Pingtel PhotoMost folks are casually covering Nortel Networks' acquisition of Pingtel, which specializes in open source VoIP and unified communications solutions. But there's a bigger story here -- much bigger, folks -- that most observers have overlooked.

Indeed, Pingtel is only half the story. The other half is SIPfoundry, which Pingtel describes as:
"an international open-source community dedicated to accelerating the adoption of SIP applications as well as the underlying technology. Since early 2004, the SIPfoundry developer and user communities have rapidly expanded to include participants from 63 countries around the world."
The difference between Pingtel and SIPfoundry is just like the difference between Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Fedora, notes Pingtel. Or as SIPfoundry says on its web site:
"SIPfoundry is a fully independent not-for-profit open source organization. sipXecs is free and can be downloaded by anyone. However, "free" is sometimes not good enough. If your career is on the line when the phone system fails and you have nobody to call have a look at the commercial version of sipXecs, called SIPxchange, and provided by Pingtel Corp ... Pingtel offers full commercial support as you would expect from any commercial company."

What's the Point, VAR Guy?

Admittedly, The VAR Guy is babbling a bit. So here's the main point of this blog entry:
  • Nortel won't control the SIPfoundry developer community.
  • However... Nortel essentially gains a hotline into the SIPfoundry community. Put another way, Nortel gains a perceived "best friend" advantage when working with the SIPfoundry community.
  • And as you know, open source communities disrupt traditional technology companies. Cisco Systems, are you listening?
The VAR Guy has been warning Cisco Systems for about two years that open source would disrupt the networking, VoIP and unified communication markets in a big way. Our resident blogger keeps hyping companies like Digium (Asterisk-based IP PBXes) and Vyatta (open source networking).

But this Nortel-Pingtel deal snuck up on The VAR Guy. Cisco is committed to building communities. But today, Nortel gained a valuable connection into a promising online community of its own.