Asterisk Appliance

Once of the more interesting areas of growth in the VoIP market has been that of open-source appliances. I had a chance to see the Asterisk Appliance from Digium which they deem is a full-featured and cost-effective way to provide the under 50 user SMB with VoIP – or as their press release espouses, Internet Telephony. The appliance is about the size of a typical home router.
Some of the functions included in the $995 device include: 
  • Complete Asterisk server
  • Support for VoIP and analog phones to allow customers to use the legacy equipment they already own
  • Full-featured PBX, interactive voice response (IVR), voicemail, conferencing and automatic call distribution (ACD) software
  • Administrative features such as a setup wizard and autoprovisioning of Polycom IP phones
  • Call queuing functionality
  • Hardware-based echo cancellation
  • Compact flash card or MMC to support voicemail and wireless applications with no major parts
  • Craft port for debug for field technicians
  • Five Ethernet ports (1 WAN, 4 LAN)
  • Built-in router ideal for small offices
  • Eight analog ports supporting a mix of foreign exchange station (FXS) and foreign exchange office (FXO) interfaces to standard telephones
My take? This is a great idea. One of the hot button areas of the communications space in the last few months seems to be appliances. Apparently people are not thrilled with having to deal with pesky hardware configuration.
These devices will likely make business owners feel secure as they look like routers and hubs and any other sort of networking equipment you may find in a small office.
In addition, from a marketing standpoint, these appliances look great. Asterisk, Applianx and other communications appliance makers seem to have learned from Apple that the look of a product can have a dramatic impact on its uptake.
In case you are interested in a bit of history, the first few companies in the communications space with designs worthy of Apple were TouchWave’s WebSwitch IP PBX which was purchased by Ericsson and the ORCA from Nuera – now part of AudioCodes.
Back to Digium – Mark Spencer and Co. tell me we can expect a range of Asterisk Appliances in the near future. Stay tuned.

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