There has been a lot going on at Digium recently, and today we’re speaking with Steve Sokol, Digium’s Marketing Director for Asterisk to learn a little more about these developments. Below is a transcription of the call.
1) So, we understand Digium has released three new products recently. Please provide a quick introduction to each product and its use?
Yeah, that’s right. We’ve actually been really busy. And I’ll start out by saying that this is just the beginning. We’ve really got just an amazing line up of products that you’ll be seeing hit the market over the next 6 months or so. But I’m going to talk right now about the three that we’ve already released.
The first of those is the TE820, which is the 8- port digital telephony interface card and that is capable of going up to 240 concurrent calls on a single card, which is our highest density card, and it’s really only priced a few hundred dollars over our 4-port model, for an 8-port card. So it’s a pretty good deal.
Like the rest of our digital interface line, the TE820 can connect to T1, E1 or J1 circuits. It’s available in PCIe form factor, which has really become kind of the standard for servers over the last few years. And it is available either with or without hardware echo cancellation. We launched this back in November at Astricon and it’s been selling really well.
The next product is actually a whole new family of devices that we call the Redundancy Series, or R-Series Appliances. These are small 1U devices that act as sort of a switch for PSTN circuits. They basically allow you to set up a pair of identical Asterisk servers: one that is active and another that is standby. And then to move the PSTN servers between those two systems, normally the R-series connects the circuits through the Digium cards on the primary system, but in the event of a failure on the primary, the backup system will take over, and will command the R-Series to switch the lines over to the backup box. And we’ve actually got two versions of this.
The third product that we’ve released is actually Asterisk, called Asterisk 10. It’s the latest version of the Asterisk platform, which is our classic, our original reason for Digium being around. We announced this back at Astricon, and we released it just before Christmas. And if you’re familiar with Asterisk, you may be going, “Huh, wait a minute, Asterisk 10? I thought the last one was 1.8. What’s with the big jump?”
Well, we talked about it. And the next version was going to be 1.10, but a lot of people went, “Shouldn’t 1.10, be 2.0?” No, that’s not actually the way the version scheme works in open source.
But some people pointed out that a 1.x product is generally a pretty new and immature product. And Asterisk has been around for 12+ years at this point and is anything but new and immature. So after thinking about it, we decided to drop the leading 1 and just call it Asterisk 10. So next year we’ll have Asterisk 11 and so on.
So those are the three new products and we’re really happy to have them out in the market.
2) What are the unique selling points compared with manufacturers that already have products that exist in this market?
Well the TE820 offers the highest port capacity at the lowest price of any card in the Asterisk market. If you’re running it in E1 mode, that’s where you’ve got 240 channels total, or 30 channels per span, the price breaks down to $7.00 per channel without echo cancellation or about $12.00 with. It also comes with our five year manufacturer’s warranty, our ESP guarantee, and it is coming straight from the guy that makes Asterisk.
The R-Series appliances, well they support up to eight lines, making them the highest density redundancy solution on the Asterisk market. They are aggressively priced. The street price for the R850 works out to roughly $100 a circuit. They are also deeply integrated with a whole suite of redundancy tools, to handle things like IP reallocation or file system synchronization, so they are really very powerful.
And Asterisk 10? Well, there really aren’t too many competitors out there for Asterisk. It is still the world’s leading open source telephony platform.
So the new features that we’ve added in include a completely re-built media engine that’s built for a post telephony HD world. We’ve updated the conferencing module, ConfBridge, to support wide-band audio. We’ve added a limited, but very powerful form of video conferencing. And Asterisk can now route text messages and text messages the way you can route calls. So that’s another big step forward for us. And we’ve also added better internet faxing with T.38 gateway support.
We’ve done a lot of other internal stuff, upgraded the database etc., so it’s a big leap forward, and we’re really happy to have Asterisk continuing to grow and to have a healthy evolving community.
3) Why is there no FXS support, or support for Digium Switchvox, freepbx-based trixbox or Elastix in the Digium R series?
Well, our requirements for the R-series were really based on trunk requirements. So, the FXS and FXS port is of course a station port in the analog telephony world. And what we wanted to do is really be able to handle the primary-backup failover. So what we’ve set it up as is basically a trunk router, to route your trunks from the PSTN over.
Now in terms of the other sort of distributions that you mentioned, SwitchVox, Elastix, etc., I know we’re going to have support for Switchvox very soon. Usually a product takes a little while before we’re able to integrate it directly into the Switchvox. It takes the usual amount of engineering effort.
And in terms of trixbox and Elastix, that will be something an engineer could do. We’re hoping the teams from FreePBX or Elastix will do that with the R-Series. But we had to put out what we basically call a reference implementation. The implementation that we read about in the user guide is what we can easily support. It kind of takes the basics of doing true redundancy. And so, we can build it to that spec, we’re able to provide 100% support on it. But we fully understand that there are going to be people that are going to use it in slightly different means, and we’ll do our best, but that’s just the way it works when you are manufacturing something that is really complex like a redundancy solution.
4) Are there any new hardware developments at Digium or improvements you can tell us about that may be coming out in the future?
Actually, I can’t tell you any details, but I can tell you that 2012 will be our biggest year yet for new products. The last two years have been years of incredible effort and investment, working towards new products that you’ll see released this year. Please keep your eye on Digium, I think you’ll see some really amazing stuff in the really near future.
Thanks again for your time today Steve. Steve Sokol, Digium’s Marketing Director for Asterisk.
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