Open Source Telephony. for Government

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1 Open Source Telephony for Government

2 Open Source has the power to improve established industries Open Source has the power to improve established industries and is offering a real alternative to proprietary solutions that are in the market today, be it Android phones versus the iphone, Linux versus Microsoft windows, or MSQL versus Microsoft Sequel Server. Linux, Apache, MSQL and Perl are what is known as the LAMP stack, and is what the internet runs on today. Benefits of Open Source Telephony Significant savings in license fees and reduced deployment spend - unrivalled ROI compared to proprietary systems No vendor lock-in Stable, secure and feature rich Infinitely more flexible than proprietary systems. Allows for seamless integration with other systems, such as the CRM Faster development for each organisations individual needs Fewer error defects than proprietary code Open Source adheres to open standards and is not limited by proprietary data formats. For interoperability, it is the way forward Licensing is very open, allowing organisations to exploit the source for their own objectives Open Source is driven by need, interest or opportunity rather than by a single company roadmap, or internal corporate requirement Open Source and G-Cloud It is now over a year since the UK government mandated a preference for using Open Source software in digital developments and since then many more public sector projects have been based on this collaborative and communities driven platform which is proven to save time, money and resources. Before this announcement, in 2012, the UK Government G-Cloud was formed an initiative primarily designed to ease IT procurement by public sector bodies that use cloud computing and cloud telephony systems. The launch of G-Cloud was also intended to open up competition and in particular to help SMEs, which can be more flexible, innovative and cost-effective, when supplying services to government. 1

3 G-Cloud comprises: A series of framework agreements with suppliers, from which public sector organisations can procure services without needing to run a full tender or competitive procurement process. CloudStore An online store that enables public sector bodies to search for services that are covered by G-Cloud frameworks. In May 2014, there was a fifth iteration of G-Cloud with several new suppliers added to the roster, one of which was Foehn as one of the few specialist cloud telephony providers. The public sector move towards greater adoption of Open Source and the launch of G-Cloud heralds a new era in the selection, procurement and implementation of digital services across both central and local government. Historical IT challenges facing the public sector The chequered history of IT and government procurement and implementation has been well documented as public sector organisations of all types and sizes have been plagued with issues including over-spending, missed deadlines, vendor lock-in and in some cases projects being completely abandoned at no small expense to taxpayers. Traditionally public sector IT contracts have been dominated by a small number of large systems integrators. The introduction of G-Cloud was partly designed to alter the balance and provide government with more choice, greater innovation and fast access to qualified and pre-approved suppliers. Costs Historically putting an accurate cost on IT projects in government has been hindered by difficulties associated with the sheer scale and complexity of some programmes, the challenge of implementing technology, ever-changing project requirements, and administrative difficulties between procurer, user and supplier. Delays Deadlines for IT projects have often been missed because of unclear business cases at the beginning, poor technical specification, confusing or changing requirements and lack of project sponsorship and/or ownership. Lock-in By their very nature, proprietary solutions are designed to lock customers into a company or group of companies own systems and licenses. This practice has existed for many years and invariably has resulted in other issues, including higher than anticipated costs, lack of innovation and contractual difficulties. Abandoned projects Many IT projects have failed completely because of issues relating to unclear business cases, poor technical specification, project delays, higher than expected costs and contractual issues. 2

4 New challenges A greater preference for Open Source in public sector IT projects combined with improved procurement processes, is now going some way to addressing these issues, however a new set of challenges for public sector IT procurers and IT managers have arisen. Lack of experience, knowledge and skills Although Open Source is far from new, its growing adoption and wider use in UK government means there is an experience and skills gap as well as a learning curve for procurers and users. Scarce resource Similarly, the growing need and demand for Open Source implementations means there is a lack of resource within the public sector to successfully deliver and support Open Source projects. Keeping pace Unlike proprietary solutions, Open Source is a dynamic and highly collaborative environment where new developments are taking place all the time. The advantages are that new solutions and updates are continuously available, but keeping pace requires expertise and attentiveness. Uncertainty Although UK government has laid out its strategy for the selection and implementation of Open Source in digital developments, inevitably a degree of doubt and uncertainty will remain among individuals and public sector bodies that are used to traditional procurement processes and proprietary systems. Mind sets will need to change and this will be assisted in part by successful implementations that demonstrate clear benefits, including cost savings and greater efficiencies. The new approaches to IT in government With the publication of the UK government s digital strategy paper in April 2013, encouraging the further adoption of Open Source in the public sector, the rate of use of Open Source has already increased and is expected to grow exponentially in the future. There are many comparisons to be made between the traditional proprietary model of IT developments and that of Open Source. Proprietary The proprietary model is often driven by a company s own roadmap and its own corporate objectives. Technologies are largely developed in-house or through sub-contractors and the intellectual property (IP) rights 3

