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Open Source Telephony Makes Money, Vendors Say

BOSTON -- Open source doesn’t mean free, according to business leaders in the open source telephony industry who gathered for special panel discussions here Monday at the Fall VON show.

The show’s “Open Source IP Communications Summit” included panelists from both large and small companies working with open source telephony software, including Digium/Asterisk, Fonality, iSolve, Pingtel, Sun Microsystems, SIP Foundry, Verizon, and VoicePulse. A number of companies are demonstrating open source products or making open source announcements at the show, including IBM, Mindspeed, PMC-Sierra, and Signate.

The open source dicsussion track presented a vibrant community of commercial businesses built on open source software. While the objectives of business and open source may seem oxymoronic to some, the key, according to Fonality CEO Chris Lyman, is not to confuse “open source” with “free software.”

There is a “difference between the open source movement and the free software movement,” Lyman said. From his perspective, open source is a business tool that entrepreneurs can use to build interesting companies. “Open source is about business, not about freedom,” Lyman said.

By contrast, the free software movement believes that there is something fundamentally wrong with commercial software. According to Lyman, free software proponets sometimes take the extreme position that “anyone purchasing one of these [commercial] licenses and distributing non-free software is doing something wrong.”

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