Two companies that distribute the Asterisk VOIP platform released products last week aimed at getting small and midsize businesses up and running quickly with the open source IP PBX.
Digium, a company run by Asterisk inventor Mark Spencer, last week launched its AsteriskNOW software appliance, which bundles the open source Asterisk PBX software, necessary operating system components, and a setup wizard into a package for SMB customers. Meanwhile, Fonality, which markets what it bills as an easy-to-use Asterisk offering, launched a new version of its Trixbox system.
AsteriskNOW from Digium is a streamlined Linux distribution bundled with Version 1.4 of the Asterisk software application. The package installs in around 30 minutes on a standard Intel-based server or PC, the company says. A graphical user installation program makes the setup easier than previous setups, which required a preconfigured server running Linux, Mac OS X, OpenBSD, FreeBSD or Sun Solaris.
Fonality says installation of its Trixbox 2.0 is even faster than the Digium offering -- around 15 minutes. Like AsteriskNOW, Trixbox 2.0 bundles a slimmed-down Linux distribution with Asterisk. But the Fonality product also includes options to install other open source applications during its graphical setup routing: MySQL, phpMyAdmin (an open source network-management tool) and the free software package SugarCRM.
Although Asterisk is starting to pop up in large education and corporate installations, SMBs are a key target market.
F2 is a US-based IT company which hosts Asterisk-based VOIP services and has installed Asterisk systems for roughly 150 SMB customers, most of which have about 50 or fewer employees.
"I think every business wants to have [advanced] telephony features" such as distributed workforce, call routing, follow-me or interactive voice response, says Jay Allen, vice president of marketing for F2. Deploying these features with Asterisk is less expensive than a proprietary VOIP system, key telephone system or PBX, Allen says, because the software is free, and the hardware used is commodity Intel server products.