Extending the realm of open source software into the communications arena, systems integration and networking solutions vendor NetCraft Australia has developed a new Voice over IP (VoIP) suite based on the Linux operating system.
Known as Converse VoIP Application Suite, it is designed to enable telephony communications such as voicemail, telemarketing, call centre management and conferencing over the Internet, according to NetCraft Australia senior systems engineer Geoffrey Bennett. He said Converse uses Cisco VoIP hardware, but is based on NetCraft’s VoIP application software running on Linux. The suite also employs Iagu Networks’s Session Internet Protocol (SIP) server.
“[It] is a replacement for Cisco’s Call Manager,” Bennett said. “The software runs on a Linux box, but the customer doesn’t have to know that it’s Linux.”
The suite, which took just over a year to develop, is currently in final beta testing, and should be released as a commercial product in February.
Customers can choose to run the solution based on a Red Hat or Debian Linux distribution.
“With Red Hat’s recent shift to enterprise Linux and Fedora, some customers want one, some want the other. We are supporting both. We also support Debian and we’re looking at SuSE,” he said.
Despite being one of Cisco’s premium partners in the systems integration space, Bennett said he wasn’t worried about treading on the vendor’s toes by offering an alternative open source solution for VoIP services.
“[Cisco] doesn’t mind us because it can’t necessarily reach the smaller companies,” he said. “Its solution is not designed for the smaller space.
“[Cisco] Call Manager is a tier-one solution aimed at the large enterprise market. So we’ve got something that will hopefully be of interest to smaller companies that can’t afford to invest in the bigger solution.”
Nevertheless, the Converse suite could also appeal to bigger organisations, Bennett said.
The first customer to sign up to the new Linux-based VoIP service is South Australian-based regional TV broadcaster Central Television.
According to Bennett, Central Television is now using the trial version of the VoIP service to link together the PABX systems from each of its five offices in South Australia.
One of the key features for Central Television’s decision to go for NetCraft’s Converse suite was the ability to do call conferencing without incurring external phone charges, he said.
Bennett said Central Television was previously paying $500 to $1000 per month on conference calls using its previous solution.
“It was paying oodles for its traditional conferencing system. Now it can have the box running in-house, and have a conference call whenever it wants,” he said. “The company doesn’t have to call up anyone to book the conference; it just arranges it, calls in at the appropriate time and talks.”
NetCraft also recently deployed the Linux VoIP suite across its Adelaide office.