5 exist for the company to exploit through revenues and profits. Such IP is often protected by very stringent licensing restrictions. Open Source The Open Source development model is different, driven by collaborative need, interest and opportunity, either by an individual or community of individuals that contribute back into the Open Source programme. Source code is downloadable and licensing is very open, providing developers with the opportunity to take the source, re-contribute to it, or take it on further. This approach is attractive to government because collaboration will drive greater efficiencies across the public sector, especially as there are many common and shared goals between public sector bodies. Open Source platforms - what to consider Open Source technologies are applicable to most industry sectors and the telephony sector has become a major user of Open Source to deliver projects. Looking at the technologies and skills needed, there are three main Open Source communities to consider: Asterisk which can be built into telephone systems for corporates and contact centres. It has the functionality that most corporates would be used to and need to deploy. Kamailo a SIP proxy used in carrier networks. FreeSWITCH - for large-scale value added services that will often be embedded within a carrier network. Check out the Open Source Telephony video series for more on what to consider If an organisation does not have the skills in-house, it will need to consider working with an implementation partner, typically a systems integrator with Open Source knowledge, experience and track record. Carefully consider their size, skills, reference sites and ongoing support capability. Open Source advantages One of the most significant benefits of Open Source is freedom from vendor lock-in. Organisations are at liberty to work with other components and hardware not supplied by the vendor. They can also develop and add their own features if they are not provided by the vendor. Many of the large Open Source programmes, such as Apache and Asterisk, are extremely vibrant. Features are continuously developed by communities and software releases appear on a frequent basis. The historical myths surrounding Open Source software include unreliability, lack of security and fewer features compared with proprietary software technologies. It is now widely acknowledged that Open Source is at a point where it is highly stable, extremely secure and incredibly feature rich the government s decision to express a preference for Open Source is a further endorsement of these advances. 4

6 Open Source code is continuously developed by a massive global community of developers and is tested by a far larger community than proprietary software ever could be. Open Source software makes integrations simpler. Because the software works with open standards, it can easily integrate into external components making the connection between telephone systems and CRM systems very simple. Implemented correctly, Open Source can add enormous value to an organisation, providing a product that has lower total cost of ownership, is feature rich, and tightly coupled with business processes and business systems. Discover Foehn s approach to Open Source Telephony for Government Any organisation considering an Open Source telephony system will weight its decision making criteria to its business needs. For some, flexibility, interoperability and feature sets will be important, for others, cost or supportability. As with any evaluation of technology, it s important to keep an open mind and avoid any preconceptions that may already exist. Open Source can offer organisations, small and large, unique benefits including cost savings, flexibility and scalability. Keep an open mind with Open Source. Open Source telephony provides a genuinely cost effective, feature rich alternative to proprietary systems and is considerably more flexible James Passingham, Founder & CTO Open Source is adaptable Open Source allows organisations to adapt their IP communications in a constantly evolving environment. When a communications solution is procured from Foehn, the customer is buying far more than technology. They are securing a strategic partner with 14 years experience of delivering Open Source telephony projects across all business sectors. Our tried and trusted approach ensures our customers not only meet their objectives, they do it without sacrificing features, quality, reliability and service. Organisations can meet achieve everything with Open Source that they can with proprietary solutions, so there is no compromise. Design & build Foehn places a great deal of emphasis on the Asterisk and Kamailio Open Source telephony frameworks as they offer infinite opportunities to integrate with existing PBX systems or CRM applications. Many of our solutions include elements of customisation and development that go beyond basic configuration. 5

