Asterisk Going Carrier-Grade?
A UK-based carrier-grade equipment vendor may begin baking the open source IP-PBX into its offerings. Is this the next big step for open source VoIP?
Digium, the prime corporate mover behind Asterisk, is poised to push the popular, open source PBX into the carrier space, thanks to a new partnership with UK-based carrier switch vendor Integrics.
As a result, the new move could be the first step in a larger effort by Digium to tackle the market for carrier PBX and unified communications equipment, which is dominated by proprietary vendors.
"Digium has many carrier-class partners from different types of partnerships," Bill Miller, the company's vice president of product management and marketing, told InternetNews.com. "Some are customers of Digium hardware and software, some are VoIP service providers with revenue share arrangements, some resell our appliances, but this is the first Asterisk-based partner of this type."
Miller said Digium had been looking for a partner for the service provider edition of its IP-PBX system. Integrics met with Digium in Europe last year, and began evaluating Asterisk with Enswitch.
"The successful testing and acceptance of Enswitch drove Digium to work with Integrics because the product had all the capability we were looking for but they lacked the marketing and sales engine of Digium," Miller said. "The result is a combination of Digium's strong marketing and sales engine and Integrics' strong technical knowledge of service provider Asterisk-based network solutions."
Miller added that Digium won't need to make any enhancements to Asterisk to support the Integrics product.
However, over time, there may be specific requirements from carriers to adapt the platform to their needs -- as in any proprietary solution, he said. But Miller also said the transparent nature of open source Asterisk enables those enhancements to be implemented and tested more rapidly and easily.
The announcement also may mean big things ahead for Digium's new partner, which, while a carrier-grade vendor, is still relatively small. Integrics spokesman Alistair Cunningham told InternetNews.com that the company currently has about 40 installations among approximately 25 customers.
The smallest deployments represent a few hundred hosted PBX users on single machines. The largest ones serve more than 100,000 residential users, and well into thousands of concurrent calls.
"It's early days for us, and while we currently have a small, loyal customer base, there's low recognition of the Enswitch product among carriers," Cunningham said. "We plan to improve this by partnering with companies like Digium who are recognized as innovators and who have high visibility in the marketplace."
The agreement with Integrics also won't impact Digium's own efforts in the appliance space. While the Asterisk vendor itself has an appliance business, its offerings have yet to scale beyond the needs of the small to midsized business (SMB) marketplace, and remain in a nascent stage.
For instance, the AA250 Asterisk appliance, first reported by InternetNews.com last year, scales up to 500 users, but has yet to be made generally available.
"Digium never productized and launched the AA250, although we do have the technology in our labs," Miller said. "Digium has the AA350 Switchvox Appliance, which scales to 400 users per system with redundancy of significant components, but is offered only with Switchvox SMB products today."
Digium acquired Switchvox in 2007 in an effort to expand into the hosted PBX market.
"We also offer Switchvox Hosted software which runs 20 instances of Switchvox SMB on a supercharged server, but Digium does not resell that server at this time," Miller added. "Digium may consider larger appliances at some time."
At this point, though, Digium is focused on building its commercial businesses around SMB products, using carriers as a channel, Miller said.
"Our targeted market segments are for helping service providers benefit from open source in the SMB space where Digium is the equipment/software provider," he said. "From a technical perspective, Digium has not focused on the development of some of the provisioning tools required to scale larger service providers."
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