Frequently Asked Questions


The software is freely available for download, but before running in a production environment you should purchase a commercial license. You can get an overview of the license costs on the license conditions page.

 

We also support the community by providing free of charge licenses for contributing partners. This form of licensing is only suitable for active contributors, who are able to contribute to the project. It is not hard to become a contrbuting partner, just contact us for more details.

All software is categorised into "core" or "user application" software, and they are managed in two completely different ways. Each end user application platform is made up of core software and application software, the core providing common functionality and the application providing business specific functionality. In effect, the core acts as a rich telecommunications transaction engine and operating environment, into which a mixture of core and user functions are loaded, divided into a series of "modules". It is important to understand that modules are generally completely independent one from the other, with cohesion being provided by the framework engine.

Core software is tightly controlled, and follows a strict release plan. Contributions to the core software are usually only ever made by our people, and we use a version control system to track and manage each and every change to the core. During the release process, we perform regression tests with known inputs and expected results, and manually analyse the changes in system output. Each change in system behaviour must have a rational explanation.

It is important to bear in mind that core software changes may affect all running applications. Therefore we release changes on a slow cycle, which miminises the pain in upgrading. Also it is important to note that we are running a fairly stable platform now, and heavy core changes happen rarely.

We call this process "architectural governance and stewardship", and in our opinion it is the difference between a successful open source project and a failed one. We feel very strongly about our product, and it is our chief business asset, which we defend religiously.

User Application software is different - it is the code which personalises the core to provide the functionality that you require. It is usually a thin layer of application specific functionality over the top of the core. Occasionally, complete new modules are created, and these can pass (after appropriate review, and with appropriate intellectual property negotiations) into the core. We call this process "promotion". At the point it passes into the core, it effectively becomes rigid and falls under the core controls.

User application software is also managed in a version control system, but does not have the same level of transversal checking which core modules have. This means that changes to the user application software undergo specific tests, but not transversal regression tests. Because the amount of user application code is usually small, this means that testing and certification is a quick and painless process.

User application software develops on a different rhythm to the core code - it can have much faster release cycles (hours or even minutes) if required.

Hotfixing and patching. During the operation of the system, it may become necessary to correct a defect within short time scales. We need to understand if the problem is a core problem or a user application problem, and handle the defect accordingly. For a large majority of cases, the defect will be an application one, meaning that the resolution can be made according to the User Application Software release rhythm. Core changes take longer, as the transversal checks need to be performed.

However, OpenRate has a very useful trick up it's sleeve. In the case that a hot fix needs to be provided (neither the core nor the user application software development process can provide a solution in the necessary time scales, a "hot-fix module" will be provided. This either overwrites or replaces the defect code, and with a single change to the configuration file, we load the hot-fix module instead of the standard module containing the defect. OpenRate runs in a fully object oriented environment, and we are able to replace a single method by applying an extension of the core module (patching), or by substituting the module completely (hot-fixing). Recall that modules are independent: this means that the patch or hotfix can be guaranteed to touch a very small element of the functionality, meaning that we have a high certainty of fixing the defect without causing any side effects.
We believe that OpenRate can offer something that no other system can with this.

Although OpenRate is fiercely open source (we believe in the freedom that seeing the code gives you, which empowers you to take your business into your own hands), we have had feedback from visitors to the site that they want to know the credentials of the company behind OpenRate.
 
The company behind OpenRate is Tiger Shore Management Limited,  which has been active in the telecommunications billing market since 1999. Please take a look at the web site to see the profile of Tiger Shore Management.

Yes, OpenRate is dedicated to developing and supporting an open source solution to complement and compete with the complicated and expensive commercial offerings that are available.
 
We believe that the advantages of Open Source software are about to be discovered by major players, who are becoming more and more interested in flexibility and time to market, and are not being offered this by traditional "rigid" products. The whole OpenRate concept is aimed to allow you to make the most of the work that we have done (the framework, the existing plugin modules, which cover all of the basic needs for rating and mediation), while still being offered an open road to allow you to develop custom modules, using standard tools (NetBeans or Eclipse) and a strong architecture.
 
OpenRate is, and will remain open source.

OpenRate is an Open Source, high performance rating and mediation engine for use in telecommunications,utilities and other environments where you have to accept records from differing formats, perform calculations on the records (e.g. rating to calculate the cost, aggregation to calculate reconciliation totals) to prepare them for billing.

After you have downloaded the installation package, you can follow the installation documentation, found in the WiKi (the "reference" section, once you have registered and logged in) under the "Developer Guide" section.

