Asterisk team has announced yesterday the release of new version of Asterisk 13.1.0. This version removes many of the issues and bugs reported by the asterisk community. This version also contains a few improvements and additional features. A complete detail of the bugs, features and improvements in this latest version is available at Asterisk official website.
Asterisk team has also released the updates for the older versions (Asterisk 11.x and 12.x). New versions released are Asterisk 12.8.0 and Asterisk 11.15.0. These releases contains bugs fixes only and no new additional features. For more detail visit the official Asterisk website.
An enterprise grade (or enterprise class) application is one that is running a mission-critical piece of software. Such an application should have reliability and fault-tolerance features to handle any kind of failures while running. It can even be able to scale up and scale down the application resources depending upon the situation. Enterprise grade application should offer environment adaptability features for large size companies.
VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) is a protocol that allows you to get phone service delivered through your Internet connection instead of from your local phone company. Unified communication actually servers as a bridge between VoIP and all types of communications technologies available over the internet such as voice, email, sms, video, fax, conferencing, etc.
What is the need of scalability in open source VoIP?
Asterisk, the leader in open source VoIP, first released in 1999 as an open source project years before the appearance of multi-core processors, virtualization and cloud computing. Asterisk has unified architecture that is built to support a single process (or multi-core processor). But it is not unable to run on a machine with multiple parallel processors. This architecture is fine for small and medium businesses but it does not scale to meet the needs of a large organization that want to provide VoIP service through out the world. Asterisk was developed as a multi-purpose PBX specifically for voice communication before the rise of current age unified communications. Although asterisk now has the incorporated all the features to become a powerful unified communications tool but it still lacks the ability of large scale deployment.
Digium, the company that owns Asterisk, is developing a new platform known as Asterisk Scalable Communications Framework (SCF), that will meet the requirements of large enterprises to provide wholesale VoIP and unified communication services such as call center, IVR and voice broadcasting with built-in features like scalability and fault-tolerance. But the development of Asterisk SCF has been on pause since 2012.
VoIP and Unified Communications Solutions
Asterisk based VoIP and unified communications software such as ICTBroadcast has the ability to for large scale deployment. It supports virtualization which makes it an ideal technology for cloud deployments. With its added scalability and fault-tolerance feature, ICTBroadcast is attracting service providers as a low-cost solution because it is developed using fully open source technology. It is multi-tenant, virtual call center support, IVR, interactive voice broadcasting, multi-campaign and white label solutions.
IVR is the abbreviation of Interactive Voice Response that refers to the interaction of an automated voice communication system with a customer through telephone or mobile keys. IVRs allow computer to respond to customer calls instead of live agent by providing them with simple choice based questions whose answer can be given through phone keypad. Most of the time IVR acts as first line agent before customer call is forwarded to live agent.
Hiring people only to answer phones all day can be a costly thing for small businesses. Setting up an IVR is cheaper alternate than having customers speak with dedicated representative. IVR allows for more calls to be answered in a shorter period of time than usually a human can do. Many businesses of all sizes automate their phone answering system with IVR technology in order to make their staff productive.
1. Self Service
Many FAQs based problems can be taken care of of after a brief automated visit to the service by customer. For example, balance inquiry or checking an order status. It relieves customers from long waits for small inquiries.
2. Easy Options
Well designed menu options can keep the customers out of the never ending sub-menus and sub-sub-menus etc.
3. Personalized Caller Info
Automated IVR systems can collect caller information from their database using the dialed phone number. This caller information can be used for personalized message on each incoming call that gives the perception of quality and importance to the customer.
4. Available 24/7
IVR system can be online 24/7 without any weekends or lunch breaks or off time etc. Quick inquires can be performed without any hassle anytime.
5. Customer Feedback
IVR can be programmed to take customers feedback either using simple choice based questions or through voice recording. Customers can also learn special offers, sales discounts, and upcoming product while using IVR.
