BE: Province of Luxembourg installs its own open source telephony
2 - Summary:
Three IT staffers of the Province of Luxembourg in Belgium are implementing their own telephone system, having learned the ropes from an open source telephony firm. The Province is freeing itself of vendor lock-in, replacing its proprietary telephone system with Linux-based Asterisk telephone services.
3 - Description:
Moving to the open source Voice over IP (VOIP) solution in question also allows the Province to connect its almost one hundred offices in a single network. The price of the licences for the proprietary telephone system that it was using since 2003 made it financially impossible to get all offices on the same internal telephone network. That forced the province to settle and connect just the three main offices relying on a combination of other telephone networks to connect the other offices.
Cedric Schmickrath, one of the IT staffers of the Province, describes the IT vendor lock-in as 'paradoxical'. "We owned the phones, since we purchased them. But to actually use them we had to continue to buy licences", he says. The proprietary telephone vendor's licence and support contract ran out one year ago. "That left us with two options, to buy new licences, or face very high support costs. That is not really a choice. So, instead of simply procuring new licences, the province decided to make sure competitors could bid as well”.
Only one company offered to install an open source-based solution. All others offered to sell licences from the proprietary vendor. The province thus decided to go for vendor independence. To illustrate the difference, Schmickrath says: "Suppose we want to install a door phone. We're no longer forced to take the same brand. We no longer have to study our licences to see how to fit it in our system.We now use SIP, which is an open VOIP protocol. It is used by all sorts of phones, door phones, cameras and SIM boxes. This gives us real freedom to choose between vendors, applications and solutions. Open source results in transparency."
The province supplied the VOIP service firm with two servers, on which they installed Debian Linux and configured an Asterisk VOIP cluster. It then trained three IT staffers from the province on the installation and configuration of similar Asterisk services and on the connection and configuration of the existing telephones on the desks of their civil servant colleagues.
The training turned Schmickrath and his colleagues into VOIP experts, ready to prepare specifications and complete installations. "For years we had VOIP deployed at just three sites. Moving to open source enabled us to connect nine offices, in just five months", says Schmickrath. "These five months proved to us the reliability of this deployment and our VOIP network will expand greatly over the next 18 months", he adds. The experience is also motivating the IT department to consider the same approach for other projects. "The changes proved easy and manageable and it is nothing compared to the leap in capabilities that we made. It has given us confidence for future deployments", Schmickrath concludes.
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5 - Topic:
Services for Businesses
Services for Citizens
Regional and Local
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