I’ve seen a lot of press about the open source telephony system, Asterisk. Although I haven’t worked in the telephony world for some time, I remember what it was like administering those systems years ago in a midsize company that handled large event ticket sales.
We ran some systems on OS/2 and for larger ACD call center requirements, Unix. These were not inexpensive systems. If I go to AsteriskNOW.org, now I can download a specialized Linux distribution that installs as an easy-to-set-up PBX system. Since TEC’s current newsletter issue is focusing on telephony issues, I figured I’d post a bit about the open source side.
The Asterisk project originates with a company called Digium, which looks like the center of a whirlwind of related activity. IP telephony vendors claim that one of the benefits they offer is a reduction in costs that would normally be incurred from toll services, and this message is frequently targeted toward small and medium businesses. So if you combine that with some of the other common open source advantages, you get an interesting product to consider.
There are a number of companies delivering IP telephony but the Asterisk project appears like a fertilizer treatment for growing quite a variety of products and services around itself. Looking at Digium’s web site, its business model alone covers (in addition to the typical commercial open source support services) the following range of products and services.
The last item is something other open source commercial entities seem to increasingly offer: the dual-licensing option. In this case, if you’re interested in producing a specialized product in which you don’t see the benefit of releasing its code back into the open source project, you can essentially do so by obtaining a commercial license from Digium.
As you’d expect from a free or open source project, the code may be downloaded at no cost. Like many successful open source projects, Asterisk has a variety of addons that were developed for specific needs. One example, is a series of sound files in different languages, for use with the system as an interactive voice response (IVR) system.
If you’re curious about this open source system, you may be concerned that you’ll have a lot of work to do to implement it. With all the companies that I mentioned were growing around Asterisk, that doesn’t have to be the case. It appears that Digium has many partners or associated organizations that focus on delivering Asterisk-based systems and the training to use them.
I’ll end here, since my virtual machine of AsteriskNOW is finished downloading, time to try it out.