These are some of the benefits of using IVR technology in your business. For information on this, you can contact us to see how IVR can help you in your business.
Telemarketing is a dirty business but if used correctly, it can be a powerful tool that can help build and grow your business. Small and medium-size businesses (SMBs) today requires using all the resources available to get them going. The visibility is an important factor to get share in the market place. Telemarketing can be your commander in chief in this war of visibility, market share and ultimate survival. It gives you the leverage to carve out and execute a strategy and then ultimate convert your prospects into new customers.
Sales is all about building relationships
Selling products and services is all about building relationships with potential customers and clients. Where as telemarketing is the main tool that gives you power to build relationships. A skilled telemarketing service is an asset to a business. Once the relationship is established with client, then remaining process of giving products/services plan and packages information becomes easy. If these steps are completed correctly, you should see a increase in your revenue thanks to telemarketing that helped you to build relationship.
SEO and Social Media are unable to replace Telemarketing
For last decade or so, social media was very cheap and the only cost associated to market your business was through staff time. But now twitter and Facebook, two of the most famous social media platforms, have altered their post and tweet visibility options so much that, as an example, to get your post seen on Twitter, the best way is to pay for it with a sponsored tweet. Similarly over on Facebook, page owners really must invest in advertisement if they want their posts to be seen by large page audience. SEO was also seen as new cheap way to get clients by using link building directories. But now Google has black listed such link building directories. Now you now need to pay for really good quality websites to show your links and contents.
Drip Strategy still works
The drip strategy means sending continuous messages to customers or prospects over a period of time. However, this strategy is usually done in conjunction with email marketing. Messages are sent initially in the form of emails. Voice calls can be useful afterwards in addition to emails because it give your customers or prospects time to think and decide but do not completely forget you.
Current state of telemarketing shows that it is still one of the top methods to reach customers and prospects. Telemarketing is not completely down and out yet. It must, however, change from its current state to remove the dirty label and live a real life out of it.
An Internet telephony service provider (ITSP) solution provides VoIP and unified communications services to individuals or companies. Such solutions eliminate the additional cost associated with setting up traditional phone system without any compromise on quality of service. Anyone with a basic knowledge of computer and telephony can operate and maintain such system easily.
Generally startups are tight on resources. They have two options to choose between to begin their new business: Hosted or On-premises. Although on-premises is a good option in the long run. But buying ITSP solution as a hosted platform saves money in multiple ways for startups. A hosted solution is much like renting an apartment when you don't have a suitable location for your business. Any issue in the apartment is handled by the landlord. Much like the same way, a service provider will handle all the issues in your solution. No need to hire an expert to maintain your system. Since service provider is responsible for maintenance, it does not increase your cost to manage the system.
No IT knowledge is required
ITSP solutions and products are not hard to use for a non-technical person. Most solutions does not need IT knowledge (e.g. ICTBroadcast). You do't have to deal with complicated manuals. It's like the click of the buttons to create campaigns, manage contacts, and messages. Then finding and analyzing the campaign summary reports is also very easy and graphical.
New businesses that are small or medium in size and non-profit organizations mostly have limited resources. With hosted ITSP solutions, they can reach to their clients and prospects by spending very small portions of their money and in return, get the most out of it and hence increase their chances to grow as a stable business.
Many businesses and professionals believe that fax is dead. And they are correct to the extent that traditional fax technology is dead. But its digital cousin, Fax-over-IP (FoIP) is still in use by many businesses and its use is growing steadily. More businesses are being attracted to this newer and improved version fax technology. So question arises what FoIP brings to this old technology? why businesses still love this 25+ years older technology? Why email and SMS have not been able to completely replace fax?
