Fred Posner

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Sangoma Doesn’t Get Open Source

So, earlier today (2019-09-24), Sangoma tweeted the following:

If you don’t know, just over a year ago, Sangoma acquired Digium, the creators of Asterisk (which Sangoma called “the most widely used open source communication software in the world”). Sangoma is also the owner of FreePBX, “the most widely deployed open source PBX platform in use across the world.”

I found it interesting that a company owning arguably two of the most widely used open source telephony projects in the world would discuss “outgrowing” open source…

After all, many businesses, carriers, and Fortune 100 enterprises use Asterisk and handle millions of calls daily. People (including yours truly) share knowledge on using open source telephony software to handle call volumes, custom integrations, and scenarios that could only be achieved by open source.

So, I took the bait, clicked the link, and read something that immediately took me back in time to January 2017 when Mitel wrote their horribly misguided piece “Six Major Risks of Open Source Phone Systems.” Mitel has since taken down the post, but you can read my take: Mitel thinks knowledge is a risk.

So, in the Sangoma post, VP of Marketing Jim Machi implies many of the same myths that Mitel raised and that are essentially the same FUD used by Cisco, Avaya, and now Sangoma against open source software.

FUD stands for Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. I discussed FUD in detail in my Kamailio World 2018 presentation. Basically, FUD is a disinformation strategy. The company, in this case Sangoma, creates a negative perception of a “problem” and then offers a solution.

If you as a customer are programming oriented, then digging into an open source PBX is great. And it might be fun to go download new releases and pick the specific phones you want and keep the system updated with the latest security upgrades.

Jim Machi – VP of Marketing, Sangoma

This paragraph made no sense to me… after all, Sangoma provides FreePBX which is an “easy to implement” GUI based PBX. You don’t have to have any programming knowledge…

Asterisk demands some Linux knowledge but you definitely don’t have to be programming oriented to build an incredibly powerful phone system.

FUD. Just the suggestion that you need to be programming oriented, or you may be subject to security risks creates fear, uncertainty, doubt.

Or the techie guy who first said, “hey, let’s do this open source thing,” has moved on, leaving you with an unsupported mess!

Jim Machi – VP of Marketing, Sangoma

This quote annoyed me more than anything else… It’s 2019. A lot of us are working very hard to increase diversity (gender, race, etc) in the industry and the “techie guy” cliche doesn’t help anyone. “Open Source thing.” C’mon Jim.

You might want to add on applications beyond simple phone calls.

Jim Machi – VP of Marketing, Sangoma

FreePBX, without programming, supports queues, conferencing, ring groups, hunt groups, phone provisioning, and too many features to list.

Asterisk supports multi-tenant, WebRTC, advanced API control, voice recognition, and advanced features that many proprietary systems haven’t even considered integrating yet.

The phrase “simple phone calls” really has no place coming from Sangoma and is nothing short of insulting to the contributors (non-paid, open source community members as well as Sangoma employees) who have coded some incredible software.

I absolutely get that Sangoma needs to generate money, and in doing so, needs to sell commercial add-ons, commercial pbx’s, phones, and more. So, you expect someone in marketing to promote products that bring in money.

This said, you don’t see McDonald’s talking crap about their hamburgers to try to sell you a Big Mac. You don’t see Red Hat saying Ansible CLI sucks when trying to sell you Tower.

If you want the open source community to trust and support Sangoma, you’re going to need to do much better. The recent post by Sangoma is the wrong message, delivered poorly, and makes it difficult to trust and recommend Sangoma products.