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IBM, Digium Team on Asterisk Phone System

For the past decade, Asterisk has prospered as an open source VoIP PBX . Now it's poised for greater traction, courtesy of a new joint effort with IBM.

The work will see Asterisk getting a boost with a tie-in to IBM's Smart Cube. The six-month-old IBM Smart Cube platform is designed for small- and midsized businesses (SMB). The general idea is that the server is an easy-to-configure appliance for a variety of business applications.

Now with Asterisk, users will now be able to set it up with as a full unified communication system.

The Asterisk for Smart Cube release marks the first formal collaboration between Digium, the lead commercial sponsor behind Asterisk, and IBM. It's an effort that could help to expand market for Asterisk and help IBM with its own unified communication efforts.

"A Smart Cube administrator will have a single point of configuration for a telephony user as well as other IT services, such as e-mail (Domino) and instant messaging (Sametime), with a single point of support from IBM," Pete Engler, Digium's product manager for strategic products, told InternetNews.com. "Asterisk for Smart Cube integrates with IBM's Sametime and also offers a variety of gateways and phones that are auto detected and configured by the solution."

While the original Asterisk PBX is freely available under an open source license, it is the commercially supported Asterisk Business Edition being provided for the IBM Smart Cube.

"Asterisk for Smart Cube is a customized version of Asterisk Business Edition, which has administration capabilities built into the Smart Cube Smart Desk GUI," Engler said.

Asterisk for Smart Cube includes the software for the Smart Cube x86 platform, and SuSE Linux Enterprise as the underlying OS. The companies are also providing the IBM ISS Proventia Server IPS v1.0 firewall with each system for security.

From a technical perspective, Engler noted that there were a few things that IBM and Digium needed to do to enable Asterisk for the Smart Cube. He explained that IBM and Digium developed functionality for Asterisk Business Edition to run on the SuSE Linux platform and integrate seamlessly into the Smart Desk GUI.

Also, the package had to be made deliverable through the Cube's Smart Market application store, which makes the process of buying the software seamless for the end user.

The Smart Market represents a different model than how users typically acquire Asterisk. As an open source application, users can freely download Asterisk, while the Asterisk for Business solution is available directly from Digium in a number of ways. Among them are Digium's own Asterisk appliances as well appliances built by 3Com.

"The difference is Digium is an independent software provider on the IBM Smart Market, where the Asterisk for Smart Cube product has a listing," Engler said. "The hardware is provided by IBM and a customer will purchase the Smart Cube and has a wide variety of applications to choose from in the Smart Market. The basic administration of the users can be done through the IBM Smart Cube GUI and advanced configuration thorough the Asterisk Business Edition GUI."

Digium also has its own SMB-focused product, called SwitchVox. However, Engler does not see the IBM solution as new competition for Digium's own offerings.

"The Smart Cube is sold through the traditional IBM channel and customers will purchase Asterisk for Smart Cube from the Smart Market, so the target customer base is traditional IBM customers," Engler said.