ETel Coverage: Mark Spencer on the Future of Asterisk

by Matthew Gast

Jim has already beat me to writing about Mark Spencer's talk on the future of Asterisk. A prior ETel presenter had noted that presentations in Japan begin with an apology. Mark is planning a trip to Japan in May, and began by apologizing for the voicemail system, and the queue/agent architecture. (At one point, he talked about "when queues were developed," joking that "Note that I say that in the third person, as if I didn't write it.")

As Jim points out, Asterisk doesn't really rate as new technology at ETel. Taken on its own, Asterisk isn't that exciting today. It's one of the core pieces of the Voice 2.0 operating system (perhaps I should say "operating environment"?), but operating systems have faded into the background. Asterisk today is in the same place where Linux was a decade ago. It's a robust base to build on. It's been widely adopted as the power user standard, but there's a long haul ahead of the community to get to widespread usage. It's vitally important to have people maintaining the platform (compare Linux 2.0 to Linux 2.6!), but the platform is just that -- the thing people build on. Any sufficiently advanced development platform is "doomed" to fade into the background, yielding a good chunk of the limelight to its coolest applications.

Much of Mark's talk was about all of the ways that the community is using Asterisk as a foundation to build the new stuff on, and that the community is creating new things, not just making the existing way of doing things cheaper. He spoke about trying to interact better with add-ons like Adhearsion and various other projects that improve the end-user experience through the new GUI framework. As if to emphasize the importance of a reference implementation, he quoted analyst David Yedwab, who says that in five years, our IP telephony choices will be Microsoft and open source. Fortunately, with Mark on the job, we've got a good chance as a community of being more than a footnote.