Sangoma CEO weighs in on future of FreePBX


  • Service Provider

    A Welcome Message From Sangoma CEO, Bill Wignall

    To All our Valued FreePBX Users:

    It has now been just over a month since Sangoma acquired SchmoozeCom, the sponsor and lead developer behind FreePBX, and we've consciously chosen to wait a few weeks before reaching out to you, in order to provide reassurance that it's "business as usual" for FreePBX, the project that you know and love! And it now seems like the appropriate time to offer you a warm welcome from Sangoma, where I have the honor of being the President and CEO.

    Many of you may know Sangoma as a well-established, highly respected technology company that makes products for many aspects of the telecom industry. We are financially stable, publically traded, with operations all around the globe and a formidable engineering team with deep expertise in telecommunications, developed over many decades. In recent years, Sangoma has been focused on introducing new products and services to the market including call center software, gateways, tapping/call recording software, session border controllers, SS7 software, high density telephony cards and many others, so adding a PBX is a logical strategic fit. How better to do that than with FreePBX, perhaps the most widely used PBX on the planet!

    What you may not know is that Sangoma also has a long pedigree in Open Source telephony, having supported many of the most important OS telephony projects in our industry, including both Asterisk and Freeswitch. In fact Sangoma helped make Asterisk dependable for business many years ago, and has contributed to helping FreePBX become one of the most widely adopted open source PBXs on earth.

    We know very, very well that in other cases, when a commercial company has taken over an open source telephony project, it has not always ended well, and that this may concern some of you slightly. Heck, we at Sangoma have been caught up in those situations too. So one of the most critical points I wanted to share with you today is that you need not worry about such problems in this case! Sangoma is honored to now be the steward for the FreePBX project and has partnered with and retained all of the people at Schmooze who work on FreePBX. They are very excited to be part of the Sangoma family now, and together we are 100% committed to not just maintaining but evolving the open source project on your behalf. You have my word on that.

    The FreePBX community will now benefit from the project being backed by a larger, mature company with much broader resources, over 30 years of experience in telecom and a long history in open source. But there are many other benefits for FreePBX users as well, such as:

    The stability and credibility this adds to the project, reassuring you that it will be around for many years to come, with ongoing development and support
    The acquisition will enable acceleration in the development of FreePBX (and SIPStation) capabilities, via both additional financial investment into the project and by tapping into the deeper pool of engineering resources available at Sangoma. This means more functionality in FreePBX, sooner, for you.
    All of our products/services, including FreePBX, from the open source project, to Commercial variants of FreePBX for those who require this option, to our add-on modules, to SIPstation will be more readily available from Sangoma's extensive network of distribution partners around the world. This will make it easier to obtain the software through not only the traditional Schmooze methods but now also from Sangoma and its channel partners around the globe.
    You will be able to count on the industry leading reputation of Sangoma's "because it must work" products to interoperate even more elegantly with FreePBX. A simple example would be our full range of telephony interface cards or the integration of Sangoma's SBC functionality into FreePBX, with many more possibilities to come.
    For those users who have asked for a Sangoma PBX, we can now meet that need with FreePBX, in the traditional downloadable open source variant, or pre-installed and tested on our industry leading 'because it must work' telecom appliances.
    I hope you will agree that these are exciting times for FreePBX and its enormous group of over 2 million users around the globe. If you have any questions, concerns, ideas, or requests, I invite you to contact me personally at the address below. Please don't hesitate to do so, as I would welcome the input from our valuable community! Myself and everyone in the Sangoma/Schmooze/FreePBX family offer you this warm welcome and hope you'll find this new partnership only serves to further your satisfaction as a FreePBX user.

    Sincerely,

    Bill Wignall
    President and CEO
    Sangoma Technologies
    [email protected]


  • Service Provider

    My problem with this is that even before the buyout, Schmooze has been pushing their commercial modules on the community.

    There are many posts about people contacting PIAD support only to be told they should not use XXX and instead buy the Schmooze module.


