC based communciations hardware which allows Asterisk to work properly. It seems to me that Sangoma is doing what it knows best- building hardware that works. Sangoma sets the bar, and Digium is always 8-12 months behind. [I have used hardware from both companies and China.]

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CEO says Sangoma cards made Asterisk great

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 76.29.245.9] on February 15, 2008 01:56 PM
Digium can't be struggling too much with hardware. They reworked all of their cards in 2007 and recently announced the most comprehensive risk free guarantee in the open source telephony market:

The new Digium ESP guarantee is 100 percent focused on customer satisfaction and includes the following:

-- A new five-year warranty on all new Digium PCI and PCI Express telephony cards;

-- A one-year warranty on all Digium Appliances that can be extended via subscription renewal;

-- All Commercial Asterisk Software will come with a one-year subscription standard and can be extended via subscription renewal;

-- A money-back guarantee should Digium products fail to perform as advertised.

Digium products currently shipping (see link below) are covered under the ESP guarantee and will come stamped with the Exceptional Satisfaction Logo. For more information, please visit www.digium.com/en/company/view-policy.php?id=Risk-Free-Guarantee or send questions to ESP@digium.com.

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CEO says Sangoma cards made Asterisk great

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 192.168.1.34] on February 15, 2008 06:03 PM
it sounds like you work for Digium :) Why is it such a big deal that some vendor (Digium in this case) now has a 5 year warranty? I suspect it is because their hardware has been so bad that they need to scream loud to the world. Things I hear are gettign better. God bless your souls Digium, I was briefed earlier this week on some new initiatives from Sangoma- you are in for a dog fight. Digium rox on SW, Sangoma rox on hardware... China....well your just made in China!

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CEO says Sangoma cards made Asterisk great

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 212.158.8.163] on February 19, 2008 03:36 PM
I've had no problems with Sangoma's installer and find their cards far far better than Digium's - I'm working with large E1 installations for a commercial company. Their support is also far better than Digium, and that's from personal experience with both company's E1 products.

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