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Jacques Gripekoven interview

Thanks Jacques for taking the time to answer this interview. From what activity does this interview take time?

I am actually in the Thalys, returning from Paris where I attended the opening game of the rugby world cup ;-) But it is my pleasure to take some time to answer your questions.

You have a strong background in the telecom industry. Is Open Source shaking up the industry's landscape?

I indeed spent 17 years working in the telecom industry. In the last decade Open Source technologies have been pretty widely used by the industry but most of the time as underlying components (operating systems, protocol stacks, security modules etc.) and most people didn’t have a clue they were offered products embedding Open Source components. Even these days, most manufacturers do their best to hide the fact they use Open Source components. The big shake up comes from projects like Asterisk that offer a complete Open Source solution and claim it loud and proud.

How do the big players regard this FOSS offering?

Traditional PBX manufacturers are very nervous about Asterisk because it directly competes with products they generated fat revenue with. On the other hand, some clever manufacturers and software developers understand that projects such as Asterisk could become an underlying brick they could build even more value on.

Belgian companies are reputed as conservative for their IT choices. Do you experience that in your contacts with prospects?

Correct. This is the reason why we intentionally communicate the fact that we are an “Open Source” VoIP integrator. People who do not believe in the FOSS approach do not contact us and go spend their budgets with traditional vendors and integrators. We almost only get prospects that adhere to the FOSS philosophy and are on the same wavelength.

Eyepea profiles itself more as an integrator. Why and how did the company decide to take this approach?

We analyzed the market and noticed that some other players manufacture their own products and additionally act as an integrator. My experience in the telecom sector has shown me that you cannot be both. But being a manufacturer is not an easy task in Belgium (lack of VC funding, small and fragmented home market, lack of very skilled engineers etc.). We consequently decided to act as a pure integrator. I very much like this approach as it give us total freedom to choose the best components to build our solutions and not to be driven by in-house product developments.

Doesn't integrating proprietary parts with open source components pose problems?

I wish all the components we use were Open Source. Unfortunately some areas are still poorly covered by Open Source solutions in the market segment we cover (medium to large organizations) and we have to use proprietary pieces as they provide features not found in FOSS.

By putting proprietary parts in an open source based solution, don't customers loose some benefits of open source software?

They loose some benefits like the complete access to the code but we’ve been very careful to select components that provide open API’s so that closed source isn’t a real obstacle.

What's the highlight of your talk at Profoss on improving customer service with Asterisk?

VoIP is nowadays getting tremendous momentum because companies get “more for less”. My presentation will be based on customer cases that show that companies using Asterisk get “much more for even less”

Can you reassure Profoss participants that your talk won't be a commercial show?

Not being commercial is the rule of the game as a generic speaker in an event like PROFOSS. It is a question of principle!