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Vincent Luba interview

From what activity does this interview take time?

Novacom has three main field activities: First, we develop IP telephony solutions based on SIP and H.323 standards, and relying on Open Source software. Our second field specializes in consultancy services related to Open Source IP Telephony software such as Asterisk and SIP Express Router, as well as standard VoIP protocols, in particular the SIP protocol. Finally, we offer tailor-made development related to IP Telephony projects. Our objective is to provide feature-rich, powerful and reliable solutions based on standards and Open Source. Thanks to our experience in standard protocols and Open Source software, we aim to be the leader on the regional market. At Novacom, my task consists of designing solutions, managing the project during its development process, then validating , with the customer, that the delivery matches his needs.

How fun is it to work with Asterisk?

When working with Asterisk, you can always be surprised. With Asterisk you can address so many use cases. Sometimes, a customer has a request, coming out of nowhere, but finally, you realize that Asterisk can do it.

You'll give a talk together with a Novacom customer who migrated to an Asterisk solution. How many users are on this Asterisk installation?

Currently, there are 700 extensions distributed on two Asterisk servers. At the end, the deployment should reach around 1,200 extensions distributed on multiple systems all around the globe. The preliminary stage was a pilot with around 600 extensions, some users being on remote sites, like in China. Now, we are on the expansion phase, making deployments in Germany, USA and China.

What preparation did this migration involve?

Actually, several meetings with the customer IT team were held before the deployment beginning stage. This allowed to define the network topology, numbering plan, time frame for the migration and the transition measure in order to minimize users annoyances. Another thing was to define procedures in order to avoid individual tasks, as we prefer to to treat them in batch mode. The major part of the deployment occurred when the company was moving to its new headquarters. One of the biggest advantage is its flexibility. In this specific case, we had decided to perform load balancing on our server. The use of Asterisk eased the replication of the server. The disadvantage is the bad performance as far as faxes are concerned. Asterisk lacks T.38 support and , in many situations, prevents us from running pure IP Telephony, thus including fax reception and emission. More generally speaking, faxes have always been causing trouble, because of their sensibility. Eliminating the need of real fax machines would have a great impact on a larger organisation’s budget (hardware and consumable). Good news! The situation has gotten much better as Error Correction Mode is working by now and T.38 is shipped with Asterisk 1.4.

It is often said that maintaining an Asterisk server requires much daily work for a large scale usage. What do you think about this statement?

It would if your maintenance policy includes lots of tasks per user. Now the global maintenance system does not change that much in relation with the size. Our strategy is to avoid having tasks per user. We have developed many tools allowing to ease large scale maintainance of Asterisk servers. Our purpose is to bring to our customers the most reliable and easiest solution, while keeping the power of Asterisk. In summary, it is all a matter of strategy. Without a good strategy from the beginning, even the smallest deployment can require as much effort as the biggest one.

What feature(s) are you waiting for the most in the next Asterisk release?

A video conferencing application within Asterisk... Conferences are available only for audio mode. A Multipoint Control Unit application in Asterisk, may take Asterisk deployments to another level.

How did you end up working in the VoIP world?

Back in 2003, I did my graduation project, at the Faculté Polytechnique de Mons, on VoIP and especially H.323 standards. After that, as a study project, I started to perform load and stress by testing on an Asterisk system. I did this project in collaboration with IT-Optics, before I officially teamed up with them.

Why working with an Open Source product rather than using proprietary ones?

Because you have a better control over your projects. Actually, there are two ways of having control over a project: either you do it by yourself from scratch, or you use some existing tools provided that you can see inside it. The second solution gives a company a way to enter a competitive business with low entry costs.

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

When participating to this event, our objective is to share our experience and to convince people, at least those who still need to be, that Asterisk is ready for corporate use.