Open source projects have revolutionized operating systems, web servers, web browsers, and so why not carrier switches? The FreeSwitch open source project released its Release Candidate 1 (RC1) yesterday providing and by early accounts the software rocks.
“We replaced a cluster of 10 Asterisk servers with a single FreeSwitch server,” said Chris Parker, director of systems for a large publicly traded CLEC. Parker says he’s getting several hundred concurrent calls on a single, dual-core box that’s also doing all of the media processing, a computationally intensive task.
The software was first cooked up Anthony Minessale, an early Asterisk developer, who wanted to create an Asterisk 2.0 project back in 2005. When that didn’t gain acceptance he set off to build FreeSwitch. Today, the FreeSwich projects relies on the work of some 16 developers and testers.
The software is a high-speed call switching engine that telcos or businesses can use to switch calls, build a media gateway, or a media server to host IVR application. Commercial softswitches provide those features, but they run tens of thousands of dollars. FreeSwitch is a free download.
Aside from high-speed switching, the software provides built-in IVR, multilingual voicemail, conferencing, and presence. The software will handle SIP and wideband codecs for high-fidelity voice calls.
FreeSwitch will most likely shine on the backend. One application will be to help business reduce calling costs by directing calls to the cheapest carrier. Ken Rice, a voice consultant and owner of tollfreegateway.com, a voice termination service, says his FreeSwitch “cherry picks the rate centers” and chooses the least-expensive carrier for delivering 40-45 million minutes per month.
In theory, FreeSwitch could become the platform for a new carrier, but there’s far more to building a carrier than just purchasing a switch. Purchasing and integrating the proper billing and management systems are bigger changes. What’s more FreeSwitch lacks the huge range of features of commercial softswitches, such as Broadsoft, will offer to deploy consumer services.
That was one of the reasons why Parker chose to use FreeSwitch instead of Broadsoft, he says. The price didn't hurt either.