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Asterisk Calls Home

For years, the only way to get a free all-in-one Asterisk open source IP-PBX easily setup and managed was to go to a third-party distribution, such as Asterisk@home. It's now time for Asterisk to make it easy on its own.

Asterisk@home, which is now called Trixbox, and its domain no longer point to Trixbox. Instead they point to AsteriskNow.org, which is Digium's new all in one Asterisk distribution.

Digium, the lead commercial sponsor of the open source Asterisk project, developed AsteriskNow off of the recently released Asterisk 1.4, which became generally available in late December.

Asterisk includes interactive voice response , voicemail, caller ID and conference calling. For the most part, a typical open source Asterisk installation has required a certain degree of expertise and patience. And management hasn't been entirely easy due to the lack of an official Asterisk GUI.

The difficulty of installing open source Asterisk helped to fuel a cottage industry of GUI add-ons, with Trixbox (formerly Asterisk@home) being most notable. Trixbox recently announced Trixbox 2.0, with general availability expected this week.

Bill Miller, vice president of product management and marketing at Digium, told internetnews.com that AsteriskNow is expected to track open source Asterisk's development closely.

AsteriskNow takes a page from the Trixbox playbook and aims to make installation and administration significantly easier. AsteriskNow includes a Digium-developed and designed GUI setup wizard, as well as a default configuration that will enable users to get up and running rapidly.

With open source Asterisk, users would have had to have a Linux system already set up. But AsteriskNow is built as a software appliance and is available as a CD ISO image, a LiveCD so the user can run directly from the CD without the need to touch the hard drive, and a virtual VMWare player version.

Though AsteriskNow is the first open source GUI version of Asterisk from the official Asterisk project, it's not the first version from Digium to be an all-in-one distribution. The non-open source Asterisk Business Edition, announced in June, is also built as an appliance with rPath Linux already built in.

Asterisk Business Edition provides a tested and certified version of Asterisk, as well as proprietary drivers that for licensing reasons cannot be included in the open source version.

Digium also plans to make it easier for users to migrate to the Asterisk Business Edition if they need to. Miller said that Digium's intent is to make the upgrade from AsteriskNow to Asterisk Business Edition, a single click.

Beyond taking technical aim at third parties like the former Asterisk@home, Digium is also aggressively moving to protect its Asterisk trademark. Gaining control of the Asterisk@home.com domain is part of that strategy.

Digium's Miller noted that they are going after any domain that has the Asterisk name in it. In particular Digium is looking at those that are mis-using the Asterisk name.

"They give us no attribution and in some ways are competitors," Miller said. "People who are abusing the Asterisk name, we are taking seriously."