Digium Launches Asterisk ‘Marketplace,’ Upgrades Switchvox UC Solution

With the launch of a new marketplace where vendors can reach out to integrators and solution providers, Asterisk sponsor Digium is says it will make available a range of products and services based on the open-source platform.

Also this week, Digium announced a major upgrade to its Switchvox UC solution.

Taken together, the pair of announcements would seem to confirm the common perception of Asterisk as a fast-growing force in the VoIP ecosystem.

The marketplace is not Digium’s first attempt to create a gathering point for the Asterisk community. Previous efforts focused on pairing up technology partners, however, whereas the newly unveiled marketplace is geared toward more tangible outcomes.

AsteriskExchange will welcome “anything that is either a hard good—something that can be picked up and shipped, that works with Asterisk—or a piece of software,” said Asterisk Marketing Director Steve Sokol. The site attempts to respond to repeated requests from integrators looking to source Asterisk-related products.

“They regularly come to us and say, ‘Where can we find a blank, a widget, that works with Asterisk?’ ” Sokol said. “There has never been any one place where you can go and say, ‘I want phones that work with Asterisk,’ and get back a list. Now everybody can find everybody else very readily.”

The initial players on the field will include about 30 companies offering a broad range of products including fax utilities, desktop tools, interface cards, and voice compression tools. In addition to reaching out to the existing Asterisk community, Digium is looking to the marketplace as a vehicle to bring new users on board. “If you are a newbie and just getting into the Asterisk movement, this is going to be a great place to go,” Sokol said.

As a revenue source, the marketplace will be running ads from technology partners. Digium will promote the site with a series of webinars, including a weekly “Welcome to Asterisk” for novices, as well as collaborative webinars inviting partners to present in-depth reports on specific aspects of Asterisk.

With enough products to stock a marketplace and enough vendors lining up to participate, the latest news may mark a kind of coming-of-age for Asterisk. “It shows how far we have come from the early 2000s when Asterisk was mentioned frequently as an ‘up and coming’ new technology,” Sokol said. “A whole lot of people have based a good chunk of their business on it.”

Digium this week also rolled out Switchvox SMB 4.5, the latest version of its IP PBX. This iteration does away with the “phone token,” previously used to configure Switchvox systems, substituting an improved “Phone Feature Pack” meant to enhance the user experience and also ease the burden on administrators.

In addition to detecting and connecting phones, the Feature Pack allows a greater degree of customization at time of setup. For example, it will be easier than before to implement a “failover” capacity, which allows the phone to seek out a different server if it cannot find its primary server.

“Survivability is definitely a big thing that customers are looking for,” said Tristan Barnum, director of product marketing at Switchvox.

SMB 4.5 makes it easier to access some existing features. The ability to have more than one extension on a phone isn’t new, for instance, but now it can be configured at the time of deployment through a simplified interface.

For end users (only those on Polycom handsets) a number of applications now have been enabled through the handset, including such tools as phone books, searchable company directories and call recording.

“These are applications that have been available in different places in Switchvox for a while. I could check my voicemail on the web before, whereas now I can check my voicemail on my phone, which is a very intuitive way for people to do that,” Barnum said. “So it is just one more way for people to access these most popular features right where a lot of people want to interact with them: On the handset.”

Those running version 3.5 or 4 and who are current in their subscriptions can implement the newest version at no additional cost. The base price for Switchvox likewise remains the same, Barnum said.

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