Natural MicroSystems

Open Source – Frequently Asked Questions



  1. Why is NMS announcing an Open Source Strategy? What does NMS expect to gain from this?
  2. Open Source complements NMS’s Open Telecommunications strategy as a means to drive CompactPCI industry growth. We have worked with others in the PCI Industrial Manufacturer's Group (PICMG) to establish hardware standards for hot swap and for telecom circuit switching in CompactPCI systems. We have been the first to market with software for hot swap and circuit switching in a CompactPCI chassis, however, our customers and prospects are limited in the range of systems they can build, until other suppliers are able to ship CompactPCI boards with these compatible features.

    By providing open access to this source code, other board and system suppliers including our competitors, can leverage it to implement hot swap and switching and thus get to market faster with interoperable products. NMS believes that Open Source benefits the industry by accelerating the adoption and deployment of highly available Compact PCI systems. In addition, an open source model has the potential to unleash the creative energies of many individuals and companies throughout the telecommunications industry. This should allow our original open telecom software to be extended and incorporated into a broader set of applications within the industry.

    NMS expects to leverage our leading position as a CompactPCI board supplier in a considerably larger, faster growing market as a result of Open Source.


  3. What are the challenges and opportunities for NMS with such a strategy?
  4. An open source model changes the way software is developed. Developers outside the company now have the ability to modify the code and make improvements. The biggest challenge for NMS is to quickly adapt to this model and to incorporate relevant changes back into the code base.

    Open source presents NMS with the opportunity to provide more reliable and functional software as a result of an extended developer community. Open access to source also encourages innovation and allows developers to address markets and requirements not currently addressed by NMS, thereby broadening the use and integration of our software.


  5. What source code did NMS publish on the web site? On February 26,1999, Natural MicroSystems announced that portions of its CT Access software source code will be freely available for modification and redistribution. Detailed license terms, additional information, and a developer release of the CT Access source code components are available on the web site.
  6. The CT Access components on the web site are source code for, a) the core of the CT Access product including those portions for managing and accessing board-level resources in a computer that might be of use to manufacturers of complementary or competitive board-level products, b) the CT Access Point-to-Point Switching (PPX) service and the CT Access basic switching service, c) the CT Access Hot Swap service, and d) the device drivers for various Natural MicroSystems boards. The device driver code exposes the driver-level support needed for hot swap and switching, and is provided to help other board developers make their products hot-swap and switching capable. The source code is available for the Windows NT, Intel Solaris, and Unixware operating systems. As a separate NMS initiative, a Linux port has been started and beta code will be available shortly. Refer to the website for more complete information.

  7. Will source code for CT Access fall under this new initiative? What about the rest of NMS software?
  8. Only the low-level core of CT Access, those portions listed above, will be released under an open source license. At the present time, the higher levels of CT Access, including the ADI voice manager, call control software, signaling protocols, ISDN, and NaturalFax will remain as NMS proprietary code. As the Open Source of Open Telecom initiative progresses, NMS will continue to assess the benefits of additional contributions to this initiative.

  9. Now that some of CT Access is open source code and some of the code remains with NMS, will licensing and license fees change?
  10. CT Access will be built on the low-level open source components in future releases. NMS retains ownership to all of the CT Access components and will continue to license CT Access for the Windows NT, Unixware and Intel Solaris operating systems as fully supported software. Licensing fees will not change.


  11. What is NMS’s position on Linux?
  12. NMS has a version of Linux under development and will shortly announce this as well as make a beta version available for developers. Additional information will be posted to the website.


  13. Is source code from other companies available on the web site?
  14. The website is a central site to post links to complementary sites, information on future open source availability as well as source code contributed from the industry. Initially, in addition to NMS source code, this website contains driver source code for the Lucent MicroSystems T8100 development board from a joint development of Lucent and TelGen.


  15. What is NMS’s role with Open Source initiative?
  16. NMS is the founder of the Open Source initiative for telecom and has contributed major software source code components to the website. NMS is currently hosting the web site for however there are active discussions underway with the PCI Industrial Computer Manufacturers Group to host this website in the near future.

    NMS will continue maintain and manage the source and contributions to CT Access, which represent the NMS contributed source on the web site.

  17. What companies are participating in this Open Source initiative?
  18. Participation and endorsement of this initiative continues to grow. The current list includes: Ericsson, Lucent Microelectronics, Motorola Computer Group, SCO, Aculab, Forece Computer, Ziatech, Telica, Pigeonpoint Systems, Centigram, Clarent and members of the board of directors of PICMG.


