SIPfoundry, Pingtel Up the Stakes for IP-PBX

by Sean Michael Kerner

Pingtel ramps up channel partnerships for European launch, as its open-source underpinning, SIPfoundry, launches a pair of new apps.

Pingtel Corporation today announced a major push in Europe for its open-source IP-PBX product SIPxchange. Pingtel's open-source IP-PBX efforts are seen as a good thing for the open-source VoIP industry, according to competitor Digium (see below).

SIPxchange is an open-source application developed via SIPfoundry, a not-for-profit organization. Pingtel is a sponsor of the organization and has taken up SIPxchange as its own, offering solutions and support to customers in North America, and, starting today, Europe as well. The European expansion is being channeled through a series of VARs that Pingtel has brought into the fold.

Al Brisard, VP of marketing at Pingtel explained that Pingtel has been actively creating its channel program since it announced its open-source model in 2004.

"We've been fortunate that Pingtel's reputation of delivering enterprise-grade solutions was well established prior to our moving to the open-source model, so there was an inherent trust in the marketplace for the company," Brisard told Enterprise VoIPplanet.com. He added that to date, the channel has been developed by both the company's outreach effort and inbound inquiry from leading system integrators and resellers in Europe.

"In many ways, Europe is much further down the path of adopting open-source technologies, so our solution is a natural fit for many channel partners," Brisard said. "We've also had tremendous interest from traditional IT resellers that see the economic benefits of open-source VoIP in terms of providing real cost benefits to their customers."

New support tools
SIPfoundry today announced a pair of new SIP software tools that expand its open-source VoIP offerings. The repro proxy server is a SIP proxy server and registrar intended for telecommunications carriers. Repro proxy is now in alpha but offers the promise of eventually being able to support million of users and be easily integrated and managed by existing carrier back office systems according to SIPfoundy.

The second solution officially announced today by SIPfoundry is sipXtapi, a multi-platform (Windows and Linux) SDK and a SIP user agent that is intended to simplify softphone development.

Brisard expects that both of the newly announced SIPfoundry products will play a role in Pingtel's commercial portfolio over time.

"The sipXtapi user agent solution will most likely come to market first, as our primary market is enterprise, but with the hosted voice market picking up steam, we expect to have a solution for this market when the time is right," Brisard said.

Open-source trail-blazer
Pingtel and SIPfoundry are of course not the only open-source VoIP IP-PBXs in the marketplace. The Asterisk project and its corporate sponsor Digium predate Pingtel's open-source adoption. In fact according to Mark Spencer, president of Digium and founder of the Asterisk project, he tried to get Pingtel to support open-source VoIP and use Asterisk, several years ago, which didn't happen.

"Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Spencer told EnterpriseVoIPplanet.com. "In a way it's very reassuring to have Pingtel come aboard and go with the whole open-source thing."

"Having another company step in and say we think this is a viable business model helps us out because it makes everything a lot more appealing to people in that they look at it and see that there is not just one company, there's more than one," Spencer added. "It adds a certain credibility to the industry."

Different strokes
That said, there are significant differences between Pingtel's offering and Digium/Asterisk. In Spencer's view, SIPfoundry regards SIP as the be-all and end-all of Internet telephony, which is not the Asterisk view. Asterisk supports a number of IP telephony protocols, including SIP.

"SIP is certainly the leading open-source VoIP protocol today, I'm just not convinced that there'll only be one," Spencer said. "I think that there'll be more than one, because in different situations there are different protocols which are better suited for addressing those needs."

Pingtel's Brisard acknowledged that at some level, certain customers that are looking at SIPxchange also look at Asterisk. Brisard noted that being 100 percent SIP is a good thing as it means it can be used with any other SIP compliant device or application. He also cited Pingtel's robust professional services and customer support organization as a differentiator.

Ultimately though, Asterisk is not necessarily Pingtel's true competition.

"We believe both [Asterisk and Pingte] are good for the market and provide a needed jolt to the incumbent VoIP equipment vendors who Pingtel views as the true competition," Brisard said.

This article was originally published on Thursday May 26th 2005