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Freeswitch: The New Open-Source Telco Switch

Can this open-source project undermine the market for high performance telephony switches?

The first open-source, carrier-grade telephony switch will be introduced next month at the ClueCon conference (www.cluecon.com) in Chicago.

Dubbed FreeSwitch , the open-source project aims to build a highly scalable switching platform that can run on AMD, Intel and PowerPC and runs for just $4,000 to $5,000 per server. Protocols employed include SIP, H.323, Asterisk's IAX2, and XMPP/Jingle.

Even if marginally successful, FreeSwitch could shake up the telecom industry. Carrier grade switching platforms, such as those from Broadsoft or Sonus, can run tens, if not hundreds, of thousands dollars.

What's more, most such switches limit the quality of the voice calls down to 8 KHz, the operating frequency for PSTN circuits, contends Brian West, a developer involved with the testing and development of FreeSwitch. Not so with the FreeSwitch code base. The open-source community will demonstrate next month a FreeSwitch implementation switching 16-KHz phone calls.

The project is sure to grab the eye of major equipment vendors who have been looking for sometime at an open-source carrier-grade switch. IBM demonstrated a fault-tolerant version of the Asterisk open-source IP PBX last year. Siemens, Fujitsu and IBM each approached Digium, the vendor that's commercialized Asterisk, to create a more scaleable version of code for their networks using clustering techniques, says Kevin P. Fleming, senior software engineer at Digium.

However, those efforts have largely failed for a number of reasons. Asterisk suffers from a "narrow minded affinity for Linux, kind of works on a Mac and has scalability issues in its architecture," says Anthony Minessale, a former developer on the Asterisk open-source IP PBX project and founder of FreeSwitch.

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