GNU Telephony Stack Opens Up VoIP

Open source telephony market heats up with GNU offering.

By Sean Michael Kerner | Posted Dec 30, 2005
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The GNU  Telephony stack is out and aiming to provide users of proprietary VoIP  stacks with a free software alternative.

The GNU Telephony stack is backed by support from Tycho Softworks, whose owner is also the maintainer of GNU Bayonne, one of the key components of the stack.

The GNU Telephony stack includes a long list of GNU-sponsored telephony related applications. GNU (which is a recursive acronym for GNU is not UNIX) is an effort sponsored by the Free Software Foundation.

The Telephony stack includes the GNU Bayonne telecommunications application server, the Troll ip/pstn gateway packages, the GNU RTP  stack, the Open H.323 stack and the GNU Gatekeeper H.323 call server. The GNU Telephony stack also supports SIP  byway of PartySIP. Drivers for Sangoma and Voicetronix are also part of the mix.

David Sugar, owner of Tycho Softworks and the GNU Bayonne maintainer, said the organizational effort behind the stack came has simplicity in mind.

"We had wanted to put together all the current components into a simple to install stack," Sugar told internetnews.com. "The idea had existed for awhile, but there was time recently to organize it currently."

Though to date there hasn't been a stack organizing all the various GNU telephony components, that's not say that those components have not been adopted commercially. Sugar noted that Bayonne is used by over 1000 organizations worldwide, commercial and governmental. GNU Gatekeeper is used by Deutch Telecom for its national VoIP h.323 network.

Still, the fact there was not a simple way to address the complete telephony picture using free software from GNU was a potential barrier to adoption of GNU-sponsored telephony initiatives.

"In GNU, there is individually Bayonne, and there are related and important projects, like GNOME Meeting, GNU Gatekeeper, and sip projects like libexosip2 and partysip (from antisip.com)," Sugar said. "All are freely licensed under the GPL, but none have been presented together for building complete solutions in this way before."

The VoIP world is certainly no stranger to free/open source software solutions. The Asterisk IP-PBX, which recently released version 1.2 has been making headway in the market for over a year and has claimed to be an innovator of VoIP in general.

Asterisk and the GNU Telephony Stack are not necessarily competitive efforts, though they could be.

"Asterisk is a IP-PBX, and tends to be compute bound," Sugar explained. "In GNU Telephony we focus mainly on peer-to-peer, where endpoints directly communicate, and so we are network bound. The GNU Telephony stack is hence targeted first at users who need VoIP or traditional telephone support, with large scalability."

Sugar admits that there may be some overlap between the efforts. However since both are free software licensed (the GPL in most cases), he noted that GNU Telephony would also be willing to use Asterisk in those places where it may fit best.

"Our view is enterprise centric, and how to work with and integrate to other things, rather than PBX centric, and how to make other things work with a specific PBX," Sugar said. "So if or where we do compete, it is probably on the conceptual and architectural level, as well as in the marketplace."

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