T.38 is a protocol for sending faxes over the Internet in real time. This communication is sometimes referred to as Fax over Internet Protocol (or FoIP). One of the reason for still using fax in businesses seems to be its flexibility. Many businesses are using it for decades and it is easier to use when the employees understand its working and other businesses also able to communicate and share documents with it. Another reason is the security. Emails and SMS are not as secure when it comes to sharing confidential and legal documents. Particularly, when the signatured documents are sent. The signatures sent through emails are not widely accepted. Signatures sent over the fax is widely accepted and given the legal binding all over the world. This is not true with all other technologies such as email and SMS.
Flexibility is the key
FoIP uses the Internet to send and receive faxes in a more easier and modern way particular when you know that you can also send and receive your faxes through emails. This means it is very useful for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). No hassle to install a fax machine. You can buy a virtual fax number and online email2fax and fax2email service from a hosted online fax service. Where ever you go, your digital fax machine goes with you. FoIP is equally useful for large organizations too.
But Reliability is still an Issue
FoIP using T.38 does work but it is not as reliable as it should be. The real reason behind this is because T.38 was not designed for fax communication. Since voice communication over PSTN lines were used for both voice and fax. But when the VoIP came, it was natural to try it for fax communication. When a fax is sent through internet using T.38, there is always some percentage of packet loss. This results in reliability issue. If you are sending a single page using T.38, there are good chance that it will complete (usually at a one percent packet loss). But when a multi-page fax with 10 or more pages is sent, the chances of failure will increase exponentially.
T.38 is a good beginning but may be it's time for FoIP community to take a good and hard look at the reliability.
Setting up just one media server such as FreeSWITCH is not much difficult particularly if you don't have high volume incoming and outgoing calls. But just one server is not enough once incoming and outgoing call volume touches four figures (over 1000). So what we do? Should we move to another media server? What if the other media server also has the same bottleneck? Can OpenSIPS solve this issue? Is OpenSIPS the replacement of FreeSWITCH? In this article, we try to answer similar questions.
First thing is to understand what FreeSWTICH and OpenSIPS are. Then we will see what problems they solve.
What is OpenSIPS
OpenSIPS is an extremely stable, flexible SIP proxy that allows to set up a load balanced SIP, solves advanced NAT scenarios, deals with SIP signalling and registrations. OpenSIPS is used particularly for handling large volumes requests and responses as in case of SIP signals and registrations. It actually can handle all types of requests and responses. This also makes it useful to translate between two incompatible versions of SIP servers.
What is FreeSWITCH
FreeSWITCH, on the other hand, is a media server by design to offer services such as voice call, fax, voicemail, conferencing, text-to-speech and others. FreeSWITCH is very stable and popular soft switch that allows to handle thousands of simultaneous phone calls with good call quality.
Clearly no comparison. So what's the fuss is all about!
This clearly suggests that OpenSIPS and FreeSWITCH actually serve two different purposes. OpenSIPS can act as a load balancer for high volume signals. It can direct traffic along the path on the network. You can view it as a traffic cop on the highway that directs traffic to different paths from one side of the road to the other side of the road. In this scenario, you can view FreeSWITCH as a stadium or shopping mall where that traffic is headed to. This means that OpenSIPS can direct incoming traffic to different FreeSWITCH nodes. OpenSIPS also does really good job with NAT traversal which is easy to configure and allows optimization of the media between the endpoints.
This doesn’t make any sense comparing or choosing between the two. Focus of the FreeSWITCH is to provide a lot of communications features such as voice, fax, voicemail, conferencing, IVR and TTS while OpenSIPS has a simple architecture that provides better performance and stability.
What we understand
OpenSIPS handles the simultaneous SIP registrations, new calls, and call hangups at a time. Where as FreeSWITCH only handles simultaneous calls that are in progress at a given time. As soon as the call ends, FreeSWITCH removes its thread from memory for that call.
When to use whom
In situations where PBX functionality is needed and volume of incoming calls is high, it is better to deploy a cluster of FreeSWITCH that is load balanced by OpenSIPS. For very large scale deployments, assign more and more responsibilities to OpenSIPS with its helper modules such as billing, dialplan translations, and SIP registrations. Involve FreeSWITCH only for its unified communications features.