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    Seems upbeat and positive. Only time will tell. Thankfully it is open source so would be very dangerous for them to try to move on without supporting it.


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    @scottalanmiller said:

    Seems upbeat and positive. Only time will tell. Thankfully it is open source so would be very dangerous for them to try to move on without supporting it.

    FreePBX is a copyright protected property. Open source or not,


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    @JaredBusch said:

    FreePBX is a copyright protected property. Open source or not,

    How would the copyright make a difference? It's open source, Sangoma has no control over it. It is already licensed to the community. The license cannot be revoked, copyrighted or not. Copyright does not have that kind of power. Part of the copyright does not below to them either, that's the beauty of the source being open, it belongs to all of the contributors.


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    @scottalanmiller said:

    How would the copyright make a difference? It's open source, Sangoma has no control over it. It is already licensed to the community. The license cannot be revoked, copyrighted or not. Copyright does not have that kind of power. Part of the copyright does not below to them either, that's the beauty of the source being open, it belongs to all of the contributors.

    Yes, it is open source and free to the community. And Sangoma can decide they no longer want to do that with the next version and that they will no longer support anything not on the newer version.

    The reason the copyright comes into play is because you will not be able to directly fork the project without gutting it. Open source does not negate copyright. Nor does open source mean 100% of the code is open source.

    All of the PBX distributions seem to have a mix of open and closed source code.


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    @JaredBusch said:

    Yes, it is open source and free to the community. And Sangoma can decide they no longer want to do that with the next version and that they will no longer support anything not on the newer version.

    Any company can decide not to support a product anymore. That it is Sangoma, FreePBX, sourced in any which way, etc. doesn't affect that. That's the nature of all software, all the time.

    The beauty of GPL'd software is that other companies can take the work and continue developing it and adding support for it. So Sangoma has no specific claims to it (other than the project name) so if they drop the ball and stop support, stop development or simply do it poorly others can (and will) take up the work in progress and carry on. This is a big project with plenty of momentum. The industry isn't going to let it drop.


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    @JaredBusch said:

    The reason the copyright comes into play is because you will not be able to directly fork the project without gutting it. Open source does not negate copyright. Nor does open source mean 100% of the code is open source.

    Copyright does not do that. The GPL means that absolutely you can fork it. The only things you need to worry about are the non-code portions like images and the name. The most trivial things. The code itself, the actual software, is GPL'd and guaranteed protected. The copyright on the code has no power here and that has been upheld in court many times. GPL absolutely protects you.

    They can't claim open source without it being open source. Their website alone is enough to cause anything that they tried to claim wasn't GPL'd to be GPL's almost certainly. Once they are making sales based on marketing claims of being GPL'd, they are bound to that.


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    The GPL is referred to as a "copyleft" because it specifically modifies normal copyright rights in such an unexpected way. It is not a change of copyright, however, it is a license for the copyright. The power of the GPL is from copyright law.


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    @scottalanmiller said:

    The beauty of GPL'd software is that other companies can take the work and continue developing it and adding support for it. So Sangoma has no specific claims to it (other than the project name) so if they drop the ball and stop support, stop development or simply do it poorly others can (and will) take up the work in progress and carry on. This is a big project with plenty of momentum. The industry isn't going to let it drop.

    Again, the entire code is not GPL. Simple as that. yes, it could be picked up by others. But the code would have to be gutted of references to the non-GPL bits.

    http://www.freepbx.org/copyright-trademark-and-intellectual-property-policy

    INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY
    FreePBX is primarily released to the public under the GPL, however, some accompanying bundled software may be released under other licenses. Please see the source code for the exact licensing.

    FreePBX provides a module system to allow plugging in 3rd party modules into your FreePBX system. Any module that uses the FreePBX Module, Framework or GUI system must be released as GPL and use of the module must be for controlling or managing other GPL or open source software. Sangoma as the copyright holder does reserve the right to release modules that are not GPL and under a different license under a dual license model.


