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Frozen in Time: Sangoma at a Crossroads or the Cliff

We are fast approaching the 18 month anniversary since the mass exodus of talent from Sangoma and Digium. During that time, Asterisk® and FreePBX® have languished in limbo with FreePBX commercial modules mired in discontinued encryption methods and the Asterisk and FreePBX feature set frozen. Sangoma’s acquisition of Digium gave the company a well-respected business phone system in Switchvox® while relegating FreePBX deployments with commercial modules to second-class citizen status.

Now Sangoma has a difficult and expensive decision to make. In order to continue to deploy FreePBX commercial modules on a current operating system and PHP platform, they are facing a multi-million dollar investment to retool all of the commercial modules using an entirely different encryption platform which will generate additional headaches with their module repositories which now must manage and maintain two different sets of modules. Think of it as migrating from an English-based operation to one in which the customer base speaks either English or French, but not both. In the meantime, Asterisk 17 is fast approaching end-of-life while Asterisk 16 is getting long in the tooth with only minor fixes of late. And there’s FreePBX 15 which hasn’t seen significant upgrades since the departure of the former Schmoozecom staff in April of 2019.

While we have never agreed with the Sangoma CEO about much of anything, let’s take over the management reins for a moment and look at the landscape. The Digium acquisition coupled with some other purchases has left Sangoma with a mountain of debt in the middle of a global pandemic. Coronavirus also has forced many businesses to reassess their long-term office strategy. With nearly everyone on the planet now carrying a smartphone and most current employees having high-speed Internet connectivity at home neither of which the company has to pay for, does a fancy office for every employee still make good business sense? When you have a well-positioned business phone offering in Switchvox, does it make good business sense to continue to pump boatloads of money into a competing FreePBX commercial product simply to preserve its functionality? At the same time, Sangoma’s open source Asterisk and FreePBX products need a serious shot in the arm to remain viable. For example, FreePBX 15 with its User Control Panel won’t run on CentOS 8, and CentOS 7 reaches EOL status in December.

So here’s our first act as Sangoma CEO. Convert all of the existing FreePBX commercial modules into open source, GPL code while offering existing FreePBX commercial module customers a 50% discount to migrate to Switchvox within the next six months. We would stagger conversion of the commercial modules to GPL code by releasing three on the first day of every month. This would keep Sangoma in the news for many months to come. The move would not only restore Asterisk and FreePBX to their well-deserved position at the forefront of the open source community, but it would also give Switchvox a leg up in the commercial phone system marketplace. By keeping the identity of the monthly releases a secret, it would build much needed momentum for Sangoma’s open source offerings while reinforcing Sangoma’s commitment to the open source community. Give it some thought, Sangoma!

Originally published: Tuesday, September 8, 2020

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