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Asterisk Plays Trixbox 2.0

The open source Asterisk IP-PBX is one of the most disruptive technologies in the market. But plain vanilla Asterisk can be challenging in that it isn't exactly a point-and-click install with a simplified GUI administration.

That's where a whole cottage industry of GUI add-ons for Asterisk sprung up, with one of the leading implementations being Asterisk@Home, renamed and rebuilt earlier this year, as Trixbox.

Trixbox today announced version 2.0, which extends its ease of use and functionality beyond its Asterisk base to include integration with SugarCRM.

Trixbox, which started out as a grassroots, community-led open source effort, was acquired by VoIP vendor Fonality earlier this year.

Fonality had already been in the market selling an Asterisk-based IP-PBX solution called PBXtra since 2004.

Fonality CEO Chris Lyman explained to internetnews.com that the Trixbox GUI is all about point-and-click open source.

"In fact, Trixbox 2.0 let's you roll a full Asterisk deployment, with embedded MySQL (and SugarCRM if you need it) in under an hour, without using the command line," Lyman said.

Though Trixbox integration with SugarCRM is a new feature, Lyman noted that Fonality had rolled out SugarCRM internally to automate its own sales processes.

"As we grew, our internal engineering team needed to build bridges between PBXtra (our commercial Asterisk product) and Sugar," Lyman recounted. "Coincidentally, the Trixbox community was doing the same thing on the other side of the country."

Lyman then met up with John Roberts, the CEO of SugarCRM, and they formalized plans to build bigger and better bridges between both the free Trixbox/SugarCRM products and the commercial PBXtra/SugarCRM products.

Trixbox 2.0 also includes a new GUI package manager system that provides for a more customized installation of packages.

Though Trixbox 2.0 adds a lot of point-and-click ease of use to a traditional Asterisk deployment, it is potentially missing a critical component.

That component is Zimbra, the popular AJAX-powered collaboration suite, which was already integrated with Asterisk.

Lyman noted that though Trixbox doesn't have Zimbra integration yet, they have been watching Zimbra, and if the community expresses an interest, it will be included in an upcoming version of Trixbox.

"I am considering a Zimbra rollout internally at Fonality, and if we do that it might hasten the integration," Lyman said.

Though Trixbox may have features that open source Asterisk does not, Lyman doesn't see himself competing directly against Asterisk. Other Asterisk-based implementation, however, is another story.

"I am sure it [Trixbox 2] will be competitive for some of the Asterisk-GUI companies out there like Switchvox or IntuitiveVoice, as it essentially offers their same service for free," Lyman explained.

"But, I don't think that it is competitive to Digium directly."

Digium is the lead sponsor of Asterisk, and is led by the founder of the Asterisk project Mark Spencer.

In Lyman's view the Trixbox Asterisk community is very different from the Digium Asterisk community.

"Digium's efforts around Asterisk have always been at the protocol layer, pretty far down into the stack," Lyman noted. "The Trixbox Asterisk community has been much more at the application layer.

"In short, Digium is where the phone call meets the circuit-board, and Trixbox is where the phone meets the business. Both of these stages are critical."

Trixbox 2.0 is expected to be available as a beta from this week and the final version targeted for availability in the next 30 days.