Open Source Asterisk 1.8 Aiming for Long-Term Support

Asterisk adopts a long-term support (LTS) model for rolling out releases as Asterisk 1.8 and the next release of AsteriskNow draw near.

By Sean Michael Kerner | Posted Apr 9, 2010
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The Ubuntu Linux distribution isn't the only open source project with a long-term-support release on the horizon. The Asterisk open source VoIP PBX (define) project is moving ahead with its own long-term support (LTS) plans with its 1.8 release.

Asterisk's LTS releases are maintained for at least four years, as opposed to regular releases, which are only supported for a minimum of one year. The Asterisk 1.4 release, which came out in 2006, is considered the current LTS version, with the more recent Asterisk 1.6 branch designated as the regular release. The move to an LTS model is a new approach for the Asterisk project.

Just a year ago, Kevin Fleming, director of software technologies at Digium, said that Asterisk 1.6 would be the base for future Asterisk releases and that no 1.8 release would be coming. Digium is the lead commercial sponsor behind the Asterisk project, and was founded by Asterisk creator Mark Spencer.

"We've decided to move toward a process that allows us to produce long-term support releases on a fairly consistent basis," Fleming told InternetNews.com. "We've been trying to deal with the dichotomy of wanting a release to be stable for as long as possible while still having new features in Asterisk."

With the Asterisk 1.6 release, the project tried to start putting out releases with new features faster, Fleming noted. But some users complained that there were too many releases and it was too confusing to figure out which branch to use. The solution is the new method where Asterisk is broken out into feature and LTS releases.

"Someone that is more focused on running an Asterisk server that they won't have to mess with for four years except for bug fix updates can now do that," Fleming said. "Someone that wants all the new stuff as it comes in can now do that, too."

The Asterisk 1.8 LTS release will likely be available in the third quarter of 2010 and will include a number of new features.

"There are a lot of new items planned for 1.8, and some stuff is already done and in the development trunk waiting for the branch to be released," Fleming said. "A lot of the changes may seem like subtle changes but when an end user sees the difference they will be very happy."

One of the new features is a reverse call display function that will indicate who a user is actually talking to.

"So if you call me, I see on my phone your CallerID, and that has always worked. You will now see on your phone, not the extension you dialed, but the CallerID you would have seen if I had called you," Fleming explained.

Fleming added that if the call is transferred, the call display information is also updated to show the caller the CallerID of the person the user has been connected with.

Another key item expected to debut in Asterisk 1.8 is support for the next-generation IPv6 (define) addressing system. IPv6 is set to become increasingly important as the current IPv4 address space nears total depletion in the next few years. Additionally, Asterisk 1.8 will include more ISDN support to better work on European phone systems that support that standard.

AsteriskNow

Work is also progressing on the next generation of the AsteriskNow project, which provides a bundled version of Asterisk with a GUI and a Linux operating system. The AsteriskNow project debuted in 2007 and is currently at its 1.5 release, which came out last year.

Fleming said that there is another version of AsteriskNow in the works and it's very close to release. The new release will update the underlying CentOS Linux distribution that AsteriskNow uses, as well as the GUI. Additionally the new release will include the latest Asterisk 1.6.x update. Fleming was not certain what number the new version of AsteriskNow will be called when it is released.

Moving forward, Fleming still sees lots of room for Asterisk growth as it scales up for large deployments. He noted that there is still additional work required to enable people to build really complex, geographically distributed, and highly redundant Asterisk systems.

"While there not as many groundbreaking new features to develop there are still a lot of things to be built, things that can be done to make Asterisk even more practical to be used in even more environments that it is now," Fleming said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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