GoogleTalk Gets a Facelift for Business

Talk about mind-boggling changes. A new project will allow businesses to connect GoogleTalk users to their Asterisk, telephony servers, Mark Spencer told me yesterday....

David Greenfield

April 5, 2006

3 Min Read
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Talk about mind-boggling changes. A new project will allow businesses to connect GoogleTalk users to their Asterisk, telephony servers, Mark Spencer told me yesterday. He should know. Spencer is the author of the Asterisk open source, IP PBX and CEO of Digium, the company packaging Asterisk as a business-grade solution

The project is currently in beta with availability set for some time around June, smack in between the May release of Digium's Business edition of Asterisk B.1 and the next rev of the public Asterisk 1.4 release in July.

I'm so incredibly excited about this project for lots and lots of reasons. Inter-company collaboration will become a lot easier now for Asterisk users. Extending out the Asterisk network is a cinch and think of all of the cool applications one could create for GoogleTalk. Heck, just real termination becomes easier.

But I get ahead of myself.

One of the things that's always puzzled me is why Google didn't just support SIP or even Mark's own IAX protocol used in Asterisk. Mark had the same question until he studied Google's SIP replacement, Jingle"Once I saw the way Google's protocol (Jingle) works and the way it meshes with Google's bigger picture, then it makes complete sense," he says.

Jingle uses the same Jabber protocol between clients for voice that it does for IM. With Jingle, the actual content of the call, the media stream , travels directly between GoogleTalk end points. The signaling used to setup and control the call travels across the Jabber infrastructure. So as those Jabber servers federate with Google for IM, they implicitly create a federated framework for carrying VoIP calls as well.

What this means is that by connecting to GoogleTalk, Mark hopes to enable Asterisk servers to federate with one another across a GoogleTalk backbone. This will enable VoIP users to call one another in different companies through standard business phones and without touching the PSTN. Aside from lower prices, skipping the PSTN (which is really only attractive for international calling) voice quality will also be improved. Normally, users on two different VoIP networks end up communicating between gateways across the PSTN. Federation eliminates the delay of traversing gateways and allows the use of better than PSTN-quality CODECs.

There are other possibilities for remote and mobile users as well. With a Jingle implementation in Asterisk, Mark sees no reason why a user running GoogleTalk, or for that matter some other Jabber client such as Gaim , couldn't be an extension off of an Asterisk PBX server. Asterisk will accept GoogleTalk presence messages and translate them into other formats. Users with a SIP phone on an Asterisk server, for example, will see be able to know whether or not a GoogleTalk user is online

What's more now IT can give its mobile users a GoogleTalk client, complete with five-digit dialing. They can be out of the office and still receive and place calls from GoogleTalk as if they were in the office. Although GoogleTalk does not offer call-transfer, the Jingle protocol does allow for call transfer, says Matt O'Gorman the lead developer on the Jingle-Asterisk project. Gaim will provide that capability, he says.Then there are the applications. Service providers will be able to use GoogleTalk federation to link one another and offer termination services, but why couldn't enterprises offer corporate unified messaging for their GoogleTalk users now? Basically, anything one can do with an Asterisk extension you should be able to do on a GoogleTalk extension. O'Gorman says they'll be able to pipe the text functions through Jingle so administrators, for example, will be able to control their Asterisk servers via their IM client.

FYI For more information about Jingle and all things Jabber-related (and a few other topics to boot) check out Peter St. Andre's site. And yes, do buy him a book.

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