We added some details on our website about 4Grid
This is an opened question to hosters, don’t hesitate to provide feedback. Over the last year we noticed something very interesting, namely hosters starting to offer VoIP to businesses. Some of our customers started on their own, while others were convinced by my colleagues (in some cases it was pretty hard). Some companies moved slowly, other positioned their products incorrectly, but most were succesful and they are very happy now.
We fell that this process takes more time than it should. Market is moving. Hosting is commodity. On a long run Google with “get” the customer. They could “get” even businesses (no business will use Google Apps now, but in two years, who knows). Microsoft is now a hoster (dangerously raising the bar for providers). It’s obvious that in these conditions hosters must expand their business. They have the customer and they can offer much more, not only old fashioned hosting. Otherwise they will lose this customer. Unified communications is an important piece in the puzzle and maybe the easiest to offer and support.
We started building resources to help hosters understand the opportunities behind unified communications, but we need your help. We are preparing for our most important release ever (VoipNow 2 – more to follow) and we want to accompany this release with many more resources to help you. Don’t hesitate to add your input.
We have received quite a few comments lately about the operating systems supported by VoipNow. Let me explain some things. The ideal operating system to run our software must:
1. Be supported by the vendor for at least three years.
2. Be stable and properly maintained.
3. Have an established community.
4. Be supported by third parties.
5. Be free!
Based on the above criteria, we are dropping support for Fedora in the next releases, because:
1. Fedora’s life cycle is very short; you can only upgrade the OS, which is not practical on a server because it introduces downtimes. In fact, Fedora was never designed for servers, but for enthusiasts.
2. 80% of the critical issues we experienced in the last two years were related to Fedora’s minor patches, usually in the libraries VoipNow is dynamically linked with. These issues often lead to crashes. However, less than 15% of our clients use Fedora.
In the future, we will focus on “Enterprise” operating systems. Redhat Enterprise Linux is very carefully maintained, supported for seven years and highly backed up by third parties. Unfortunately, it is not free. Fortunately, there is an alternative called CentOS, which is binary level compatible with Redhat Enterprise Linux (it’s a recompilation of the Redhat packages). In the last three years we have noticed only two problems that were related to improper compilation of the Redhat Enterprise Linux sources by the CentOS team. None of them was critical.
Supporting an extra operating system is a very delicate step, because it involves a lot of work on maintenance and QA. Many people think that it’s easy to support an extra operating system – that it’s just a matter of “compilation”. There are many, many issues that range from subtle differences in the linked libraries (for example VoipNow is dynamically linked with 50+ libraries that are installed by the OS, a bug in many of these could lead to crashes) to package management.
It’s easier to support extra Linux distributions rather than different operating systems (like FreeBSD). In the past, most of our products supported FreeBSD (personally I am a big fan of FreeBSD and Solaris), but we discovered that less than 2% of downloads were for FreeBSD. Due to this situation, we decided to drop support for it because the development of the FreeBSD version was quite expensive (we could use those resources on the product development).
Also, with VoipNow 2 we will support much more complicated infrastructures, like the Cluster. In this case, the operating system support is even more important because maintenance becomes more difficult.
What I can tell at this stage is that with VoipNow 2 we will support RHEL3 i386, RHEL4 i386/x86_64, RHEL5 i386/x86_64, CentOS 3 i386, CentOS 4 i386/x86_64, CentOS 5 i386/x86_64 and Suse 11 (so only Suse 11 support will be added to the list).
We are of course opened to provide support for more operating systems, but such decisions must be technically and economically founded (for example, a reason like “I hate Redhat” is not going to work :))
BTW, the same OS strategy applies to DNS Manager.
I usually talk with 3-4 people every day. They call us asking for more details about VoipNow, they have some technical questions and, in the end, the call is directed to me. One of the first questions I ask is “What services do you want to offer?”. This way I can help the customer, but I also learn about new services. Unfortunately, at least one person per day answers me “I want to offer very cheap prices. Something like 2USD/month”.
