Skunkworks Australia creates a Perl of an idea for IVR developers

Proprietary languages too costly

Telco Perl is being used to empower IVR telephony developers to eliminate the typical technical restrictions of proprietary systems to create new services in a shorter time and at lower cost.

Software developer Skunkworks Australia came up with the concept not as a Perl module, but rather as a serious telephony application engine written in C language for high performance high density systems shipped with their Whirlwind telephony middleware.

Users simply write telephony scripts such as play, answer, check PIN from database using the freely available Perl language, and the aptly named Telco Perl automatically complies and caches these scripts to run in the telco grade Whirlwind middleware, also written in C.

Skunkworks Australia director, Bill Obom, said unlike proprietary IVR systems, Telco Perl leverages the endless flexibility of Perl.

Obom said building services in a language that has no technical limitations reduces the complexity and cost of the build and ongoing support.

"Many IVR vendors use drag and drop graphical interfaces to build services however when the developer needs to use a function that is not built-in they have to break out into another language such as Java, Perl or C," he said.

"You have to ask yourself why am I paying to train my staff in learning a proprietary IVR language when they also have to learn yet another language to address the shortcomings which adds complexity and cost to supporting these services."

Obom said Perl is widely accepted and used by millions across the globe, it is also used in a vast array of applications thereby eliminating the need to train staff in a single purpose and limiting proprietary IVR language.

Telco Perl is freely available with Whirlwind telephony software supporting call control, voice, fax, conference, text to speech, connectivity with external devices, monitoring, provisioning, billing and reporting.

The system runs on Linux OS and Aculab Prosody X cards with interfaces to VoIP, ISDN, SS7 and CAS all in the one easy to manage environment.

Skunkworks provides an extensive suite of functions and example code, plus there are thousands of freely available Perl modules to use in a target application.

"If there's a function you need that doesn't exist you simply write it yourself quickly and easily without having to break out into another language or rely on the IVR vendor to custom develop something for you," Obom said.

Solutions already deployed in telcos, service providers and government include mobile number portability, least cost routing, pre-paid calling card, conferencing, click-dial, wake-up-call, virtual office with follow me, voicemail, faxmail, never busy fax, fax broadcast, reverse charge, premium rate chat and competitions, credit card gateways, emergency services mass calling, and virtual agent with remote screen pops.

When it comes to realizing IT benefits from dynamic development, scripting languages are certainly gaining in popularity, particularly Perl and PHP.

While Perl is an example of a glue language used to weave together components of a larger application, PHP is another scripting language gaining acceptance in the enterprise. Many of today's Web apps are in fact written in PHP because it is lightweight (compared to Java) and can be deployed easily.

Publisher of the Rust Report, Len Rust, said there are a number of Aussie companies making waves here and abroad that are working with platforms and technologies such as PHP, Python, Perl, Zope and the Twisted Framework.

Rust said one example is Nunatak Systems which provides a robust, centralised way of storing, sharing, retrieving, and tracking information.

He said the company's clients are in the employment, legal, healthcare, government, and architectural markets.

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