Two quick-setup Asterisk packages debut

Digium and Fonality launch open source VoIP packages for SMBs

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.

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