SIP trunking is a VoIP service based on the SIP protocol by which Internet telephony service providers (ITSPs) deliver telephony and unified communication services to customers. SIP trunking uses the power of the Internet to route calls onto global Internet as well as localized networks until it reaches its destination (also known as IP-PBX). Where as traditional PBX system can route landline calls into its own localized network.
Advantages of SIP Trunking?
In order to achieve the true potential of digital VoIP-based phone system, SIP trunking will be be the key.
Traditional PBX gave businesses advantage to use a single land line connection to be digitally split into many different lines within a building or department. Now, IP-PBX that is powered through SIP trunking goes one step further by linking up users across different cities and time zones by making voice independent from its traditional network so that users can call a desk phone, cell phone, or other number where ever that is located until it reach a recipient.
Main benefit of IP telephony for organizations is to decrease operational cost and gain better call quality. Many small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are loving scalability features of VoIP systems. These VoIP systems makes it very easy for organizations to adding new extensions and then configuring it with soft phone.
Why demand is increasing?
VoIP (and SIP trunking) is changing business processes of serving customers, offering technical support, selling products and administrating service models. Here, we will list the reasons why there is high demand for SIP trunking.
With increase in use of VoIP services by companies of all sizes, large deployments of SIP trunking with higher numbers of channels are on the rise. Typically, VoIP based on SIP trunk deployment of concurrent channels (sessions) in the range of 50 to 1000 addressing the need of medium to large-sized business. Where as, small organizations can fulfill their needs with 10 to 50 concurrent channels.
Call centers are also deploying SIP trunking to lower costs and to provide remote call agents. The cost difference between traditional telephony and VoIP is huge. With SIP trunking, call centers can also provide WebRTC based services such as click-to-talk, video calls and instant messaging.
Cloud based hosted SIP trunking deployments are also increasing. Cloud-based services can provide customers the flexibility of serving a continental or global area with low startup and maintenance costs.
SIP trunking and WebRTC will also support each other. The increase in use of WebRTC will ultimately grow SIP trunking business. High-volume calls and data generated through WebRTC will interest SIP trunking.
Agriculture is an important sector particularly in countries that rely heavily on agricultural exports. There has been continuous effort by many countries to use different technologies in order to increase agricultural production. This effort is driven by the growing demand for agricultural products due to increase in population. Information and communication technologies (ICT) can play a very healthy role in addressing this challenge.
In this article, we will focus on the ICT tools and solutions that farmers can use to better manage their farms. Data collection and monitoring play an important role in improving the agricultural developments. If you mange well, you will succeed. Traditionally, paper-based systems have been used to collect data in the field in rural areas. But this approach is time consuming and prone to human errors. ICT tools and solutions are now being used widely with very positive results in agricultural development projects. These tools include customized solutions as well as off-the-shelf applications with equally good effect.
Mobile technology is already having a positive impact in connecting farmers and agribusiness. Customized smartphone applications are being developed to further extend this impact. Smartphone applications such as information on commodity prices, accurate weather updates, pest control and disease outbreaks, capital exchange services and helpline services that provide important tips and real-time advice to farmers.
Here we have listed few of the applications that are helpful for farmers in managing their crop and fields. A comprehensive list of applications for farmers is available at Apps for Agriculture.
Commodity Prices app allows you to track corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, live cattle, feeder cattle and more. The app is very simple to operate.
Virtual Farm Manager
Virtual Farm Manager is a subscription-based service that helps you store, view and log
information about your fields by using this app. It is a web and mobile software to help organize and keep the farm synced without any expensive hardware.
Farm Manager, similar to VFM above, lets you manage your farms from your android phone. It allows farmers to manage fields, operations and functions directly from the tractor up.
MyTraps is a service that allows farmers to place insect traps wherever they want and then track the movement of insect pests across their fields throughout the season.
