I spoke with Aastra's executive vice president, Yves Laliberte just 50 minutes ago to discuss the newly launched AastraLink Pro 160 appliance, which I blogged about this morning
. As I suspected, the appliance is Asterisk-based. In my morning post I wrote, "This is a very interesting move since Aastra Telecom is known for their IP phones used by various IP-PBXs, including many of the Asterisk-based solutions - trixbox, AsteriskNOW, Druid, PBX in a Flash, etc. With the AastraLink Pro 160 Aastra is now competing
with IP-PBX vendors that purchase their phones."
With this in mind, my first question to Yves was "Aastra makes some very good IP phones that a lot of IP PBX vendors use but now you're moving into the IP-PBX space, so how do they feel about that?" Yves responded, "It's a great question. One that's delicate to answer. The reaction from our partners in the IP PBX space is that this changes the nature of how we are perceived. That being said this early in the game, time will tell soon how we both manage the evolution of that. Our goal and purpose is not so much to compete with our partners even though we have solutions that are targeting the same space. But from our perspective we are really trying to compete with the traditional PBX manufacturers that have various solutions for the small business. And we think we can use our critical mass and our approach and compete with them on price, easy of use, and support angle as well as further promote open source and open standards."
This response is similar to what I said this morning, i.e. "I suppose in the SMB space you're [Aastra] still more likely to go up against Avaya, Nortel, Toshiba, etc. than another Asterisk competitor."
Similar to other low cost IP PBX solutions, Aastra is pricing their AastraLink Pro 160 system less than $1000 with their $999 list price. I should mention that unlike many of Aastra's competitors, there are no hidden license costs. You simply buy another Aastra phone to add additional users.
AastraLink Pro 160 Specs/Features
The system is 100% flash memory (no hard drive or moving parts) and comes with 512MB of memory. Interestingly, Aastra developed their own FXO/FXS ports for analog connectivity. It doesn't support a T1/E1 interface card, though most SMBs still use analog. The AastraLink Pro 160 also supports SIP trunking and it seemed apparent to me in my conversation that Aastra believes strongly that SIP trunking is the way to go over a T1/E1 card for higher trunk line scalability.
What version of Asterisk are you using? 1.4? 1.6?
What Aastra is announcing today is based on Asterisk 1.4. at GA date launching May 15th
the appliance will actually deliver the first wave based on Asterisk 1.2 not 1.4. In the 3rd quarter Asterisk 1.4 will be delivered. Those with Asterisk 1.2 can freely upgrade to 1.4. Yves explained, "The major difference is really the IP key system features such as shared line appearances
(SLA) in 1.4. We wanted to make more time to do some additional things with it."
(thinking to self: Users & especially Asterisk VARs & resellers have been clamoring for shared line appearances in Asterisk for quite some time. See this post
for some of this SLA discussion. So if Aastra can make SLA easy to configure & use that could be a key advantage)
Obviously you have the ability to auto-provision your own phones, but do you support 3rd party IP phones?
Not at this time. Really the concept is the difference between us and our partners is that we decided to support auto-provision for our phones only; to offer the entire portfolio so you get the classic (4 series phones) and the 5i phones. The auto-discovery, in our opinion , because we control both the phone and the system is probably the simplest in the industry, including the provisioning of remote phones.
Yves explained you can hook up your phone on your LAN, have it auto-provisioned, assigned an extension, and then take it home and hook it up to your broadband connection and it will automatically work. Other solutions support this as well, including Fonality's hybrid-hosted trixbox pro & PBXtra solutions. The difference is that Fonality leverages their hybrid-hosted approach (external hosted & internal components) where Aastra doesn't require a hosted web server.
Finally, the system comes with 6 FXO ports and 2 FXS ports (for fax machines). Each FXO is equipped with on-hook CallerID detection and full G.168 echo cancellation
Pricing & Availability:
General availability is May 15th and pricing is $999.