David Frith, Marketing Manager at VoIPon Solutions, interviews Frederic Dickey, Vice President of Professional Services and Product Management at Sangoma.

The pair discuss Sangoma’s last 12 months, FreePBX, Skype for Business, and Sangoma’s expanding product portfolio.

You can listen to the podcast above and read the transcript below.

VoIPon: Broadcasting from various countries around the world using Voice over IP technology, this is VoIP Uncovered, a VoIPon Solutions UK podcast. I’m David Frith and today we are interviewing Sangoma Technologies, and I am delighted to welcome Frederic Dickey, Vice President of Professional Services and Product Management at Sangoma. Thank you for taking our podcast today Frederic.

Sangoma: Thank you, my pleasure.

 VoIPon: Please can you tell the VoIPon audience what Sangoma have been up to over the last 12 months?

Sangoma: We’re always very busy, but we are really pushing towards our continuous expansion of our presence worldwide, so Sangoma a few years ago was focused or had most of its personnel located in North America, we now have sales, sales engineers, support, R&D engineers in key regions all over the world. Be it Latin America, Europe has always been a focus, but also increasingly in Asia, so a very wide presence from personnel. On the product side we are continuously introducing new products. Broad lines here is we’ve introduced a very significant release of the software that runs our Session Border Controllers, introducing features like IPV6 interworking alongside with the Microsoft launch of ‘Skype for Business’ we’ve evolved our Lync Express platform to now support Skype for Business, which is the most recent iterance. We’ve introduced new gateways like the Sangoma Vega 3000G which cover many analog lines, and even on the high end service provider market we have now Sangoma SS7 Gateway solutions that cover up to 64 E1 so 2000 channels approximately in the same box. And of course on the acquisition front, it’s been 9 months now, we’ve acquired 2 companies, Schmooze Communications, we are now the sponsor of the Sangoma FreePBX Open Source Project, and also a service which we call FaxBox which is a fax over internet. It is a product we sell as a service so this takes us into very different but complementary markets, so a busy year for sure.

VoIPon: Please could you tell us more about the Sangoma FreePBX range of products, including the FreePBX 50 and FreePBX 300 and the benefits of using the Sangoma FreePBX hardware system?

Sangoma: Yes, one of the things as I mentioned acquiring the FreePBX project there are many ways to use FreePBX. Many integrators will simply download the FreePBX software and install it on their hardware of choice and complement it with telephony cards, voice over IP gateways, SBCs and maybe supplying their own phones. So, a lot of people do that and it’s perfectly fine. They buy commercial modules that facilitate installation or enable advanced features on the IP PBX, so that’s one way. There’s several of our resellers, or in distribution that are not necessarily interested in assembling or building their own. So this is why we have introduced these ready to go appliances, so these are for example the system 50 and the system 300. These are Sangoma Appliances that come preloaded with the latest FreePBX image and comes ready to be deployed and configured, so less churn, less time in sourcing various components and putting them together before enabling a customer. So that’s the main purpose of these appliances and for the System 50 we’ve targeted this at the Sub 50 user type company with the sweet spot at between 10-20-30 users, so that’s what the system 50 is, really for the SMB, replacing key systems and very tiny PBXs. Then the System 300 takes it  to a bit of a higher level, the same functionality, the same FreePBX, but is delivered on a more powerful platform and can sustain up to 300 users for any business. So very flexible for channels of distribution, resellers can pick those up, they can put their own bundle configuration together if they want, adding their own phones, gateways, cards SBCs and be able to offer a very complete IP PBX option.

VoIPon: You mentioned earlier that you’ve updated to Express for Lync. Could you tell us more about the Sangoma Express for Lync / Skype for Business support and why this is essential for businesses?

Sangoma: We hear a lot these days about communications, UC is very popular because for businesses that have people traveling, working from home, in different countries, it’s the next best thing than to be face to face and travel, so UC allows you to be very productive with presence of dates, with being able to share documents, work on documents, set up video or conference calls on the fly, and we tend to think of UC only for the very large, multi national companies, but it is useful. Many small companies these days are widely distributed and a prime example is Sangoma, with people travelling and so small businesses should have access to Unified Communication. So one option for unified communication is Skype for Business, which is a Microsoft solution. In general this is very complex, it needs a lot of moving parts, it need a lot of sophisticated IT groups or to hire sophisticated installers or gold partners of Microsoft. So what is happening now in the marketplace with Microsoft offering Office 365, this makes the features and the complexity a lot for accesible for small businesses, and that is why we have put Skype for Business or rather Express for Skype for Business because it is a ready to go appliance to deploy Lync at an SMB. So we provide a powerful server that has all the right components embedded in and any partner and SMB can go and install and get ready using Skype for Business in their enterprise, and interwork that with what Microsoft call the hybrid scenario, when you have equipment on premise and it ties up with your subscription of Office 365, and that combination is really appealing for the SMB and is a lot more accessible and that’s why it is becoming very popular.