Weather apps such as Underground Weather and Weather Channel gives farmers accurate weather updates and other information such as visibility and humidity.
Mix Tank assists farmers with the proper tank mixing sequence of crop protection products.
Cash Grain Bids
Cash Grain Bids application gives you local grain elevators prices. With this app, input your ZIP code to find out cash bids and base levels in your area. Get bids from the five elevators closest to you.
Unified Communications (UC) is the integrated communication services (that may or may not be a single product or service) used by an organization to optimize its business processes. These integrated communication services may include live chat, voice call, voice mail, video chat, video conferencing, SMS, fax and email.
Unified communication is not restricted to sending (or receiving) a message using different communications mediums. It can also allow an individual to send a message using one communication medium and receive using (the same or) another communication medium. For example, one can send a fax through a fax machine while receiver may be using an online fax server and email to fax solution such as ICTFAX. In this case, receiver may choose to view a received document through online web interface or configure incoming faxes as an email.
How it will add value to your business?
Unified communications solutions optimize business processes and decision making by connecting to clients, prospects, their data and applications anywhere and anytime. For example, It is possible to send mass messages using either text or voice mail to all your clients informing them of a special discount on products. You can simply thank your loyal customers for their patronage to the company. Unified communications is always an efficient way to inform people about an emergency like a weather-related closing or natural disaster.
This will allow to seamlessly integrate a full range of communication services such as SMS, voice, fax, email, video, phone survey and video conferencing into your existing IT infrastructure. It will also enhance collaborative capabilities among different departments of your organization because clients and their data is available to all the employees.
What options you have?
Bringing Unified Communications to your business requires to carefully examine and choose the suitable option according to your requirement.
First step will obviously be to choose the company who provides unified communications services and products (e.g. ICTBroadcast is a unified communication auto dialer software). This decision is largely based on what communication services are needed for your business and what is the cost involved in buying these communication services.
Next, you have to decide whether you want unified communication platform at your own premise or want a hosted solution. Your service provider will either install unified communications platform at your own premise or provide all hardware and software as part of the hosted service.
Unified Communications platform may have the following (but not limited to) features to support your business:
Voice Survey and Polls
Interactive Voice Broadcasting
Multi-tenant and Muti-campaign
Answering machine detection
DNC and Opt Out for compliance
Custom Caller ID
Scalability and Load Balancing
Cloud telephony replaces the conventional telephone equipment such as a PBX with third-party VoIP service. These VoIP services are accessed over the public Internet. Organizations using Cloud services only pay for services or applications they use. This provides a very useful alternatives for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) that want to provide telephony services through reliable and secure communications without the headaches associated with deployment of conventional PBX system.
Cloud telephony services are mostly used for unified communications, telemarketing, hosted PBX and e-commerce among others. For SMBs, the investment to set up their own VoIP infrastructure could be too high. However, cloud telephony may offer the same services at much lower cost. Using cloud telephony also relieves organizations to have dedicated human resource for maintain traditional PBX systems.
The benefits that SMBs achieve through cloud telephony are the following:
A business need to have VoIP-enabled phones only and it costs for the number of users to connect with cloud telephony or utilize the resources. The calling within an office and between its departments is mostly free.
No need to have experienced staff to setup, install and maintain traditional telephony system in the right condition to keep the business running smooth. Businesses only need to have a fast internet connection shared among different phone devices that are connected with the LAN network to make them alive.
Robust and Secure
Using cloud telephony also ensures that you will have access to the latest software and technology. This means that your VoIP enabled telephone system is secure and using the call encryption technology such as SRTP, ZRTP and SIPS.
Easy to Scale
Cloud telephony allows you to alter your services according to your requirements. Your business can grow or shrink. If your business is growing, then scale up by adding new extensions to meet your demands. If your business is not going as expected, then you can scale down by removing additional extensions to reduce cost. All it takes is just click of a button on your telephony service providers web portal.
