Open Source for Open Telecom FAQ


What is Open Source for Open Telecom_

Open Source for Open Telecom is software for computer-based telecommunications equipment and services. We seek to leverage the hardware components and the rich software environments of the mass-market computer industry to change the way telecommunications equipment and services are designed and delivered.

Our more modest initial goal is to provide hot-swap and telecom circuit switching software for telecommunications equipment built using the CompactPCI Computer Telephony Specification. This site contains source code for the software infrastructure that supports both hot-swap and telecom circuit switching in a CompactPCI system. This software already works today, under several operating systems, on commercial products from Natural MicroSystems and it is currently being extended and ported to other vendors products and systems.

What is Open Source_

Open source means software source code is publicly available. To quote from , "The basic idea behind open source is very simple. When programmers on the Internet can read, redistribute, and modify the source for a piece of software, it evolves. People improve it, people adapt it, people fix bugs. And this can happen at a speed that, if one is used to the slow pace of conventional software development, seems astonishing. We in the open-source community have learned that this rapid evolutionary process produces better software than the traditional closed model, in which only a very few programmers can see source and everybody else must blindly use an opaque block of bits."

What operating systems are supported_ Is this just for Linux_

Open Source for Open Telecom has working code for Windows NT, Solaris, and SCO Unixware. We also have beta code for Linux and expect people to be porting this code base to a variety of other operating systems.

What is Open Telcom_

Open Telecom is an outgrowth of the computer telephony revolution. The idea is that you can leverage hardware and software components from the world of mass-market computers (PCs) to build, not just enterprise-scale voice mail systems, but a full range of equipment and services for the public telephone network. Today, software development is the principle bottleneck in developing and deploying new equipment and services. The richest possible software development environment is available on PCs. And, the advent of CompactPCI makes it possible to build robust and highly available equipment that runs PC software.

What is CompactPCI_

CompactPCI is a robust, high performance, industrial computer system based on the standard PCI bus electrical specification and able to run desktop PC software. The CompactPCI was specification was initiated in 1994 by Ziatech Corporation and has been evolved and developed by an extensive group of companies within the PCI Industrial Computer Manufacturers Group (PICMG).

Is this only for Intel-based PCs_

While the market focus is on PC-compatible systems, many other CPUs are available for CompactPCI including Sparc and Power PC.

What is the CompactPCI Computer Telephony Specification_

CompactPCI for Telecom leverages the 6U-size CompactPCI system architecture to support the application needs of the Computer Telephony (CT) industry. The specification was developed by the Telecom Interest Sub-Committee of PICMG. It provides for a rear panel telecom bus (the H.110 CT Bus), common telephony I/O definitions and reliable hot swap of CT boards and peripherals, as well as agency-aware safety recommendations.

What is the CT Bus (H.100 and H.110)_

The CT Bus is a isochronous time-division-multiplexed (TDM) bus focused on the transport and switching of telecom circuits, i.e. TDM media flows (voice, fax, video, data, etc.) at 64 kbps and multiples of 64 kbps. The bus was developed by the Hardware Interoperability Working Group of the Enterprise Computer Telephony Forum (ECTF). H.100 specifies the bus for use on a ribbon cable between adapter cards inside a PC chassis. H.110 specifies the bus for use on the rear panel of a CompactPCI 6U system.

What do you mean by telecom circuit switching_

Individual CompactPCI boards plug into the CompactPCI backplane and can switch telecom circuits to and from the H.110 bus on the backplane. The H.110 bus supports up to 4096 simultaneous 64 kbps so it is possible (in theory) to build the equivalent of a 4096-port non-blocking telephone switch in a single CompactPCI chassis.

What is Hot Swap_

Hot Swap means it is possible to insert or remove circuit boards from a running system without causing damage to the other boards or crashing the system software. Hot Swap requires certain minimum levels of circuitry just to prevent electrical damage or glitches that interrupt normal operation of other boards (other than the board being inserted or removed). However, to take advantage of the Hot Swap capability of the hardware, a substantial amount of additional software in required at the device driver level, at the system services level and at the applications level.

Have telecom equipment vendors adopted CompactPCI_

Although the CompactPCI Hot Swap specification and the CompactPCI Computer Telephony specification were just finished in 1998, we are aware of CompactPCI-based development projects within many of the major telecommunication equipment suppliers.

What is the Open Telecom Project_

The Open Telecom Project is an on-going effort to evolve and extend the telecom software infrastructure and port it to additional vendors products and systems.

Who is responsible for opentelecom.org_ Who is sponsoring the web site_

Natural MicroSystems has created the web site and provided a substantial body of working code with the objective of driving the growth of the market for CompactPCI in telecommunications. A substantial group of companies are endorsing this effort. Both Lucent and TelGen are contributing compatible circuit switching software source code to the site. And, several other major players have indicated plans to contribute. Directors of the PICMG organization have expressed interest in hosting the web site and discussions are in progress. For now, Natural MicroSystems is hosting the web site and funding a limited amount of support.

Why is Natural MicroSystems doing this_

Natural MicroSystems is interested in driving growth in the CompactPCI industry and expects to profit by selling hardware and software components and support services to developers of telecommunications equipment and services. For a more complete NMS answer, refer to this Natural MicroSystems FAQ.

Who is supporting this code_

Support follows a typical open source model. There is an e-mail reflector open-telecom-discuss where participants from interested companies can share experiences and advice. The source code is available and, hopefully, speaks for itself. And, several commercial companies are prepared to provide contract support for this code base. Initially, those companies include TelGen, Pigeon Point Systems and the services business unit of Natural MicroSystems.

Is this code stable_

The majority of the code contributed by Natural MicroSystems is production quality code that has been shipping with Natural MicroSystems products for many months to many years. Natural MicroSystems (NMS) was the first company to demonstrate hot swap of a CompactPCI telecom board and the first company to ship telecom products that support CompactPCI hot swap.

Wheres the documentation_

There are a rich set of programmers manuals, available on the NMS web site, that show how to use this software. See our documentation page for pointers.

How can I get the source code_

See the software page on this web site.

Are there other sources of information_

CompactPCI information is available for PICMG. The H.110 bus specification is available from the ECTF.

What do you mean FAQ_ Did anyone actually ask these questions_

These questions and answers are based on discussions between people at Natural MicroSystems and other interested parties in the weeks prior to the launch of the Open Source for Open Telecom initiative. If you have additional questions, send them to the open-telecom-developers e-mail reflector. As we identify additional frequently asked questions, we will update this FAQ.

Return to Open Telecom home page.