And then there were two: BroadSoft notices Metaswitch

At the BroadSoft Connections 2009 "Executive User's Forum" in
Scottsdale, AZ, I got my first positive confirmation that BroadSoft
has actually noticed Metaswitch.

I've written before about the two companies. BroadSoft makes quality
software, while MetaSwitch makes both good software and good hardware.
While the two companies are very different, both BroadSoft and
Metaswitch can deliver phone calls and calling features reliably.
Their customers are telephone companies: giants like Verizon or
CenturyLink (formerly Embarq and CenturyTel), or mom-and-pop's like
NGTelecom. These telephone companies want to use VoIP to offer
telephone service.

BroadSoft has long provided features for businesses, like line-hunting
and Automated Attendant. Metaswitch's carrier base is primarily
telephone companies offering residential service, but now provides
many of the same features, but Metaswitch also sells network gateways
used to connect to the old-school traditional telephone equipment.

On one hand, the BroadSoft and Metaswitch are not really competitors.
BroadSoft couldn't clock a T1 or parse an SS7 ISUP message to save its
life -- i.e., BroadSoft did not function as the VoIP-to-oldschool
network gateway. Whereas Metaswitch does SS7, CAS, ISDN Q.931, GR-303,
and many of Metaswitch's carrier customers depend heavily on these
technologies. On the same hand, BroadSoft has long had integrated
Voicemail, automated attendant, call center queueing, incoming and
outgoing calling policy enforcement, music-on-hold, line hunting, and
a customer-facing web interface -- all built into the most basic
BroadWorks system.

On the other hand, BroadSoft and Metaswitch are closer than ever, and
not because BroadWorks handles robbed-bit signaling. Metaswitch has
been gradually enhancing its MetaSphere-brand products. According to
sources within the company, they've added all of the features popular
among BroadSoft's carrier customers.

Several years ago, I heard from some key technical Metaswitch
employees their regard for BroadSoft. But for years, I had never heard
BroadSoft folks mention Metaswitch. But that changed this week, when
one of BroadSoft's long-time technical folks started talking smack
about the "jerks over at MetaSwitch."

There's a hierarchical, asymmetrical college rivalry between NC State
University (NCSU), the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
(UNC-CH), and Duke University. While I was at UNC-CH for grad school,
I heard much about Duke. But once I married into an NCSU family, I
heard a lot about UNC-CH. I'm not sure who the Duke people care about.

NCSU thinks more of UNC-CH than UNC-CH thinks of NCSU. And UNC-CH
thinks more of Duke than Duke thinks of NCSU. At UNC-CH, the "big
game" is the Duke-UNC match. At NCSU, the "big game" is the NCSU-UNC
match. To use an operator from Relational Theory: NCSU < UNC-CH < Duke.

In 2005, MetaSwitch looked up to BroadSoft as a rival, but I never
heard evidence of the contrary. The rivalry was asymmetrical. But now
the influence is becoming more balanced: Broadsoft and Metaswitch both
see each other as rivals.

Competition is a good thing and can evoke out good hard work. I am not
biased toward either vendor: if the equipment and software can work,
I'll make it work. With the consumption of Sylantro and the General
Bandwidth (GenBand) M6, BroadSoft has removed nearly(*) all the other
serious competitors. Now there are only two mature VoIP platforms --
MetaSwitch and BroadSoft.

In the old days, nearly every telephone company of any size had either
a Nortel switch or a Lucent switch. (**) And at this point, there seem
to be two major core-telecom equipment vendors: Metaswitch and
BroadSoft. Will they be the Nortel and Lucent of the next era of

(*) I would say "all," but I've heard Sonus is out there. I've heard
rumors of people using their application server platform, but I've
never had the pleasure to see it in person.

(**) OK, a few had Siemens switches, but Nortel and Lucent are
definitely kings.