Intel Gets Inside Asterisk with New Drivers

The Asterisk IP PBX and VoIP platform got a huge boost this week thanks to a new partnership between Digium and Intel.

Digium and Intel have partnered in an effort that will see the professional version of Asterisk, Asterisk Business Edition, run on Intel’s building blocks and be supported on Intel’s Dialogic and NetStructure products.

“I think this is an extremely important step forward for both Digium and Asterisk,” Mark Spencer, president of Digium and founder of the Asterisk, project told “Our goal is to expand the Asterisk ecosystem with partners like Intel who recognize the daily role that Digium plays in the development of Asterisk.”

Digium produces the Asterisk Business Edition (ABE), a professional version of the open source Asterisk that promises additional reliability of features and functions. All the software for ABE actually is drawn from the open source code. Support for Intel NetStructure and/or Dialogic is, however, not expected to trickle down into the open source code of Asterisk.

“The reason that the NetStructure channel driver is not in the open source code is because it links to Intel’s proprietary drivers and libraries,” Spencer explained. “As such, those libraries and drivers are not compatible with the GNU General Public License (GPL) under which Asterisk is distributed. Should the libraries and drivers all become available under a license compatible with the GPL then that code could be made available more generally at that time.”

According to Spencer Intel’s building blocks provides improvement to Asterisk in at least three areas. First of all, the Intel cards have DSPs, which perform some of the processing that would normally be done in software – in principle providing lower CPU utilization. Secondly, the Intel HMP software and cards contain specialized signal analysis code, which allows call progress detection in many more areas than the open source DSP developed for Asterisk currently does. Third, Intel has some technologies (SS7 as well as support for talking to proprietary digital phones and phone systems) that are not within the set of interfaces currently supported by Asterisk.

The Intel/Digium partnership has been in the making for some time.

“Intel first made contact with Digium about Asterisk before we had shipped our first commercial PCI card,” Spencer recalled. “Although we both produce hardware interface cards, Digium is developing an ecosystem around Asterisk and was certainly eager to find a way to bring Intel/Dialogic into the fold.”

“I think that Asterisk’s growth recently made the value of Asterisk apparent to a larger set of Intel executives who made the deal come to pass.”

Intel has benefited greatly from Asterisk according to Spencer.

“I always let Intel take me out to lunch or dinner because I think Intel is the company that has profited more than any other from the creation of Asterisk,” Spencer said. “It seems natural that we would work together more closely and I think there will likely be more announcements in the future.”

Intel building blocks support will be integrated into Asterisk Business Editions shipping in November 2005.

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