7 Our experienced pre-sales team will help your organisation understand the true potential of Open Source telephony. Through a consultative process we will prepare a comprehensive design document which tightly aligns a proposed solution with your organisation s operating environment ensuring communications remain central and seamless to the operation. All designs are reviewed by a Technical Design Authority before being written up into a statement of works. This is then passed to our project team to deliver. Your project team will consist of a Project Manager with many years experience delivering telephony projects, and one or more Professional Services Engineers. Together they will be responsible for delivering the project to the required quality, timescale and budget. Key deliverables include: Resourcing and activity scheduling Hardware procurement Number provisioning and porting License provisioning Pre-staging the build in our lab Acceptance testing Organising tailored end-user and administrator training Installing equipment Go-live support Concluding any snagging activities Gain formal customer acceptance and go-live certificate Open Source communications projects offer you the ability to voice enable so many applications within your organisation but it s critical that you choose the right implementation partner Gary Muchmore, Operations Director Customer support service Supportability is a key criteria for decision makers. Those evaluating Open Source telephony can be deterred by outdated preconceptions such as difficulty in implementation or expensive maintenance. Or, more fundamentally, if you don t have the in-house expertise, who do you call when you need support? Foehn answers this by operating a 24/7 service desk staffed by experienced engineers, trained and certified to recognised industry standards. We differentiate our support services from our competitors by not hiding our engineers behind complex IVRs or multiple levels of incident triage. 6

8 Flexible support service Our flexible support options provides a tailored service appropriate to your organisation. We can offer a fully managed solution with proactive monitoring, MACDs processing and evaluation and deployment of system updates. Alternatively, we can offer a lighter touch option where we complement your organisations own ICT team by providing just proactive monitoring or tier three engineer to engineer support. Our support processes and procedures are built using recognised ITSM frameworks and to ensure we deliver an efficient and consistent in-life service. The various options can include the following: Back-ups SNMP monitoring and alerting Incident identification and repair Product upgrades Inventory control Change management Business continuity planning Capacity planning Service level reporting and reviews Our Service Delivery Manager is tasked with not only monitoring SLA and KPI compliance but placing your organisation at the centre of everything we do. The SDM will Answer any queries or questions Respond to incident escalations Ensure appropriate resources are assigned and coordinated Open Source Telephony lifecycle through Account and Service Management At Foehn we pride ourselves on maintaining long-lasting relationships with our customers. Central to these relationships are our account management and service delivery teams. Together, they will meet with you regularly to review the services we provide, discuss technology roadmaps, capture changes to system requirements and ensure your Open Source telephony system continues to meet expectations and deliver the best value. Furthermore, they can leverage relationships with manufacturers to arrange workshops and one-to-one sessions. How can any government organisation justify public spending on a proprietary telephone system when Open Source telephony provides a proven, flexible alternative at a much lower cost? James Passingham, Founder & CTO 7

9 Top tips when considering Open Source telephony 1. Open Source needs an open mind An evaluation of Open Source telephony should be carried out with a belief that it has the potential to solve a problem. Open Source should not be viewed as a tick box exercise where it receives just a cursory look. Organisations mistakenly dismiss Open Source too quickly because there are preconceptions regarding supportability. 2. Technology application Think about the Open Source technology, why it is required and what it needs to do. For example, does it need to integrate with existing PBX systems? Is there a requirement to integrate with a CRM system? 3. Vibrancy of the community Look at the community sites and make sure the product under consideration is part of an active community, one where there is plenty of development taking place. 4. Successful reference points Take up references, look at other organisations that are already using the Open Source technology under consideration. 5. The right skills Undertake a skills audit to ensure that you have qualified people already in place or identify the skills needed so that you can bring in the right partner / people to successfully plan and implement the project. There may, of course, be a combination of both in-house and external resource. 6. Integration requirements Fully understand the integration needs and how the telephony system needs to interconnect. If there is an in-house system that speaks one protocol, the project selection will need to communicate effectively with it. 7. Deployment support Look at the deployment resources already available. Is there sufficient resource? If not, look for additional deployment resource from people with appropriate skills and experience. 8. Ongoing support Once the system has been deployed, there will be a need for ongoing support. Ensure that you have the skills and resources to support the system or bring in experts who can help. 8

10 The right partner for Open Source telephony Not every organisation has the skills, experience and resources in-house to plan, implement and support an Open Source telephony system. Public sector bodies new or relatively new to Open Source may need to partner with a communications integration specialist like Foehn which may be contracted through G-Cloud. If you want to know more about Open Source telephony, check out our Open Source Telephony: Buyers Guide 9

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