BlueWave Telecom Hosted Asterisk solution

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BlueWave Telecom Hosted Asterisk solution

I recently met with BlueWave Telecom, a company just coming out of "stealth marketing" to learn about VoIPFlow 2.0, a software platform that enables service providers to provision and manage hundreds of virtual PBXs leveraging a 64-bit version of Asterisk. Basically, VoIPFlow 2.0 enables 100% hosted Asterisk IP-PBXs. It actually runs virtual instances of Asterisk for each customer using open-source virtualization software. Since each Asterisk instance is "virtualized" if one instance crashes or fails, it doesn't bring down all the other Asterisk instances. VoiceFlow also has clustering for redundancy.

One of their key advantages is that they've developed an interface to manage hundreds of virtual Asterisk PBXs making it easy for service providers to manage their customers. Their user interface is abstracted from the underlying Asterisk config files and allows the user to completely provision and manage the PBX via an intuitive user interface. Customers can be given limited access to various configuration settings as well.

It features what they have trademarked as "One Click PBX Deployment" (Amazon lawsuit anyone?), which grants the ability to quickly deploy a fully-functional Asterisk PBX. They claim to have advanced the concept of hardware nodes as computer resources, and claim VoIPFlow has the most advanced architecture on the market for managing many virtual PBXs at once.  System wide settings are available to manage your entire PBX inventory. According to BlueWave Telecom, "VoIPFlow runs on commodity Intel or AMD servers and you may host the solution yourself in your own data center, or you may choose to have us host it as an on-demand solution." They use Level3 for SIP-based VoIP origination and termination, so essentially with this hosted solution you are also using SIP trunking for the voice. And since they're using Level3, they are fully e911-enabled.

How does it work?
You're probably wondering "if this is a 100% hosted Asterisk solution what sits at the customer premise?" Well, technically it's 99% hosted, since you do have to have their Edge 801 integrated T1 router sit at the customer premise. The Edge 801 is an embedded Linux device that actually runs a paired down version of Asterisk so that extension-to-extension calls are local and can continue to work even if the data T1 goes down. Technically, you don't have to use their Edge 801 device - you can use a Cisco T1 router or what have you, but you lose the additional functionality and redundancy. The Edge 801 is only $1200, so it's probably worth the extra redundancy for local extension calling. It features auto-provisioning of Cisco, Sipura, and Polycom phones - all without mucking with the phone's firmware. In addition, all calls are encrypted and they feature full NAT traversal support and G.729 & G.711 codecs. VoIPFlow can scale to <100 phones since running on a single T1 data line.

Although plenty of users have downloaded the 64-bit version of Asterisk, BlueWave Telecom claims they are the only commercial company running on a 64-bit version of Asterisk. BlueWave Telecom explains their architecture as follows:

"VoIPFlow is built on a custom 64bit Linux kernel called the BlueWave kernel. We hand build our Linux kernel so that we know exactly what is inside - nothing extra - just the core of what we need to provide a screaming fast OS. Next, we utilize a custom virtualization layer that allows every PBX that we spin up to believe it is running on its own server, complete with a Linux process.  The overhead for our custom virtualization layer is less than 2%...very efficient. On top of that we layer our security and licensing modules. These modules protect our intellectual property and provide us a secure and undeniable way to do accurate billing, inventory, and software updates to our licensed systems. Then we layer on a pluggable PBX module. We have built the system so that it may take advantage of any open PBX system on the market that supports open standards. In this release we have chosen to include Asterisk in our distribution. Next, we hand build the custom logic necessary to provide fail-over, load-balancing, and auto-leveling. Finally we layer in a beautiful, CSS-based user interface to tie it all together. Our architecture is built for scalability. In order to scale, you simply plug in another hardware node and the system can be rebalanced. You can run several hundred of our virtual PBXs on a single hardware node."

BlueWave Telecom is one Asterisk solutions provider to keep your eye on in 2007. Though this reminds me of my "Signate, an Asterisk provider, bites the dust" article where Signate, an Asterisk provider went bankrupt. I said in this article "Is this a case of the Asterisk ecosystem growing too fast, with too many players trying to get into the Asterisk game? With free Asterisk offerings such as AsteriskNOW, trixbox, and inexpensive solutions from Fonality, Digium, and other providers - some hosted - some CPE, it will be interesting to see who survives and who doesn't. Considering Asterisk is an open-source solution, adding enough value and margin to Asterisk is a tricky business to remain profitable, especially when you consider that open-source advocates tend be very thrifty (cheap?) when it comes to paying for software."

Is BlueWave Telecom going to be a major player in the Asterisk market or can we expect other Signates within the Asterisk ecosystem? I won't make a prediction, but will say I like that they're running Asterisk on a 64-bit Linux kernel with clustering and redundancy. My reservation isn't about them using Asterisk or their technology in general - I just haven't seen the hosted IP-PBX market take a sizable market share. Is the hosted IP-PBX market ready to explode in 2007? If so, BlueWave Telecom's technology could put it at the forefront.

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