VoIPon: Why should VoIPon customers purchase the Sangoma Express for Lync / Skype for Business over rival products from companies such as AudioCodes?

Sangoma: Our approach, our angle in providing this ready to go appliance for Skype for Business is that we approached it from the fact that more and more IT managers, the people that any enterprise that are managing now both the phone systems and IT, are the IT guys, IT managers, IT technicians. And the way that we’ve built our platform, it’s the Windows Server 2012 platform so any IT manager that boots up our Express for Skype for Business will get into the familiar world of Windows Server 2012 which is what they are trained on, so we rely on this operating system to be more readily accessible and more readily supportable and configurable for the IT personnel that is out there. So instead of growing an embedded platform and adding modules to it so it can run on Windows, our platform runs on Windows. All the special components that come from Sangoma, be it our session border controllers or voice over ip gateway, which is required for Skype for Business deployment, all of these things run on a single Windows Server 2012 instance, so more supportable, more flexible, more friendlier to deploy, that is the key elements here.

VoIPon: We have seen the Sangoma product offering increased over recent years, from cards to gateways, to Skype for Business, session border controllers, to the accusation of FreePBX. We have also heard that new product offerings such a VoIP Phone and Cloud PBX solutions will also soon be part of your product portfolio. Is Sangoma looking to become a one stop shop for VoIP equipment?

Sangoma: Good question, so when you look at evolution just a few years back we was just selling cards and we enhanced that with more ready to go appliances, as opposed to sub components such as gateways and PBXs and services. And when you look at this evolution, it is to answer the customer needs but it is also looking to completeness of offering, and when you look at every step of the way what we have done, nothing is redundant, no new product line came in and killed the other one before. It’s really all complementary and trying to meet and match the ecosystem requirements of our partners and trying to build a one door stop for our partners to source all their parts that an integrator might need or an installer or whatever telecom solution might need. When you look at this evolution from cards to gateways, to SBCs, to PBXs and now even hosted services like the fax services I mentioned earlier, you can expect Sangoma to keep going into that direction, so more offerings that are hosted and more products that are part of the overall equation of selling a telecom solution.

VoIPon: As technology changes, more users are moving straight to SIP over traditional ISDN with less demand for cards and gateways. What plans do Sangoma have to deal with some products becoming legacy?

Sangoma: So it’s true that when you look at especially at our Asterisk Cards and VoIP Gateways, they all cater to situations where you need to connect to the legacy network, but this legacy network is evolving to SIP. So over time we can imagine a demand for legacy interfaces will continue to go down, and if I recall the first VoIP bid I ever worked on was almost twenty years ago in 96, and back then we all thought the legacy network would disappear in just a few years, and yet we are still here and there is still a lot of legacy. It’s true that SIP is rising super fast, whether it’s SIP trunking, IP PBX, SIP phones, but it is a small portion of the total, Looking at numbers in the US, there are still about 70% of enterprises that use a T1 or PRI, and I would expect the UK market to be very similar in proportion, so that area still has low growth. SIP has high growth but that points to the fact you still need lots of gateways and cards to be able to interact with the legacy network. Yes these products might not have the same amount of growth but we will still sell them, still maintain them and still invest in them because of their significant market. Just the example I mentioned earlier we realised the Vega 3000G product that is a gateway with analog phones interface and that is a prime example of continuous investment. With that being said, where things are shifting to is the use of  session border controllers. So as the PSTN, the legacy interface requirements dwindle, this is shifting towards using session border controllers. There is a whole new set of interoperability and interconnection issues that happen when you use SIP trunking, and that’s what SBCs are there to provide so that’s a logical reason for us to have invested in the Session border controller market. This is our way to address the transition in the marketplace, but for sure voice over IP gateways and cards will be sold and be supported by Sangoma for a long time.

VoIPon: Can we expect to see any new products launched from Sangoma this year? If so could you tell us more about them?

Sangoma: We have a heavy road map that is continued to invest in our existing new products but as I mentioned earlier you can look for Sangoma to keep adding products that are complementary to our offering today, whether it is gateways, SBCs, phones and things like that and for sure what you will see from Sangoma is increasing presence in the hosted type services, so again as I mentioned earlier we have a FAX service and a SIP trunking service, and we will be looking to expand these services Internationally, and we are thinking about offering new types of hosted services and that might be in the realm hosted pbx services but we are still working on the definition of those.

VoIPon: Thank you for joining us today Frederic, and for bringing VoIPon listeners up to date with the latest developments at Sangoma. This has been a VoIP Uncovered UK Podcast. For more information visit www.voipon.co.uk

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