New Release of Thirdlane

Dear Thirdlane customers and partners!

We are happy to share the news of a major release of Thirdlane Unified Communication Platform and Thirdlane Connect. The focus of this release is stability, reliability, security enhancements, and performance. We also added quite a few new features, especially in Thirdlane Connect - our Unified Communications application that provides end users with true unified communications by integrating voice, messaging, web, CRM, email, and more.

It is a major release - then why is it 9.1.2 and not 10.0? We kept it as 9.x to emphasize an easy and smooth update from the earlier releases. That required a lot of work, but we pulled it off. What this means for you, our customers, is that you can do an easy “in-place” update to take advantage of the new underlying architecture and features described below.

We would like to thank everyone for the patience and believing in Thirdlane. We are also taking an opportunity to congratulate our customers whose installations grew rapidly over the past year. Rest assured, we are already actively working on the next generation of our products to guarantee that we can always support you, however large the installation may be. This release is going to be followed by more, moving further towards cloud deployment, large scale highly available installations, and more features and integrations.

As always - we remain committed to delivering the best value in Unified Communications.

WebRTC and the New Thirdlane Architecture

Our Unified Communications app Thirdlane Connect uses WebRTC for secure voice and video communications. WebRTC, built with quality, reliability and security in mind has a very strict view on how communication must be done, with a particular emphasis on security.

For the media transport WebRTC mandates and Thirdlane Connect uses DTLS-SRTP, which has become an industry standard in secure communications. While not mandated by WebRTC standards, in order to provide best possible security for SIP and other messages, Thirdlane Connect uses Secure WebSockets (TLS analog for the browser) as transport for signaling. To achieve best possible NAT penetration, Thirdlane Connect relies on ICE (Interactive Connectivity Establishment). See our blog post about what it is, and how to configure it.

To support Thirdlane Connect, these technologies had to also be available within our platform, where Thirdlane uses Asterisk. Asterisk is very good, stable and mature software when it comes to VoIP standards like simple RTP, SIP over UDP, or T1\E1 PRI. but while Asterisk does support WebRTC, we’ve found that we needed more than Asterisk provided.

As a result, this release of Thirdlane platform includes a new component called “Thirdlane Connect Gateway”. Connect Gateway provides termination of all the WebRTC technologies, handles Interactive Connectivity Establishment (ICE), and exposes to Asterisk simple RTP, and SIP over UDP. Extensive testing proved that Asterisk works very well in those conditions.

Connect Gateway and Push Notifications

Really good news is that Connect Gateway not only delivered stability in terms of improved WebRTC support, but also gave us a lot more control over SIP signaling for Thirdlane Connect.

A good example of this is the flexibility in the support of PUSH notifications. Various widely used applications use hacks to keep running on the background while maintaining live connections. Keeping connections open drains battery and in our opinion is a dead end approach, as it is just the matter of time when this will become completely disallowed by mobile operating systems. Instead of hacks we opted to use a recommended approach - PUSH notifications.

In this mode, app closes all the connections and relies on special PUSH notification from the server. This means that when you dial an extension that it is offline, and system see that this extension was using mobile device, it will try to wake up Thirdlane Connect on that device and deliver a call to it. This worked in most of the cases where we had control within the the call flow - except the cases where we didn’t have any control, such as in calls routed to Queues or Hunt lists. Once the call was in such Dialplan destination it was impossible to “Wake Up” the phone as we could not send PUSH notifications.

With Connect Gateway, we don’t have this limitation anymore. When Thirdlane Connect registers, all the signaling goes through the Connect Gateway, we have all the control we need on any call, regardless of the Dialplan destination. Read more about Connect Gateway configuration in Getting Started with Thirdlane Connect.

To summarize, with all these changes, Thirdlane Unified Communication platform reached new level of flexibility, performance, security, and reliability.

Asterisk 13

Thirdlane Unified Communications platform is now ships with Asterisk 13. Asterisk 13 is a Long Term Support (LTS) release that will be supported through 10/24/2020, with one additional year of maintenance for security fixes.The existing installations that include Asterisk 11 will be upgraded to Asterisk 13 during the update process automatically.

Memory Data Cache

In addition to those brought simply by migration to Asterisk 13, a major improvement is that starting from this version, we enabled Asterisk 13 call processing core shipping with Thirdlane platform to read data from a distributed in-memory cache (currently based on Memcached) rather than a MySQL database. This dramatically improves Asterisk performance, decreases load on MySQL database engine, and creates new options for scalability.

To keep Asterisk and cache synchronized, we have created special script that must be used to restart Asterisk and other services. Run tl-switch {start|stop|status|restart} to perform necessary action.

Device Provisioning Security

With new version of Communications Manager it is now mandatory to use credential based authentication for FTP, FTPS, HTTP and HTTPS protocols. By default all protocols will be disabled on new installations, and for the existing installations you are required to re-configure provisioning server after update.

Provisioning server can be configured in System Settings => Device Provisioning in Single Tenant Communications Manager, or System Management => System Settings => Device Provisioning in Multi Tenant.

You should enable only the protocols that you will be using. If using FTP or FTPS, you can specify a password that will be used for both protocols (PlcmSpIp user will be used). For HTTP and HTTPS you can specify both the user name and and password.

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We recommend to use strong passwords and limit use of TFTP protocol only for phones on local networks.

Remember to update provisioning server access information on the phones whether it’s set on them directly or passed via DHCP server.

More to Come

Introduction of Thirdlane Connect Gateway is a first step in using Thirdlane platform for larger installations and further Thirdlane Connect horizontal scalability, the general direction for the whole Thirdlane platform. While it is a clear step forward, Connect Gateway is only one piece of the technological groundwork that is the basis for the next generation of Thirdlane currently under active development. Please contact us to learn more about the next generation of the highly scalable Thirdlane platform - with multiple servers and SBC at the core.

We have been working hard to give you, our customers and partners, the best user experience and performance. Don’t forget to extend your license or maintenance to be sure that you can take advantage of the latest version.

Stay tuned - we have a lot of really cool stuff coming soon!