Earlier this year, the Asterisk team at Digium got a little bit bigger! For today’s blog post, I’m going to interview Chris Savinovich, the most recent addition to Digium’s Asterisk development team with the intent that all of you may get to know him a little better.
Hey Chris, first off, we’re super excited to have you on the Asterisk development team here at Digium. Just to start off, can you share a little bit about yourself and your professional and educational background?
I’ve been writing telecom apps since 1992, majored in computer science from NYC’s City College. Minor in International Studies. Started with telecom apps by accident when I discovered that all PBXs had an RS232 port designed to be used by a printer, so I attached it to the serial port of a PC and with it I was pretty much able to sell call accounting solutions to lots of businesses. The royalties of the software kept me going for the next 10 years. Sold about 6 thousand licenses so I was pretty aware of the needs of the market. Around 2003 I started using Asterisk. I found it was the answer to most needs my call accounting users had.
During that period I also wrote apps for calling cards, call switching, international long distance, cyber room accounting, etc. I also did a few installations of VSAT antennas in overseas countries. The VSATs were used in foreign countries to download/upload phone calls to the satellite, then were attached to call accounting systems that I typically wrote in Asterisk… In addition I also wrote apps for least cost routing, entertainment voice services, and call metering for attorneys. The last 7 years previous to joining Digium it was heavy call center software – heavy as in “busy call centers”.
Wow, that’s quite the telecommunications background that you’ve acquired over the years! I bet you have a neat perspective on how Asterisk and other open source telecom software has changed the telecommunications market over the years. Care to talk a little bit about that?
Well, Mark Spencer’s gift to the industry (or shall we say “Asterisk’s gift to the industry) was that before Asterisk all telecom features were handled by hardware. Things we take for granted today that we can do with Asterisk were just not available to the industry before then. Answer detection, voice mail, call routing, web telephony, IVRs, are all open source to us regular developer folks because of Asterisk. Before Asterisk, anyone needing a solution had to buy expensive hardware, and pay hefty licensing fees to the few companies that seemed to have a hold in the industry. Asterisk was a real game changer from the start. Asterisk’s idea of making a CPU handle all call control and call handling, as opposed to doing it with a chip, was perhaps ahead of its time.
Thanks for sharing those thoughts. Let’s go in a slightly different direction. You’ve been working on the development team for about 6 months. What’s been your favorite part about working on Asterisk development full time?
First and foremost is the awe and satisfaction that comes with working with an incredibly talented group of individuals. Everyone is talented here. Then there is also the open source philosophy, which I have come to realize is not only limited to software licenses. Open source also means essential respect for your team mates, that the company respects its employees, that decisions are all made by all of us members of the teams and not just by one or two big shots from across the continent that you never get to meet. It is not just a concept, people really believe in that around here. Management is open to its employees meaning they answer all your questions straight. By far in most companies I have seen developers would keep their knowledge to themselves as a sorry attempt to maintain job security. Not here at Digium. At Digium, job security is actually the ability of all of us developers to share our knowledge and put it together to attain a common goal. And then last but not least, there is the beautifully written software. Anyone who desires to see how a nice and solid piece of telecom software should be written, they should try learning Asterisk code.
To finish things off, what is one fun thing that you enjoy doing when you’re not working on Asterisk code?
When I am not working with Asterisk code I like to play around with my bank of Raspberry PIs and try to experiment with the huge potential created by having low cost CPUs at hand. Parallel processing will transform products like AndroidTV, streaming, video, etc. Which by the way, Asterisk is uniquely positioned to exploit.
Thanks *so* much Chris for taking the time to share a little about yourself. Best wishes to you and looking forward to seeing all of your contributions to the project.
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