Asterisk, the popular open source PABX, is about to get even easier to install and configure with the imminent release of the AsteriskNow Linux distribution by Digium, the company that started it all.
In Sydney to promote Digium's software and products, founder and CTO Mark Spencer said the company's mission is to get Asterisk out to "the rest of the world" which may not have the technical skills to support it in-house.
One way of doing this is with the AsteriskNow Linux distribution, which is engineered to be an all-in-one package that removes the manual complexity of Asterisk with a user-friendly GUI.
Spencer said AsteriskNow is in beta 5 release now and is in the final stages of testing.
"We developed our own GUI [which is] similar to Trixbox [distribution], but the purpose of AsteriskNow is to provide a distribution built around Asterisk technology so people can use it without the GUI," he said. "The GUI is the same as the Asterisk Appliance that looks like a Linksys router that runs Asterisk and has analogue ports."
Spencer spoke about the early days of Asterisk, which started as a pet project to create a phone system during his days as an engineering student.
"I'd like to say Asterisk was a grand vision to change the telecom industry but the reality is that I needed a phone system for my Linux tech support business and I couldn't afford one, so I just made one," he said. "There were aspects of the telecom industry that made Asterisk well received. Everyone needs a phone system [and] Asterisk is very accessible, and as a technology did not come into existence with an agenda. It came in to be a universal communications platform."
Spencer believes VoIP is now beyond being a "technological mystery" and said as of last year there are more VoIP systems being deployed than traditional TDM, "so it's beginning to mature as a business".
"Open source is about having software that is free to use for any purpose, so instead of being a static thing, like a coffee pot, open source is a live changing entity that improves through the contributions of many people."
For businesses, Spencer said open source enables people to derive more value from the IP of the solution and the control of a system moves from the vendor to the customer.
"It gives you an unmatched level of flexibility from a business perspective," he said. "We also develop additional applications. On the plane over here I developed a solution to Sudoku so you could have Asterisk read the solution out to you but I haven't committed it yet."
"Open source is a mode of technology development and marketing model. BT, for example, uses Asterisk. There is no way I could call BT and say 'here is a phone system', but because it was open source BT engineering could solve an existing problem and then come to us. That said, not every customer is going to get it running themselves [so] there lies a role for the channel."
Asterisk itself supports a number of IP and traditional telephony protocols and allows "seamless" migrations from TDM key systems without having to do a complete PABX replacement.