44 unanswered voicemails. That’s how many I had on my iPhone the other day when I came up for a little air after being heads down with our team on our upcoming new release of the StarPound platform. My StartupLounge email is full – I have no idea how many hundreds of unanswered emails are waiting for me there. If you are/were one of those 44 people, or one of the countless people who have tried to contact me via my StartupLounge email address – I’ll apologize en masse now. I’ll also go ahead and tell you that most likely, your voicemail or email will be deleted without my reply. It’s just too big of a hole for me to climb out of at this point.
So why I have been incommunicado lately, or as @Unblakeable puts it, apparently in the witness protection program? We’ve been heads down working on the next release of our platform, and launching several new customers (including a Global Fortune 100 customer – whee!). Oh, and talking with investors, growing our base of channel partners, and pulling more than a few all-nighters. Suffice it to say that “free time” is somewhat of a myth around our office these days.
At any rate, I thought I would take a few minutes to share some of the new stuff that is in StarPound v1.3. This release represents a tremendous step forward in the evolution of our platform, and ushers in a promising new phase for our company. After months of intense development, we firmly believe that this release represents the most advanced open-source Customer Interaction Management platform in the world. It is one that remains unique in it’s blend of business process management with advanced call center functionality.
Think Avaya – but think free. Yup. Skills-based routing, cost-based routing, work queues, multi-channel communications, etc. That’s where we’re going, and to a very large extent, we are there with the 1.5 million lines of code in this release. Right now, it looks like we should be finished up and ready to release this version in the next week or so.
Some of the key features, changes, and other highlights of the v1.3 release are described below:
Greatly Enhanced Stability and Scalability
One of the areas we’ve really been focused on over the past 12 months is the “enterprise readiness” of our platform. We have spent quite a bit of time, energy, and money dedicated to the stress testing of the platform. Since v1.2 we’ve addressed over 200 defects, and have performed hundreds of hours of stress testing under a variety of different configurations and conditions. Particular emphasis was also placed upon the horizontal scalability of the StarPound platform. Throughout this entire process, we’ve been iterating the platform, getting feedback, and testing it, in a live production environment with hundreds of agents servicing several very large Fortune customers. The net result is the most stable and scalable release of the StarPound platform to-date.
Full Support for FreeSwitch
When we released StarPound CORE v1.2 last year, one of the key new features was our initial support for FreeSWITCH. If you aren’t familiar with FreeSWITCH, it is a pretty advanced open-source telephony platform for call switching, PBX, and media serving functionality, which competes directly with Asterisk. Well, in StarPound v1.3, we’ve expanded our support for FreeSWITCH.
In this release, we’ve replaced the original SIP-based call-control with native socket-based call-control using FreeSWITCH’s native command set. The result is vastly improved performance, and reduced consumption of system resources.
Telephony/Switching Abstraction Layer
Dovetailing on what was described above for FreeSWITCH, we’ve rearchitected the way that StarPound CORE communicates with backend telecom switches. As our desire is to be as agnostic as possible, we’ve implemented a Telephony Abstraction Layer that provides the interface model for call-control, media serving, etc. This version of StarPound will be distributed with three built-in connectors: generic SIP, Asterisk, and FreeSWITCH. Given the new architecture, it should make it easier to add connectors for other platforms down the road (we’re already in talks with certain commercial vendors about creating connectors for their switches as well).
Interval Metric Reporting
One of the cool new features of StarPound|Call Center v1.3 is an interval reporting capability. On a per-organization basis, the system collects and stores various data points, such as call detail activity, agent work activity, and agent status. This data now rolls up into our real-time dashboard view, where StarPound can calculate and report on things such as agent efficiency and average call hold time over each interval.
New StarPound API
As part of v1.3 of StarPound, we have introduced the first phase of our new API. Currently, the API supports about 60 web service calls (SOAP or REST) into StarPound PBX, and provides full access into everything from voicemails and extension management to custom ring plans (ring multiple devices, find me/follow me, a la Google-Voice, etc) for users. We will be further extending the API down the road to provide additional functionality for the API, including hooks into the call center platform.
As with most open source projects, our documentation always seems to lag behind the development of the codebase itself. We’ve spent quite a bit of effort in trying to bring our documentation up to snuff with the latest features and functionality of the platform. We’ve also moved our documentation from Word/PDF format into the web, which should make searching much easier.
And speaking of new web site – our new one, which will launch at the same time, provides a lot more in the way of fostering the growing community around our platform. Forums, trouble tickets, FAQs, searchable documentation, how-to guides, tutorials, videos, etc. Good stuff.
One of the coolest new things we’ve been working on is codenamed “StyroFone”. There have only been a lucky few who have seen this thing in action. Unfortunately, we’re not quite at the point where I’m ready to show it off, but trust me when I say that it is very cool. I will tell you this, though: I think it has the potential to significantly depreciate a lot of the value from certain PBX and telco providers. Stay tuned to styrofone.com for details as they become available.