There are two ways of reporting a problem or asking for help:
1) For general questions, you can use the forums. To get into the forums, you will have to register, and then you can post a question or ask for a clarification.
2) For more formal problems, you can create a ticket in the OpenRate ticket system. To access the ticket system, go to:
http://www.open-rate.com/osticket/

To get a login, click on the "Home" item on the Main Menu on the right to get back to the home page, then click "Register" at the foot of the menu. You will have to have a valid email address ready, and the rest of the registration process is automated to get you a login within a few seconds.
It's free, and without obligation, so it is well worth the money... Wink

To get the software you have to be registered, and download a release package from the download site, which is under the "Try OpenRate" section.
 
OpenRate is a fast moving project, and release builds are regularly published. The build publised on the website lags a little way behind the official production build. If you wish to take a look at the latest production build, please contact us.
 
If you are an adventurous type and competent with Java, you might want to get hold of the CVS head, and be up there with the state of the art. To do this, you should request a CVS login. Again, please contact us for this.
 
Please contact us for more information. 

The documentation about OpenRate is provided on this site in two parts:

  • The conceptual documentation is provided in the form of PDF documents. The best place to start is the Discovering OpenRate section. In particular, the OpenRate Key Concepts is very informative.
  • The technical documentation is provided in the from of a WiKi. For a quick link go here.

 
You can get into the documentation WiKi by signing up for an account (it is free, no cost at all involved) and then logging in. After you have logged in, you will find the documentation under the "Reference Documentation" section in the user menu.
 
I'm looking for the technical documentation (not the fluffy marketing stuff), and can't fiund it on the web site anywhere. Please can you tell me where it is?
Because OpenRate is a live environment, the real technical documentation is inside the Wiki part of the site. Please login (and signup if you need to - it is free) before following the links below:

If you get problems
Please feel free to use our support services. Support is an integral part of a complex and flexible product like OpenRate. You can get into the trouble ticketing system here:
Access Our Support Services

Well, firstly, because there's no spellchecker here. Secondly, we speak British English, so we say "customise" instead of "customize", "behaviour" instead of "behavior" and so on. But to be honest, it's not having the spellchecker that does the most damage... ;-)

OpenRate is good for high performance processing of files or databases in a telecommunications or utilities or environment, in order to do mediation, rating and pre-billing. Using OpenRate you can configure a mediation and rating pipeline in a couple of days, and expect it to provide throughputs af around 5000 records per second.
If you are looking for billing software, please take a look at our sister site http://www.open-brm.com, which has been created to provide a high performance, robust and fully featured Billing and Revenue Management system. 
Although we can imagine OpenRate being useful in other situations our experience lies primarily in the telecommunications area, with 15 years of direct first line experience in the implementation, and promotion of systems into production environments.
You can however use OpenRate in any situation where you require to perform high speed transformations on records, where the transformations require a certain level of processing. Other potential areas of usage of OpenRate are in utilities billing, mediation, statistical analysis, database loading and general file handling.
OpenRate is not a CRM solution,  a provisioning system or a database.

Why are we offering OpenRate as an open source project?
The resons are complex, but the flavour of it is this:

  • We think that the time is right for open source software - it has passed into a phase of maturity and now offers both the benefits of traditional software with the benefits of open source software. The disadvantages of open source software are now easily mitigated by having a partner who is able and experienced in performing the stewadship role in order to manage the platform 
  • We think the cost/benefit relationship for traditional software is much worse than that of open source -  the current commercial products that are available on the market are too inflexible (you spend 60% of a project doing the core work, and the other 70% producing workarounds to the inflexible APIs and modules - and yes, that is right, 60 + 70 = 130, which reflects the average project overrun of 30%)
  • We are entering a cost sensitive period - The existing products ask too much money for the license, and offer too little in the way of support
  • Open Source changs the support relationship - Dealing with the support organisations is a never ending source of frustration, because they keep secrets from you. The secret is the software source code, and every support case has a period of question and answer before you can identify the problem. It's like playing 20 questions. The first line support staff do not know the product, have never worked in a project or operational environment, and seem to be paid in proportion the obtuseness of the responses they give. Open source changes this - you can attach a debugger if you want, and can read the code comments and see the line or module that is causing you problems. A trouble ticket becomes specific and you are elevated to a status of peer with the support team
  • The existing products are not extendible - they do what they do, and anything else you want do do, you have to do yourself outside of the product
  • We believe that the market is going into a "build" phase of the build-buy cycle - we are swinging back into a build phase of the buy-build cycle. Open source software harmonises perfectly with this