Call center provides interaction with customer or clients through voice calls either using PSTN lines or VoIP. While contact center offer additional pathways of interaction with the customers. A Contact center uses voice, email, text chat, fax and web interfaces to communicate with clients or customers. Because of its various technological modes of communication, businesses prefer contact centers as their customer interaction medium.
Surveys about preferred mode of communication of customers with companies show that even though customers may go to a company’s website first but still the preferred mode of communication is the telephone. So the question is now that how do we treat the customers at their first point of contact?
WebRTC, on the other hand, allows customers to make voice and video calls using a web browser without downloading any additional plugin. If we look at this development with context to contact center, customers will be able to easily connect to contact center agents through voice or video by just sitting in front of a company's website. In case of an issue, some people like to talk on the phone while others prefer text chat. Whatever the case may be, WebRTC gives the ability to customers to choose their preferred communication medium to reach the contact center.
Now let's focus on the boons that WebRTC provides for contact centers. WebRTC can be extremely useful mechanism for sales and high value transactions. It can also help with complex type of sales or services such as medical and scientific devices. The ability through WebRTC to initiate a voice and video chat with an agent while accessing a website will help retain that customer. The chat can reduce problems that customers face in understanding the contents and features of a product or service. The WebRTC based text chat, voice and video may also increase the number of customers willing to try the website. They always have an option to talk to a person in the form of a live agent. This feature may improve customer retention and loyalty.
Some people believe that WebRTC is death of traditional call center. I think it's other way around. The customers will be more willing to enter a voice chat with agents once WebRTC is in full use. This will increase the number of customers on website for live chat, voice and video calls. That will also increase the number of agents for interaction with the customers. However, it may be death of traditional culture within a call center where customers have to wait several minutes, and in some cases hours, for the response from customer service. So it is not that call centers will not exist in the future but the way that customers are responded and supported will change the culture and structure of traditional call centers.
WebRTC has already been famous because of the stunning pace at which top companies around the world are shifting or started using WebRTC as a standard means for delivering voice as well as video inside a web browser. The Web browser may be on a desktop computer, laptop, or any smart phone whether Google Android, Apple iOS, Microsoft Windows phone or any other.
Microsoft is already working on ORTC API for WebRTC. That will enable Internet Explorer (IE) to make browser-based calls more convenient by removing the need to download a plugin. WebRTC provides a bridge for delivering voice and video communication between older platforms (such as desktop and laptops) and newer platforms (such as smart phones). Microsoft has already released beta version of Skype that supports WebRTC. But it requires a plugin in browser to be installed. In future, this will not even be required to get Skype working on Internet Explorer.
Another major development in real time communication field is the advancements in video call standards. H.264 is the video codec for WebRTC that will enable video calls within web browsers. Mozilla, one of the leaders of using WebRTC, is now working with Cisco to implement H.264 video codec support in the Firefox browser. Google is also working in similar direction for H.264 compatibility in Chrome. Cisco released OpenH264 code as open source last year. Open source H.264 support provides an affordable, economic bridge between the enterprise boardroom and mobile solutions.
The real deal that WebRTC promises is the platform independence. Existing web browser can easily be upgraded to incorporate real time communication requirements. The major companies are investing in WebRTC because it will give them a chance to make money, save money and save time. Through WebRTC conferencing and collaboration will be just a click away. It can reduce the time required to complete tasks. Solutions are there but current solutions are very expensive and not very friendly to use. WebRTC promises these capabilities at a much lower price.
