2006 Edition Free and Open Source Software Developer's European Meeting


2006-01-31 - Mark Spencer


An interview conducted by Lionel Dricot (aka "ploum")
FOSDEM - What is "different" with Asterisk? What are the competitors on this "market" and why must we choose Asterisk?

Mark Spencer - What differentiates Asterisk from what? I think I need more clarification on this question because Asterisk competes with a variety of products from Cisco VoIP gateways to Nortel PBX's to conferencing servers, and yet can act as complimentary to all these systems as well.

FOSDEM - What, in Asterisk, makes you very proud of it?

Mark Spencer - Outside of the code, the community engagement is one of the most rewarding parts. Asterisk has really made a lot of headway and we've had a lot of support from many people. Within the code, I'm most proud of its (somewhat controversial) architecture which is designed to be very similar to the Linux kernel and networking stack.

FOSDEM - What, in Asterisk, ashamed you the most?

Mark Spencer - Within the code, definitely the queue / agent system. It totally needs to be reworked and is the source of lots of heartache. Outside of the code, it's the bickering that seems to be inherent in most sizable projects where you see people who want to spend more time arguing and complaining than just getting work done.

FOSDEM - Asterisk is, in most case, a software for business, not for the average user. Is Asterisk successful in non open-source related business? Do you think it will increase the open source awareness?

Mark Spencer - Digium's primary software model centers around a dual license model. Software that Digium creates is available in open source form when not externally encumbered by outside copyright / patent interests. I think that what we're doing with open source may help spread into other industries that, like telecom, have been extremely ripe for competition and which, like telecom, have much fewer barries than those faced by Linux in the general operating system battle.

FOSDEM - How do you see the future of Asterisk and your own future in the OpenSource world ?

Mark Spencer - I think Asterisk is clearly the most leading piece of open source software in the telecommunications server area. I hope to work even harder with the team here at Digium and Asterisk's many contributers to push even harder into more sophisticated applications, improved performance, and new technologies like text and video. I play many roles in Asterisk, including the president of Digium, trying to spread the word and evangelize Asterisk and open source in telecom, trying to develop new products (many people don't realize that I'm heavily involved in the development of the hardware too, not just the software), developing new features for Asterisk, and trying to *help* with the bug tracking process (although this is greatly driven by Kevin Fleming now).

FOSDEM - What will you talk about at FOSDEM this year (more precisely than just "it will be about Asterisk")?

Mark Spencer - I usually write my talks the night before my presentation. I'm thinking for FOSDEM I might do it sooner, but this is still a little early. If you have any ideas, I'd be happy to hear whether you prefer a technical or business presentation.

FOSDEM - What do you expect from FOSDEM and what makes you happy (if any) to come here in Belgium?

Mark Spencer - Maredsous is what makes me want to come to Belgium most of all, but FOSDEM sounds like it would be a great chance to help spread the word about Asterisk. It is ironic, really, that Asterisk is *so* well known in the communications space (Network World was so kind as to name me among the "50 most powerful people in networking" this year) but yet in the Linux world it is surprisingly unknown.

FOSDEM - Thanks you for your answers, for coming to FOSDEM and for your involvement in Free Software.

Mark Spencer - Thank you for the invitation. I am frequently humbled by the invitations I receive to attend events and appreciate the interest and determination expressed by people like the FOSDEM organizers in making this happen.


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