Fonality acquires trixbox

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Fonality acquires trixbox

TrixboxFonality will announce tomorrow that they have acquired trixbox, formerly known as Asterisk@Home, and the the world's largest Asterisk-based community. Trixbox is a turn-key, bootable .iso CD image that can turn a PC with no OS into an Asterisk server with a variety of open source tools in just a few minutes. The trixbox application lets someone download a bootable .iso image that then automatically installs Linux, Asterisk, SugarCRM, MySQL, FreePBX, and a whole variety of other applications. Trixbox fully supports the Linux yum command and RPM ecosystem for performing updates and bug fixes.

Essentially, trixbox uses the latest and greatest version of Asterisk. Within 48 hours of a new Asterisk version, engineers being work on the next release of trixbox and they add their own host of patches they they put on top of that. These are basically patches created by innovators, folks inside the Asterisk community that didn't want to sign the rights to Digium via their waiver. The waiver extends Digium's rights to sell the Asterisk code outside of the standard GPL, to which the community must adhere.

I spoke with Chris Lyman, the CEO of Fonality earlier this afternoon to talk about the acquisition of trixbox. He began by wondering how I figured out Fonality and trixbox were working closely together.

Chris: I don't know how you figured out on June 6th that we were getting involved with trixbox, but my hat goes off to you.

Tom: I recalled that I was wondering why Fonality would offer their hudlite, a real-time call control and presence management platform that works with the commercial (paid) Fonality PBXtra. I didn't understand why Fonality would want to make a "free" version of Asterisk (trixbox) more "feature-rich". Curious what the relationship was between Fonality and trixbox, I I did some detective work. Besides googling I also did registrar 'whois' lookups on (Fonality website) and and noticed that the IP addresses were the same - in other words - the same web server. Interesting to say the least, which is what sparked my June 6th post.

In my June 6th post, I pondered, "Did Fonality buy out the rights to Asterisk@Home and then change the name to What does this mean for the popular open-source Asterisk@Home distro (now Trixbox) considering Fonality is a for-profit Asterisk solutions provider? Is the plan to try and convert Trixbox users (generally novice Linux users) into paying Fonality users? Fonality certainly focuses on businesses that have little or no Linux experts, so there is certainly a potential synergy there. Well, the mystery continues... I'll post more when I hear back from Chris @Fonality." Chris Lyman and Andrew Gillis responded in a follow-up article.

In any event, it appears the seeds were sown for this acquisition back in June and that I was 4 months early in my pondering whether Fonality had acquired trixbox.

Tom: So what about Digum’s waiver requirement to assign rights of the code back to Digium? Is this an advantage of trixbox since it doesn't have a double licensing strategy?

Chris: There are a number of open source innovators that don't like this dual licensing approach, folks that don’t feel it is in the spirit of being truly open source. These types of innovators make incredible contributions to Asterisk, such as faxing. In fact, the only reason why fax isn't in Asterisk, but it is in trixbox, is because the guy that contributed this code didn't want to sign the waiver and give the rights to Digium to profit from his work. So, basically consider trixbox the latest greatest Asterisk plus a whole lot of innovation.

Tom: So what market are you going after with trixbox?

Chris: So in terms of what market we're going after with trixbox, we're not really going after a market. trixbox is really a community of Asterisk innovators and we're just going to be supporting that community. It's our way of supporting the platform that has been a big part of our success.

Tom: What is the value that trixbox brings to Fonality?

Chris: The value to Fonality is the community value.  The business value that trixbox brings is that there is probably a number of IT directors lurking in the trixbox community that are sort of trying for free, but really do want a commercial company to hold their hand when they roll out. And so we just want to make ourselves known that there is an option to go fully supported on a fully commercial Asterisk based platform over at Fonality..

Tom: So by working within the community you hope to build brand awareness for your commercial-based Fonality PBXtra?

Chris: Yes, we want to build some brand awareness in the Asterisk community to let them know we are a serious player that has a 100% supported, 100% service model.

Chris: The trixbox forums has over 20,000 posts in the last 3 months. It has become the defacto place to get questions answered about Asterisk. Questions answered about rolling an open-source small business environment. And that's really the value we saw is - there are a lot of smart open-source people in that community.

Tom: What are the download numbers?

Chris: 1,500 people download trixbox every day, which is more than Digium. Mark was quoted in a Forbes article as saying 1,000 downloads per day and we were surprised since we averaged 50% more than that.

Tom: Any issues with people knowing about the trixbox brand and knowing that is the latest and greatest version of Asterisk?

Chris: I would say given our download numbers and given the fact that we get more downloads of Asterisk every day more than the rest of the world combined, I would say no, there is no brand problem.

Tom: So how is Fonality going to contribute to trixbox with this investment?

Chris: There's two things that are really really important for us to let the world and the community know. Number one is, trixbox was free, is free, and will always be free. And when I say, I mean pure GPL. It won't have a double license, you won't have to sign a waiver releasing your rights to Fonality, and we're not going to get into any of those complicated licensing schemes that you see with some other open source companies. It will be pure GPL. Number two, we're contributing broad financial support to the trixbox platform to continue to improve that application. This is not just a community of that site that we're going to pay the bandwidth on. We actually have a host of engineers internally working on improving trixbox.

Tom: On a different note, any thoughts about integrating SugarCRM, MySQL, etc. onto the Fonality PBXtra hybrid-CPE-hosted solution for an "all in one box"?

Chris: Now, *that* we *are* very much looking into. We've even had cursory talks with SugarCRM about it. Weve been looking at ways of linking PBXtra and SugarCRM's contact center together on one box. That is a product you will probably see in the future from Fonality. Yes, I will caution any business owner, be careful of how much load you put on a single server since it becomes a single point of failure for your entire business back-office.

Tom: I know the Fonality code is a more secure and stable version of Asterisk but running an older Asterisk codebase, yet without sacrificing functionality. So I was wondering what percentage of code that is in trixbox is going to come back to Fonality?

Chris: Today, it is 0% because our version of Asterisk has been hardened aggressively over the last two and a half years. We think there may be a time if the Trixbox community requests it where we might give our version of our code to the community and call it you know, "stable". But really, more than anything the community wants the latest and greatest features and are willing to sacrifice a little bit of reliability to get there. And so unless we see a great need, we're not going to mix the two different flavors.

end interview...

One final point of note is that trixbox founder Andrew Gillis will join Fonality and continue to lead the trixbox community. The main takeways from this news is that Fonality will commit engineering resources and financial support to trixbox, and just as importantly, trixbox will continue to be 100% GPL without a dual-licensing strategry or a commercial waiver. Trixbox founder Andrew Gillis said, "Fonality shares my vision of making Asterisk free and easy for everyone. They have already proven to me how serious they are by committing a team of engineers to help create the next version of trixbox.

I had a follow-up conversation with Chris and he wanted to clarify some of his licensing remarks. I made some minor edits to clarify the licensing.

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