WebRTC can also be utilized for further research in Internet of Things (IoT). That will open up a new frontiers of knowledge in this field.
kGraft technology developed by SUSE mainly focuses on the live patching of the Linux Kernel particularly for the environments where shutting and rebooting a Linux server is not the preferred option. Consider the environment where 1000 servers are up and running but there comes an immediate bug or security fix to be made in all the servers. Existing solutions requires rebooting of the Linux Kernel after fixing but that also carries the risk of not coming up live again for some other reasons. That's where the live patching becomes handy. It allows quick response and leaving an actual update to a scheduled downtime window.
kGraft is basically a research project developed by SUSE Labs. It is a live patching technology developed specifically for the Linux Kernel. It is based on modern Linux technologies such as INT3/IPI-NMI self-modifying code, RCU (Read-Copy-Update) update mechanism, and mcount-based NOP space allocation. To patch a buggy function, kGraft replaces whole functions in the kernel with a new fixed function. kGraft needs some space (5-bytes) at the start of the buggy function that is provided by NOP space allocation method. First byte of NOP is replaced by INT3 that takes care of incomplete instruction. Remaining bytes are replaced by address where first byte is replaced by JMP. This whole process actually replaces a new fixed function before calling the existing buggy function as explained in the figure below.
There can be three different tiers of change management within Linux server where different level of handling and response is required: First is the Incident response situation where system is down and the immediate response is required to fix the problem and bring the system up and running. Second is the Emergency change situation where system is vulnerable and can go down anytime. It requires emergency intervention to fix the problem. Third is the Scheduled change where change is not time critical. It is normally done on the scheduled downtime set normally on the weekends. Live patching fits in the first and second situations discussed above.
kGraft does not require stopping the kernel not even for short time periods unlike other technologies. kGraft patch can be built from C source directly without the need for object code manipulation. kGraft consists of very small amount of code thanks to utilizing other existing Linux technologies. However, there are some limitations of kGraft as well. kGraft is designed for fixing critical bugs only and particularly for simple changes. Changes in kernel data structure require special care depending on the size of the change. kGraft depends on a stable build environment and thus best suited for Linux distributions.
Every government, whether developing nation or developed nation, wants to transform and improve its various functions by the use of technology. Embracing new technology enables governments to deliver services across the country in a much efficient and effective manner. It also enhances the satisfaction of the citizens over the government.
However, embracing technology has two important factors to consider by every government. First that how much impact it makes on the existing SOPs (Standard Operating procedures) and how to train existing human resource to use new technology. Second and the important factor is the cost associated with using the technology based solutions. This is significant factor if we consider the financial constraints on the governments of the developing countries. Many proprietary software solutions are simply not affordable by governments.
So what is the solution then? Use open source!. Free and Open source software has immense potential to be used by the governments for effective delivery of services to its citizens. Examples of the governments using the open source are already there. Whitehouse website has been moved to the open source Drupal content management system. Similarly, in Germany, the city of Munich saved millions of Euros by successfully migrating to Linux operating system. There are many other success stories like mentioned above.
While using open source technology for the service delivery at reduced cost, the aim should always be about bridging the gap between services and citizens. But unfortunately, this hasn't been the case for development countries as such. Even the basic requirements such as water, electricity and health services are not provided equally to all the citizens. Open source ICT can provide such platforms where all the people of the society has equal opportunities and access to government resources. For example, in case of an emergency such as accident or woman giving a childbirth, if doctors are not available in the remote areas of the country, online services over mobile phone could provide expert opinion on the situation in hand, instruct the first aid and locate the nearest hospital.
Free and open source software provides governments with flexibility to utilize the technology at whatever time or in whatever way the want. It provides speedier options to develop and adapt to constantly changing demands of the citizens. It also provides the opportunity to reduce costs and build new capacity and skills.
American National Security Agency (NSA) announced in a press release today that they are, in partnership with Apache software foundation, releasing an open source version of its new tool that automates data flows among multiple computer networks. This tool works efficiently even in situations where data formats and protocols are different among networks. The tool named "Nifi" short for Niagarafiles.
The reason behind this move is that the large companies with many geographical locations could use it to control, manage, and analyze the flow of information from geographically dispersed sites while creating comprehensive awareness of the situations. Another important factor for its release is to benefit from the contributions and enhancements from the open source community to improve this software. Also at the same time, the government can gain from related research advances. Research in managing and transferring big data can also benefit from this project.
