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The sip:providerCE launch – A one-month recap

Back in December 2010 we were launching the sip:providerCE as an open-source offspring of the sip:provider PRO to bring the Sipwise NGCP technology to a much broader audience. During this month, we got a lot of feedback, and it’s time now to look at the impact for Sipwise and the market.

How did it go?

The feedback we got for the sip:providerCE was really great. Obviously, there’s quite a high demand for a proper Class 5 VoIP solution in the market between small-scale PBX-based (Asterisk, Freeswitch) systems on one end, and highly complex and specifically tailored assemblies of OpenSER/Kamailio and various application servers on the other.

The key for success of the sip:providerCE seems to be the simplicity of setting up a VoIP system, while still being able to leverage the capabilities of the involved building blocks in order to provide appealing features and services to subscribers. From a commercial perspective, customers like the unique approach in the ITSP world to test and evaluate the Sipwise NGCP technologies by experimenting with the free and open-source sip:providerCE, then upgrade to the sip:providerPRO appliance for a highly available and professionally supported, modern VoIP soft-switch.

Who uses the CE?

Although an open-source turn-key solution for VoIP is nothing really new, the sip:providerCE targets a quite undiscovered niche in the market. There are some popular solutions in the PBX market (e.g. Trixbox, Elastix), and there have also been some experiments in the ITSP market (e.g. EasyITSP). Still, there hasn’t been anything really usable shipping out-of-the-box when it comes to serving >10k subscribers with integrated billing, provisioning and web interfaces until the launch of sip:providerCE.

So as far as we’ve been told from our users, the primary target market for the CE is people abandoning the low-level configuration of Kamailio, SEMS, Asterisk, skipping the part of implementing and putting together provisioning and web interfaces and creating a proper billing system. They now jump onto the CE, where they concentrate on building their business on top of the platform, instead of first having to build the platform itself. If you’re also using the sip:providerCE but had a different motivation for trying and sticking with it, we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section!

What impact did the launch of the CE have?

For Sipwise, the market broadened quite a lot. In the past, we mainly targeted large carriers with our sip:carrier solution, and mid-sized ITSPs migrating from legacy systems to SIP using the sip:providerPRO. By making the well established Sipwise NGCP technology available to anyone for free in the sip:providerCE, we got a lot of commercial requests from small companies we didn’t know before. The launch was covered in VoIP magazines like voiptoday.org and various blogs like from Daniel Mierla, the founder of Kamailio/OpenSER, so it also got us plenty of press.

On a technical side, the preparation of the CE for the open-source launch in December forced us to review, rebuild and retest each and every component of the NGCP. This helped us massively to stream-line our development process and the packaging and deployment work-flow, so all of our other products like the sip:providerPRO and the sip:carrier benefited from this launch.

What did we learn?

The #1 lesson for now is to lower the entry barrier as much as possible if you really want people to use your product, even if it’s free. You as the creator are (hopefully!) convinced about the quality and usefulness of your product. Thus you might think that others would take the challenge of going though an even complex process of installing it to find out how great it is afterwards, so they will love it once they use it anyways. The problem here is that people usually don’t know what awaits them, so they won’t take the effort to find out.

First we thought that if we give a fully featured and open-source Class 5 soft-switch to the people, they will take the challenge to get a 64bit machine, install Debian on it, then install the CE on top. However, it turned out already in our beta phase that this entry barrier is ways too high for people to just try it. Thus we decided to provide pre-installed Virtualbox and VMware images, which can be put in operation in just a couple of minutes. Looking at the statistics, ~50% of the users went with the VMware image, while ~25% used the Virtualbox image and ~25% went the full way and installed the system on a dedicated machine.

What’s next?

In 2011, we will start providing regular training classes for the sip:provider CE around the world. There you’ll get the opportunity to learn how to master the platform and take advantage of the many possibilities it offers, directly from the creators of the system.

On the other hand, we’re going to hand over parts of our sales and operations to certified partners in order to be able to concentrate mainly on the improvement of the sip:provider and sip:carrier products. If you’re a VoIP consultant or integrator and you’re interested in taking part in our partner program, contact us at office@sipwise.com.

Within the next days, I’ll publish a road-map for the development of the sip:providerCE, sip:providerPRO and sip:carrier for 2011. The main focus for the next release will be an improvement of the usability of the web interfaces, and eliminating the requirement to edit any configuration files directly on the system at all. There will also be a re-design of the SIP routing architecture to prepare the road for new SIP routing and media features. Stay tuned to learn more.

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