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Digium is The Voice of Asterisk

Open Source VoIP vendor Digium is releasing the latest version of the Asterisk Business Edition this week, which includes new security and voice features, as well as a new Linux distribution base.

Asterisk is an open source IP-PBX with interactive voice response (IVR ), voicemail, caller ID and conference calling on its long list of PBX features.

The Asterisk open source project is backed by Digium whose founder Mark Spencer is the founder of the Asterisk project.

The business edition of Asterisk is a fully supported, tested and certified version of the open source edition of Asterisk. It also includes additional proprietary driver support that is not part of the open source edition.

Asterisk Business Edition B.1 is based on the 1.2.7 version of Asterisk open source. The 1.2.x branch of Asterisk first debuted last November. Among the key enhancements is a new firewall module called net-sec, which is based on a code contribution from Ranch Networks.

Net-sec dynamically opens and closes firewall ports as needed instead of having to keep ports open all the time. This allows a higher degree of security.

In the past, Asterisk users typically would either overlay their Asterisk deployment on top of an existing Linux distribution or would have to separately install a new Linux distribution in order to run Asterisk.

Asterisk Business Edition B.1 is intended to make deployment easier for potential users by including a customized version of Linux that is specifically designed for Asterisk.

The customer Linux distribution was developed with the help of rPath, which develops a custom build-your-own Linux distribution effort.

"It allows us to provide a very tailored and customized distro specifically made for Asterisk to our customers and that distro is fully supported both by Digium and backed up by rPath if there is any issues with it," Jim Webster, director of software technologies at Digium, told internetnews.com.

"It allows customers with just one CD to install Linux and Asterisk at the same time."

"It speeds up the installation process considerably; you don't have to go in and select the packages that you need that are required for Asterisk, " Webster added. "And you also don't wind up with a bunch of packages that you may not necessarily want on the system."

Speech recognition capabilities are also given a boost in the new Asterisk Business edition by way of the inclusion of the LumenVox Speech Engine and the Cepstral Text-to-Speech System.

Webster noted that, among Asterisk Business Edition's advantage over some of its proprietary competitors is tested interoperability, which comes by way of its open source deployment.

"There is an estimated half-million asterisk deployments out there, all over the world," Webster said.

He added that wherever anyone has Asterisk running they are testing with their local Telco, switch, IP phone and the rest of their communications equipment. When users find problems they tell the Asterisk community and in some cases provide patches as well which are then in turn available to the whole Asterisk community.

Though Webster was unwilling to name names in terms of large enterprises that are currently deploying Asterisk, he did insist that they are out there.

"People are starting to realize that it's a mature viable alternative and not just a play toy that they can download from the Internet and use in their garage," Webster said.

"It's actually a real business solution."