First there was Asterisk@Home a free version based on Asterisk that is a bootable ISO image that can build an Asterisk-based server in just minutes. But then Fonality acquired Asterisk@Home
and soon after renamed it trixbox. Fonality continued development on PBXtra, their own Asterisk-based solution. Today, Fonality has announced that it is merging the PBXtra brand into trixbox
with what they are calling trixbox Pro Edition, which comes in 3 flavors: Standard
, and Call Center Edition
With trixbox Pro, Fonality abstracted the core PBXtra code from the hardware. They added a robust hardware card detection piece of software for "plug and play" install of telephony hardware, which is often the most difficult and frustrating aspect of any Asterisk-based installation. So for instance if you install trixbox Pro, it detects your telephony hardware, including Rhino, Pika, Digium, and Sangoma. It also detects which port, E1/T1, FXO and FXS ports and it even detects whether or not you've plugged in your power.
They made an auto-provisioning piece that will automatically configure and install your phones, including several Polycom and Aastra model phones. It installs the right firmware and configures the dial plan with automatic extension assignment. Other SIP phones work as well but you have to manually configure them. I should point out that before with PBXtra you had to buy the phones from Fonality which has specially configured firmware. Fonality added a slight premium to the phones which didn't go over too well with some resellers and end users. This is no longer the case. You can purchase a standard Polycom or Aastra phone from anywhere you can get the best deal and get it to work with trixbox Pro.
Here's a list of the 3 trixbox Pro Editions:
- Is now free. Before, when it was PBXtra, it was around $999. Targetting <10 users
- $9.99/seat per month. includes HUDPro, free software upgrades Targetting 10-500 users
Call Center Edition
- $19.99/seat per month Adds call recording callbarge-in, call monitoring, graphical call center reports. Integration with salesforce.com and SugarCRM. Targetting 2-200 agents.
trixbox CE (Community Edition) is the other version (non-Pro), which is still a free Asterisk-based solution, but it doesn't have some of the functionality in the similarly free trixbox Pro Standard Edition. Though I've seen some cool trixbox CE functionality that I'm currently testing using the trixbox appliance that doesn't exist in trixbox Standard Edition.
Anyway, is you look at the pricing model above, one interesting aspect to this news is that Fonality has gone to a per-seat/per-month licensing model. Typically, most Asterisk-based solutions are a "one and done" payment model where you buy it you own it. Thus, it will be interesting to see how the Asterisk community embraces this new licensing model. Actually, this model is more important to the reseller community than the tech-savvy Asterisk community, which typically want everything open source and free. Although, Fonality does offer some flexibility by giving you the option of a lifetime license fee of $249 for Enterprise Edition and $499 for Call Center Edition.
The other really big news behind the latest version is what Chris Lyman, the CEO of Fonality calls "trixNet", which essentially is a private ENUM service. It maps PSTN numbers to other users running trixbox Pro. Essentially, it's a free in-network calling service which lets any trixbox Pro user call any other trixbox Pro user, using their regular phone numbers. The way it works is when you dial a number, it does a fast query to see if that number is in the "trixNet". If the number is not in trixNet it makes a regular PSTN call. However, it goes one step further in that if it detects the number is in trixNet but it takes longer than 1 second to connect it assumes bad bandwidth and falls back to PSTN.
Importantly, they also make you validate your phone number in order to join trixNet. trixNet will call each new registrant and ask them to press a key to verify that you own the number. This is to prevent you from stealing someone else's phone number. Chris told me for now trixNet is "opt-in". They want to monitor the QoS and see how well it works then perhaps switch to an opt-out model. For the "free calling" to truly work, the trixNet will require a lot of trixbox Pro deployments. Chris did point out 1.4 million downloads for trixbox CE, so once trixNet is extended to the CE version the network could be pretty large. In fact, Fonality said they will soon extend trixNet to the trixbox CE (Community Edition) platform
Perhaps at some point, trixbox could copy Oooma's P2P model
and allow outbound calls to any local rate calling area from outside trixbox users? Essentially each trixbox becomes a local PSTN gateway for others in the trixNet. Though I' doubt businesses will want to share their outbound lines.
Finally, Fonality stated they will extend free trixNet calling to include anybody using GoogleTalk.