  19. What are the most significant benefits this affords to NMS customers? Partners?
  20. Access and use of the NMS hot swap and switching open source components guarantee a higher degree of interoperability among board-level products. This interoperability extends to the CompactPCI industry through the hot swap and H.110 switching software and for general telecom development through the H.100 switching software. For NMS developers, integration is easier and end-user solutions can be deployed into the market earlier improving return on investment. For NMS partners, access shortens development time for features such as hot swap and provides more time for them to focus on the core value for their own products.

  21. What kind of training, advisory services or support will NMS provide to its customers?
  22. NMS Services offers training or customized support to customers as well as consulting services to extend the software to meet the customers requirements. Also, the website lists other companies that are prepared to deliver support and development services.

    As a reminder, although portions of the CT Access product will be developed from an open source code base, NMS will continue to license and fully support the CT Access product for its customers.


  23. Have any of NMS’s competitors pursued this approach?
  24. This is the first time that NMS or any of its competitors have aggressively pursued an Open Source strategy. NMS has provided source code to other vendors under licensing agreements in answer to specific customer opportunities. These licensing agreements have always been put in place as part of an overall an effort to accelerate development efforts of NMS customers.


  25. Assuming that NMS previously licensed the code that the company will now provide free of charge, how will this affect NMS’s revenues? Will the company charge royalties to those deploying products that include NMS source code?
  26. The portions of the CT Access software that are now based on open source will be available to developers as part of the larger CT Access environment in a fully supported package. NMS will continue to license, enhance and support its CT Access software and expects the majority of its customers to continue to take advantage of it.

    Those components of CT Access that are open source are available to developers to use, modify and distribute as they wish. The Open Telecom Public License restricts NMS or anyone else from charging royalties for software covered under this license. Developers or vendors retain rights to any larger works developed around the base code.


  27. Since NMS’s intellectual property is a significant reason for its success, won’t opening that intellectual property up to its competitors reduce NMS’s ability to compete?
  28. NMS will continue to invest heavily in intellectual property and maintain rights to code as it relates to embedded code for the boards we develop and in media services provided through CT Access. The source code that NMS is providing as open source is enabling technology that can be thought of as ‘plumbing". This code delivers capabilities, which significantly improves interoperability among telecom boards through a standard interface for hot swapping a board in a CompactPCI chassis and for switching telecom data streams across the H.100/H.110 bus. Today there is no standard that suppliers to the telecom industry can implement, that is each supplier is left to implement these functions as best they can. NMS has worked with other suppliers on a case by case basis to provide some of these components already. The logical next step is to make it widely available and accessible to promote shared development within the larger telecom community. Improved interoperability at lower levels among boards and components frees NMS up to focus on our core value.



  29. Do you expect competitors to adopt an open source approach? Why?
  30. NMS expects that some competitors will begin to contribute the Open Source initiative as they begin to realize the benefits of such an approach. That means getting their products into the market faster and making them more attractive to solutions providers through standard interfaces. NMS fully expects competitors to download the code, evaluate and begin to adapt portions of it for implementation on their own products. We’ve already had a high degree of interest in the hot swap software.



  31. How does Open Source affect NMS quality control processes?
  32. NMS is committed to releasing quality products and continues to make investments to ensure the highest quality products possible. NMS will continue to develop, test, document, support, and certify NMS-branded products it makes available to customers. However, this move provides NMS with a broader audience for feedback, feature enhancements and additional testing of code. This augments the current development and QA efforts at NMS and does not replace our efforts.


  33. How does Open Source impact the Natural MicroSystems Fusion IP Telephony product?
  34. There is no change to the way NMS will deliver and license the Fusion product. Interoperability of Fusion with components from other vendors will be improved over time as hot swap and switching are more widely adopted.



  35. What is the relationship of this Open Source initiative to the efforts of the Enterprise Computing Telephony Forum?
  36. The Open Source initiative complements the on-going efforts of the ECTF, specifically the S.300 specification that is still in process. The components released under this initiative address only subsets of the S.300 definition, however these do represent proven, working code that can be used or adapted if necessary to S.300 when the specification is finalized.

    NMS has submitted a specification to the ECTF for CT Bus switching, that is the software interface between devices (boards) and the ECTF H.100 or H.110 telecom bus. Telecom bus switching is a part of the S.300 specification that is still in the process of definition within the ECTF.


  37. Doesn’t releasing source code expose your plans and strategies to competitors?

Moving to an open-source model implies sharing your product strategies with external developers and letting them influence those strategies; this implies sharing those strategies with competitors as well. However at the same time this can result in greater public support for your strategies (because the outside world is helping you create those strategies), helping to counter those of your competitors. Also, releasing source does not imply or require making all internal information publicly available; in particular you can continue to keep a close hold on confidential details of business plans, etc.


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