Tuesday, August 5, 2008

More OpenSER Drama

My last rant on this blog covered the OpenSER name change to Kamailio. It's pretty obvious how I felt about it and it's even more obvious how upset (for lack of a better word) I was with the selection of the new name.

These new developments make a name change pale in comparison. This time I have something much more serious to fret over:

There has been a fork of OpenSER.

First some history. OpenSER started life as SER. Some time ago OpenSER was forked from SER for good reason (and a common one) - the company "sponsoring" the development of SER didn't understand Open Source. Community input was ignored. Patches took forever to be applied. IPTel just didn't get it. The developers (just about all of them) set out on their own to form OpenSER and create an Open Source friendly company to serve the needs of the OpenSER community - paid support, development, consulting, etc.

Almost everyone I know has (by now) abondoned SER and moved to OpenSER. Which is good because this fork (like any other) created a certain amount of fragmentation in the community:

- documentation
- support (mailing lists, etc)
- thirdy party support
- name recognition

Even with the SER and OpenSER projects generally moving in the same direction it was clear they couldn't be treated the same. Various changes were introduced in the configuration for each piece of software. They were (and are) mostly trivial, but you can't simply move an OpenSER configuration to a SER system (or vice-versa). You also can't ask an OpenSER question on a SER list (obviously). Granted most people are subscribed to both and can provide expertise on either product but it still creates a headache for the user - fragmentation of expertise, documentation, support, etc.

As I've said this doesn't seem to be that much of a problem anymore. OpenSER (Kamailio) is clearly where it's at. It's hard for me to describe how much respect I have for this software and it's developers. It is one of the most impressive products I have ever come across. It does what it is designed to do better than just about anything else I've ever seen.

As I have come to use OpenSER more and understand it better the activist in me begins to emerge. I feel pain anytime I see someone use a product where OpenSER could clearly do the job better. OpenSER doesn't get as much credit or use as it should. I can only theorize why this is but I do know one thing:

Forking doesn't help.

Any traction (that's for you, JJ) OpenSER has made over the last few years is being seriously threatened by these political shenanigans. In the last month or so I've reviewed the first OpenSER book and solicted OpenSER contributions for the upcoming O'Reilly Asterisk Cookbook. I was starting to feel like OpenSER was finally headed towards getting the exposure it deserves.

Most developers probably don't care about these things (exposure). They should, and if they don't the project admins should. And if they don't the biz guys at the company sponsoring the development should. Here's why.

- Attracts more users
-- More users for testing, bug reports, etc
-- More users to write documentation
-- More users to create revenue for the sponsoring company (consulting, etc)
- Attracts more developers. Open Source development is largely ego driven and the larger and more visible the project, the more developers (both good and bad) you attract.
- Attracts more third party interest in the project. Open Source software has a lot of holes for real business use. There is a huge potential for third party projects for OpenSER. Billing systems, desktop call managers, GUIs, etc.

Neither the SER community, OpenSER community, or OpenSIPS community are large enough to sustain this fragmentation. Sure they very well might survive but they won't be what they should.

Now what? There is an OpenSER book, but no OpenSER. There is Kamailio. I hope %100 of the users figure that out. I hope the publisher of the existing OpenSER book figures out how to deal with that. What happens if everyone (well, almost everyone) bails on OpenSER/Kamailio and moves to OpenSIPS? Now anyone providing support for these other OSPs (Open Source Proxies) has to decide which they will support. SER? Kamailio? OpenSIPS? All of them? None of them? That's what worries me.

I haven't decided what I'm going to do. I still use and recommend OpenSER 1.2 so none of this affects me - yet. Of course I'll be watching this closely. I will tell you one thing... I like the name OpenSIPS more than Kamailio...


Anonymous said...

Since Kamaile means talk in Hawaii, perhaps the biz guys are trying to get "traction" there! I am up for the move. ha.
Enjoyed your Post! JJ

Anonymous said...

Kristian, it seems that the story was short.
OpenSER had to change the name due to trademark issues. The OpenSER board decided to switch the name to Kamailio.
The main contributor which is Voice System didn't agree with the way project was going and was decided to move on with a project splited from OpenSER, and made a release on 4 August.
3 days later, the board ported the modifications into Kamailio and made a new release, that is no different than OpenSIPS.
From outside seems like Kamailio it's all about politics, and OpenSIPS is because Voice Systems has customers to deal with.

George Appiah said...

This reminds me of Mambo / Joomla. Today Mambo is practically dead.