Frost & Sullivan's Purdy says that most enterprises are covered in silos and chose their mobile telephony elements accordingly. For example, Windows Mobile works as an extension of Microsoft Exchange; that's good for Exchange users but it doesn't help the 20 million Novell GroupWise users or over 50 million IBM Lotus Notes users. RIM's Blackberry connects to multiple backends and appeals to both Lotus Notes and MS Exchange users. GoodLink, recently purchased by Motorola, has an advantage here, according to Purdy, as it works with multiple devices and networks, including polar opposites Lotus Notes and Microsoft Exchange.
Although by and large these are costly arrangements, says Purdy, the proprietary solutions do offer two key elements that open-source mobile does not: security and manageability. Open-source telephony will soon provide better security and manageability options, but probably as peripherals-which means that in the end, these open-source solutions will not be free. For example, Purdy says Nokia hopes to sell hardware and support to enterprises using its "free" open-source-based mobile service.
Still, the advantages of convergence in corporate communications will likely far outweigh the support and maintenance costs.
One prime example of the advantages posed by convergence via open-source mobile telephony is the Obama campaign's use of an open-source iPhone application. Supporters could download the app from the iTunes store, and organize and prioritize their contacts on their iPhone by key battleground states. This allowed supporters to make an immediate and effective impact and enabled the Obama campaign to keep a record of calls made (although no personal information was recorded).
We all know the outcome of that presidential race, but the value of making supporters race against each other to rank highest on the list of number of calls made is nearly incalculable in terms of supporter morale and retention as well as voter turnout. All along the campaign trail, Obama's people had more real-time intelligence than any public poll could possibly provide and leveraged an army of supporters who often elected to share their friends' contact info with the campaign.
"It speaks to the power of open source that iPhone, a closed proprietary system, has over 40 new open-source projects underway, and not all of them are apps," says Peter Vescuso, senior vice president of marketing at Black Duck Software. "All Software as a Service (SaaS) products and services are built on open source too, which is further proof that a paradigm shift is underway." Two other examples seem to point to the same conclusion: Microsoft's open-source project hosting website, CodePlex, and the prevailing interest in cloud computing fueled by Microsoft and other computing industry giants.
Without doubt, the cost savings are potentially huge to corporations desperately seeking to cut budgets. Mobile phone costs are one of the biggest line items. The lusted gains in efficiency achievable only thru unified communications could also net considerable hard and soft cash savings.
"Enterprises are looking for ways to save money, says VoIP Supply's Smith. "And when you can save hundreds of thousands, even millions, in a time where every dollar matters, I believe that more enterprises will embrace open source." Smith also expects those who use open-source solution to become a little more forthcoming, since open-source adoption will be perceived as a business positive-especially to shareholders-demonstrating how you are decreasing costs without sacrificing quality, performance or functionality.
Analysts expect the enterprise market to embrace open source telephony by 2010.
There are a few brave CIOs out there willing to openly concur now with Smith's opinion on not only the draw of open source telephony, but the inherent responsibility to make the move posthaste.
"If you are a CIO and are not at least piloting open-source software, then you are failing in your responsibilities to provide a strategic roadmap for reducing costs and increasing functionality for your enterprise," says Russell Clarkson, CIO of Matrix Business Technologies, a provider of voice, data, and Internet services and a subsidiary of Platinum Equity.