Asterisk: Open Source PBX and VoIP In the Cloud?
Asterisk, the open source IP PBX, has gained serious momentum as an on-premise IP telephony solution. But as hosted PBXs gain popularity, I’m starting to wonder if Asterisk-based cloud services will gain critical mass with VARs and managed services providers.
Digium is the best-known promoter of Asterisk. The company certainly has a channel partner program, but most Digium VARs promote on-premise solutions like the SwitchVox unified communications system. And strangely, a recent Digium press release highlighting the company’s momentum didn’t mention cloud computing at all.
Still, we’re starting to see anecdotal evidence of Asterisk leaping into the cloud. They Include:
1. The Asterisk SCF project, announced at AstriCon 2010, brings “scalability, extensibility and performance capabilities to the Asterisk family of projects that are very well suited to cloud business models,” according to Digium Community Director Bryan Johns.
The efforts don’t stop there. “ There are numerous development efforts focused on expanding Asterisk’s capabilities to include cloud service delivery models,” he says. “These take the form of traditional, virtualized and hosted Asterisk PBX platforms as well as specialty VoIP applications delivered exclusively via the cloud.”
2.Fonality originally built its hosted PBX software system atop Asterisk. I heard quite a bit from Fonality in 2008 and 2009, but the company has undergone management changes and marketing changes. I’ve sent some requests for interviews but haven’t heard back. In the meantime, it’s clear that Fonality has bet its business on cloud-centric unified communications.
3. Ifbyphone acquired CloudVox in early 2010. CloudVox has since been rebranded as Asterisk Hosting. It sounds like ifbyphone has been raising money to expand its cloud-based call management platform strategy. But I’m curious to see how ifbyphone builds and manages the Asterisk Hosting brand.
Despite Asterisk’s growing popularity, I’m surprised there isn’t more cloud buzz around the open source IP PBX. Visit Digium’s web site and search for the word “cloud”; the top result is an April Fool’s press release about a cloud strategy that doesn’t really exist. Cute… but Digium should work harder to promote real cloud messaging rather than tongue-in-cheek statements that dominate search results.
Meanwhile, numerous hosting companies are testing alternative unified communications systems. Microsoft Lync, a successor to Office Communications Server. Lync, launched in November 2010, seems to have strong buzz with VARs and MSPs that want to push beyond hosted Exchange. Also, Intermedia has developed its own hosted Unified Communications solution that now includes a channel partner program. And a boatload of white label hosted VoIP services for VARs have launched in recent months.
Bottom line: Digium and Asterisk disrupted the traditional IP PBX software market. But most of Asterisk’s momentum has been on-premise. We’re watching to see if Asterisk can become just as disruptive in the cloud.