The director of the NSA Technology Transfer Program (TTP), Linda L. Burger said in a statement, "NSA's innovators work on some of the most challenging national security problems imaginable. We use open-source releases to move technology from the lab to the marketplace, making state-of-the-art technology more widely available and aiming to accelerate U.S. economic growth".
This is the first time that an American spy agency made its source code available to the public. However, previously it has contributed to the open source community in the form of Accumulo project, a NoSQL database that is released through the Apache Software Foundation. Similarly some contributions in the Linux community such as SUSE Linux, Debian Linux and SELinux (a security plugin used in most Linux distribution) were made by NSA. So in other words, we can say that this is not the first time that NSA is contributing to the open source community.
GITEX (Gulf Information Technology Exhibition) Technology Week is one of the most recognized and annually held ICT trade event in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia. It is an annual consumer computer and electronics trade show, exhibition and conference which takes place in Dubai, UAE at the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC). The show was launched in 1981 as GITE and later in 1988 changed to GITEX with inclusion of exhibitions along with trade show and conference. For some years it has now filled the entire DWTC complex with over 10 different exhibition halls during the whole week.
GITEX 2014 ended last month, attracts over 135,000 trade visitors from over 140 countries to explore technology solutions represented by more than 3,500 companies as mentioned on their website. This is huge number considering the region and that no other technology conference and exhibition is as big or even near as this one. Impact this exhibition is making on the advancements in ICT in this region is also huge. You can feel from the satisfaction among all participants.
GITEX showed a number of new trends this year. One of the most widely visible change that it had made is the ICT development in the Middle East is not merely happening passively as in the past. Now ICT advancements and developments are strongly connected with optimization. More and more focus is made on the latest and optimized solutions. For example, audiovisual products that vary from high-definition slim bezel signage monitors to a range of intelligent, interactive LED displays. Another important change GITEX and similar efforts has made is that the Middle East countries are now focusing more on education and health sectors and maximum budgets are allocated to these two sectors. It clearly shows their inclination for the knowledge economy it is strongly motivated and connected with such exhibitions.
Apart from other highlights of the event, a large range of new smart phone applications for Android and iOS devices were presented in the exhibition including applications related to interactive maps with directions, smart browsing, photo sharing apps, and apps showing UAE historical and re-creational spots.
In Top 500 supercomputer list was compiled in June 1993, Linux was already the top choice of the world's top 500 supercomputers with almost running on 476 out of the top 500 fastest supercomputers in the world. But when 2014 Top 500 supercomputer list was published, it looks like that Linux is completely driving its competitors out of the competition. Linux sets a new high with 485 supercomputers out of the top 500 running Linux in the world now. In other words 97 percent of the fastest computers in the world are based on Linux.
TOP500 List November 2014 from top500
First Unix ruled the supercomputer untill 1999 and now Linux for the last few years has ruled supercomputers. When the first Top 500 supercomputer list was compiled in June 1993, Linux was just getting momentum. But now after 21 years, as reported in The Linux Foundation's report that, "after first appearing on the list in 1998, Linux has consistently dominated the top 10 over the past decade and has comprised more than 90 percent of the list since June 2010."
This success of Linux is driven by two main factors. First, is that with lots of most of the supercomputers in the world are used for conducting high-performance research. Thus, Linux is the number one choice since its open source and research teams can easily modify and optimize its kernel according to their requirements. The scientists have the full leverage to use it for whatever purpose they want.
The second important factor is the cost. No matter how many Linux nodes you are using. It doesn't cost a single penny for your operating system. All you have to do is to bear cost of the hardware resources. Linux support is also very cheap and developer resources are easily available to help with very low costs as compared to other operating systems.
The result seems to be very promising for Linux in near future. At least the current decade till 2020, all belongs to Linux as a first choice supercomputer operating system.