When I got this answer for the first time, I was puzzled. I didn’t know what to say more. I didn’t want to offend my interlocutor asking him if he has a business plan. Lately, I discovered that it’s better to ask some fundamental questions, it’s best for someone to realize early that his business is not going to work. I try to explain that the market demands innovation and unique features, not just some other cheap calling cards. Many people understand me and want to learn more, but unfortunately other guys imagine that I have something against their business. 🙂
All I want is to try to make these people better spend their time and effort. Do you think that I should not care?
We had the idea of this product when we realized that it’s very difficult and frustrating to integrate two software products. I can explain how hard it is to integrate two products from different vendors and how nice it is to stay updated with new releases. I think that all of you imagine how such a process works.
Fortunately, for VoipNow we had an interesting integration idea. Most of the people who wanted to integrate with VoipNow wanted to achieve click to call functions. For example, a vendor offering a mail server wanted their customers to be able to click on the contact phone number in order to call the contact. A CRM vendor wanted to offer mostly the same thing in order to provide sales guys with a quick contact method.
Although not difficult to achieve this with VoipNow CallAPI, the actual integration is the problem, because many products have a closed source, and even if they expose a method to do this (like an API) this would have required accommodation with that API, a design step, a coding step, a QA one, etc. An expensive and resource consuming process.
This is why we designed and created VoipNow Browser Module. We call it the Ultimate Integration, because it creates the integration between VoipNow and ANY web based application, even very dynamic ones that heavily use AJAX. The user must download VoipNow Browser Module, setup it to connect to the VoipNow user account and that’s all. In all browser windows the user will open, he will see all phone numbers replaced with a nice link. When the user clicks on a link his phone number will ring and he will be connected to that number. Easy, isn’t it?
Once again, why we see it as the Ultimate Integration? Because VoipNow works closely together with:
1. Applications we don’t know about
2. Applications that were not even released
3. Any website on the Internet
Did I mention that is free? Download and play with it. I think you understood that VoipNow is required for the module to connect to & the nice thing is that you can use it even if you have a VoipNow account from your provider (you are not the server administrator). And yes, providers are welcome to redistribute it and offer it to their customers. 🙂
Be aware that currently it’s available for Internet Explorer only, but a module for Firefox will follow.
We finally released the above, after the VoipNow 1.6.3 and DNS Manager 3.5.0 releases last week. They are available at:
DNS Manager 3.5.0
Better positioned where? 🙂 I agree that the title might be a little funny. But let me explain.
We estimate that around 75% of the providers that offer VoipNow are Internet Telephony only providers, around 15% are hosting providers that also offer Internet Telephony, and the rest of 10% are enterprises.
During the discussions with our customers, we discovered that most VoIP only providers do not usually offer value added services to their users and they only use VoipNow for a determined purpose, which is very specific (let’s say calling cards). We believe that this is unfortunate and that sooner or later the market will force them to go into value added services.
On the other hand, hosting providers usually offer more feature rich services. It’s absolutely clear that the market will converge in the next five years. The unified messaging market will force providers to offer hosting and communications bundled in one package.
For hosting providers it’s reasonably easy to start offering VoIP services, but for telephony service providers it’s not so easy. Even if hosting providers are much slower on adopting things, (surprisingly) they have a very interesting opportunity at their fingers. We can help them address it.
You can update your systems, you can download it. We haven’t released the new ISO, Virtuozzo and VMware templates (this will happen in the next days), but the new repository is live, so you can install/update DNS Manager 3.5 using the command line updater. We tested this release with some of our partners in the last three weeks and the feedback was very positive, because we made a lot of new things possible with DNS Manager 3.5.
We have a particular customer that invested more than 50k on its custom made DNS management software in the past six years. Last year they didn’t want to use DNS Manager, but this month, after several weeks of testing, they finally adopted DNS Manager 3.5. We helped them a little to integrate it with the domain registration and customer panel, but it was not so difficult considering that this took less than two weeks.
Key features in DNS Manager 3.5:
I guess you can discover by yourselves the rest of the 30 new features (or you can read the release notes 🙂