Have we reached a tipping point for cloud-based VoIP?

Perhaps. More people are using Skype than Facebook and choices abound for low-cost, open-source-based telephone options. Here's a look at one.

Some have said that the future of open source is in the middle, and the explosion of cloud-based telephony would seem to bear that out.OnSIP, Twilio, CloudVox, FreeSwitch, are all telephony platforms that have been making a splash and gaining popularity, and they're built firmly on open source. The reasons are legion; but for OnSIP, the two most important are what's most important to their customers: price and control.SIP phone and application.  To achieve this, OnSIP was built upon a variety of open source products, including Asterisk, FreeSWITCH and OpenSIPS.

OnSIP, run by the New York-based Junction Networks, is a hosted business phone service that works with any

"The choice to go open was simple," CTO John Riordan said. "All the proprietary options available were either inadequate for the company's needs or had licensing fees that would have made OnSIP cost too much."

Junction Networks contributes back to the code base whenever possible, so the company's a good member of the community, too. "Doing so is ultimately rewarding for us because we don't need to carry our changes to new versions, and the open source applications we depend upon will prosper," Riordan said. 

As for control? Think about this: If you have a problem with your phone service, what would you rather hear? That it's being worked on and will be fixed momentarily or that a request has been made to the software/hardware provider, and hopefully they'll get around to fixing it sometime soon?  

As a service provider, committing to reliability of the full system (application and server level) is a must, Riordan said.

"Most, if not all, of the open source code we leverage at the application level is developed on Linux (or BSD) using open source tools… In particular, we have combined Linux with commodity servers and the idea of embracing failure — we design to seamlessly tolerate the failure of any individual server," he said.

For those of you who are really into the details, here's the deets on OnSIP's system:

The service itself is comprised of a SIP platform and a XMPP platform which provide hosted voice/video and hosted im/presence services respectively. These platforms have two public APIs - a Web Services API for service administration and an XMPP API for call control and event notification. On those APIs we have built an administrative web based interface, admin.onsip.com, which allows customers to provision their service in real time and an end-user web based interface, my.onsip.com, to provide call control, presence and instant messaging functionality.

The question is whether there is a tipping point at which VoIP and IM/chat services such as this become the norm. Skype is so ubiquitous that there are more people using it than Facebook. And no one would argue that Facebook isn't mainstream. And Skype is, make no doubt about it, cloud-based telephony. It just happens that more people are using it as an IM/chat client than for phone calls. And, Skype isn’t (yet) based on what many would call the VoIP industry standard, SIP.

If we haven't reached it, it's likely soon.

But, heck, even OnSIP CEO Mike Oeth's mom has heard of Skype. Imagine his surprise when he found out she had bene using it regularly to talk to her daughter, who's living in Japan. Lucky for her, she has a son in the VoIP business and got a nice new Internet-ready phone and a free account. That's when he realized that mythical tipping point may have been reached:

At what point do we start to ask when we're going to phase out the PSTN (public switched telephone network) and change everything over to SIP addresses?  My response would be at about the same time we phase out the US Post Office and switch everything over to e-mail addresses.  In other words, never.  There will always be a PSTN.  My mom will always have a phone in her house and yes, one of those phones is still a rotary dial.  But as she does now, everyone in the near future will have a SIP address for placing and receiving VoIP phone calls.  That's the future.  

Given the expectation that most people have now of being able to reach anyone, at any time by e-mail, IM or voice, that would seem to be the case. And by building upon the open source base, that will happen even faster.

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