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    Are there any non-GPL bits from FreePBX? Their reference makes it sound like they are redistributing stuff that is not theirs so they do not control the license. The dual license part is still GPL, just with non-GPL options for customers who want to buy non-GPL'd components. Dual license options for the GPL are standard and their wording definitely suggests all GPL for that part.


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    Luckily, if there was a need to "gut" the system, it is just a matter of not including those parts. It's not like altering the code. It's just not including certain components.

    My guess is we are only talking about third party drivers here, as FreePBX itself is already redistributed through, for example, Elastix, we know that all of the GPL'd parts are already being used after the "gutting". There are other projects that already do this. So if there is any to be done, it's already been done.


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    @scottalanmiller said:

    Are there any non-GPL bits from FreePBX? Their reference makes it sound like they are redistributing stuff that is not theirs so they do not control the license. The dual license part is still GPL, just with non-GPL options for customers who want to buy non-GPL'd components. Dual license options for the GPL are standard and their wording definitely suggests all GPL for that part.

    None of their commercial modules are GPL. This means all of the nice features that people like to use cannot be brought along in a fork.

    A good example of this is the Endpoint Manager. The old one has not been supported for a long time as Schmooze came out with their own commercial one. Thus, any fork would have to come up with their own endpoint manager or bring the old dead one up to date.

    In addition to the GPL issue, there is also the problem with the Trademark. That is scattered all over the system. and is something that would certianly have to be scrubbed from the code/pages in a fork under the scenario we are discussing.


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    @JaredBusch said:

    None of their commercial modules are GPL. This means all of the nice features that people like to use cannot be brought along in a fork.

    True, but those are not part of FreePBX itself. When we use it, none of those are in there. That's all extra, above and beyond the product.


  • Service Provider

    @scottalanmiller said:

    My guess is we are only talking about third party drivers here, as FreePBX itself is already redistributed through, for example, Elastix, we know that all of the GPL'd parts are already being used after the "gutting". There are other projects that already do this. So if there is any to be done, it's already been done.

    I know of no distribution that has gutted it. Elastix certainly did not gut it. The entire system is there untouched. They did add a new level to it with the skin that you see by default.


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    @JaredBusch said:

    In addition to the GPL issue, there is also the problem with the Trademark. That is scattered all over the system. and is something that would certianly have to be scrubbed from the code/pages in a fork under the scenario we are discussing.

    Yes, that does need to be scrubbed. Although it did not have to be scrubbed for Elastix to use it, so I'm not clear on how that works. CentOS had to scrub out the RH stuff, but Elastix doesn't need to remove the FreePBX stuff.


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    @JaredBusch said:

    I know of no distribution that has gutted it. Elastix certainly did not gut it. The entire system is there untouched. They did add a new level to it with the skin that you see by default.

    That's my point. The whole thing, untouched, is the level of gutting needed.


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    @scottalanmiller said:

    That's my point. The whole thing, untouched, is the level of gutting needed.

    No, you are missing the entire point. There is a reason that Elastix dropped FreePBX in 3.0. There is a reason the the PBXiaF team has spent the time and effort to come up with the Asterisk GUI distribution.

    Both teams obviously hope that nothing changes as they are also continuing efforts with their products that use FreePBX.

    I won't pretend to know all of those reasons. But I can at least see the writing on the wall when the wall is in my face.


  • Service Provider

    @JaredBusch said:

    No, you are missing the entire point. There is a reason that Elastix dropped FreePBX in 3.0. There is a reason the the PBXiaF team has spent the time and effort to come up with the Asterisk GUI distribution.

    Both teams obviously hope that nothing changes as they are also continuing efforts with their products that use FreePBX.

    FreePBX is a horrible interface. It is dated and sad. It works, mostly, but leaves a lot to be desired. Ever since FreePBX switched from being an interface to being a full on competitor to Elastix and PIAF they have had a huge incentive, really a need, to develop their own thing. If anything, my guess is that they hope that FreePBX does do something drastic and force them to either take over or abandon FreePBX, not that they fear that. I felt for years that they needed to do this, having nothing to do with source worries with FreePBX.

    Simple business pressures would make them do what they are doing. Nothing more is needed.