In a recent post on open source unified communications options, I mentioned the company eZuce and how it had been going through some change of late. I promised a follow-up as soon as I could get more details; well, the other day I got the full story in an hour-long conversation with the company’s founder and CEO as well as its VP of product management - who both confirmed that change is indeed underfoot, with a next-generation platform on the way.
eZuce background: From SIPfoundry to sipXcom and beyond
First let’s clear up the open source questions. As mentioned in my last piece, eZuce’s Uniteme is a UC platform that was originally built on the SIPfoundry platform. SIPfoundry was created in 2004 to bring some SIP-based Voice-over-IP (VoIP) server code to the open source community, says Jerry Stabile, founder, president and CEO of eZuce. After a series of OEM deals and acquisitions, the code eventually wound up with Nortel, which continued developing the code and making it available in the open source version.
That pretty much stopped after Avaya acquired Nortel. The other eZuce co-founder, Martin Steinmann, who had been shepherding the code along at Nortel, saw the writing on the wall and decided in 2010 to found eZuce and continue developing on the SIPfoundry code base, among others.
Most of the open source code is developed by a team of engineers based largely at its subsidiary in Romania, Stabile says. The company is responsible for developing most of the code residing at these open source communities. That includes not just SIPfoundry and sipXcom but openACD call center code.
Steinmann left eZuce in 2014 with the intention of continuing to develop the SIPfoundry code, and he is indeed still involved with the organization. But squabbles developed over changes to the SIPfoundry licensing model and contributor agreements, so eZuce decided to part ways.
“That was a big driver for us to spin out and form a new community,” says Michael Picher, VP of Product Management at eZuce. So eZuce created sipXcom, a new open source project. Using code available at SIPfoundry as a foundation, further contributions use an LGPL3 license, with no contributor agreement, which Picher says provides better developer rights.
“We’ve started to see more contributions now,” he says. “The sense of community is coming back.”
eZuce at Work on a New Next-gen Open Source Platform
Now the company is working on its next-generation platform, which it calls Swarm. This will be a completely different code base that eZuce is in the process of piecing together. The project doesn’t yet have an official web site yet, just a wiki page. Similarly, the company hasn’t yet sorted out the licensing model, but Picher says it will be “free and open.”
“I look at SIPfoundry and sipXcom as the legacy product, the code base of the last 5 years,” Stabile says. “When we cut over to the Swarm project and start to deliver to commercial customers software built on the Swarm code base, I consider that a major next-gen version. “
Among the new or enhanced features is improved support for mobile devices, thanks to open source persistent communications software called Matrix. “That has WebRTC at its core,” Picher says. “It’ll mesh nicely with where we want to go.” For example, its current instant messaging platform “can be heavy on the mobile client, eating up a lot of battery.”
And support for WebRTC means not having to write so much client-side code, he notes.
Swarm will also be more scalable than the existing platform, with multi-tenant capabilities and the ability to manage multiple clients across the same platform. Such features will enable eZuce to sell the platform to service providers as well as enterprises, Stabile notes.
Scalability is already a differentiator for eZuce vs. code based on the Asterisk platform, he says. That’s because the SIPfoundry (and sipXcom) code uses a proxy and registrar system to direct calls and sessions. Asterisk is a back-to-back user agent model, where a server owns and directs each call.
“That means we can have much higher capacity – 5,000 people on each server, easily, because we’re not sitting in the middle of each call,” as is the case with the Asterisk server, Picher says.
eZuce has always had a “nice co-existence” with Asterisk, Stabile says. “They fit well in the SMB space,” he says. “Most customers we accumulated over the years look at Asterisk but if they’re larger they feel eZuce is better.”
eZuce Product Changes on the Horizon
In addition to the new code base, eZuce is also focusing on some additional integration of its product line. Today, it essentially consists of three main platforms:
- Uniteme: UC, including telephony, audio conferencing, IM and unified messaging
- Viewme: visual collaboration, including videoconferencing and webinars
- Reachme: help desk and contact center solution
Those names will not change under the new code base, but the Uniteme and Viewme components will become more integrated. A SIP-based softphone will be added to Viewme, for example, creating an “enterprise telephony platform,” Stabile says. It will combine telephony, with all the usual enterprise features, with visual collaboration tools.
On our call, Picher demonstrated how if someone called his cell phone or his extension, he could easily bridge that person into the conference the three of us were having - complete with video, if that person was so enabled. Pretty cool.
The company has customers spanning vertical markets including retail, technology, education, research and government. For enterprises and service providers looking for open source software, it seems like a company to consider.
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