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Digium Expands With Switchvox Buy

The future of VoIP is about more than simply providing voice connectivity, it's about realizing the dream that is unified communications. It's a future that open source VoIP PBX vendor Digium is banking on with its acquisition of PBX vendor Switchvox.

Financial terms of the deal are not being disclosed, though Digium expects to retain all Switchvox employees. Digium is the lead corporate backer behind the Asterisk open source PBX. Asterisk is also the basis for the Switchvox product, though Switchvox has also added additional business process features and integration.

"The main thing is that they [Switchvox] are the best of breed of a new Web 2.0 meets telephony world," Mark Spencer, founder and CTO of Digium, told InternetNews.com. "A world where you take a product like Asterisk and integrate it with other really cool technologies to create a whole application that is valuable to a particular vertical market -- in this case SMB."

Spencer, who is also the founder of the Asterisk project itself, noted that Switchvox is one of the most advanced PBXs in the SMB space and that it currently boasts an estimated 65,000 end points in operation. The plan is for a business as usual approach in the near term with Switchvox retaining its own brand. In the longer term, Spencer noted that Digium is likely to have more announcements on its Switchvox product strategy.

One thing that Digium is moving on quickly is integrating the Switchvox technology into the Asterisk ecosystem. While Asterisk itself is an open source application, not all of the value-added technologies used by Switchvox are.

"The plan is to try to migrate some technologies that are proprietary external items in Switchvox and make them core things in Asterisk as open source," Spencer explained.

The open source aspect of Switchvox makes the deal particularly appealing for Spencer. There are other PBXs on the market that have Asterisk at their core, including Fonality, though Spencer said Switchvox is far more interesting.

"Fonality most fundamentally is a proprietary software company," Spencer argued. "I don't think Fonality is interesting from a technology or from a cultural perspective."

In contrast he noted that the Switchvox developers are excited about open source and are interested in participating in the process more.

It's not clear whether Digium will be acquiring other vendors in this space, though it is likely that they will continue to try and expand aggressively.

The future for Digium is about expanding the definition and capabilities of unified communications. Spencer said that the way Switchvox is built with its ability to bring in other technologies such as the ability to integrate with Salesforce.com, Google maps and with other CRM packages, is the way that unified communications should work.

Digium, of course, isn't the only vendor talking in the market about the promise of unified communications. Networking giant Cisco is among those hyping the message as well, though Spencer argues that they're missing some of the point.

Spencer explained that he was recently on a panel about unified communications with a Cisco representative. According to Spencer, Cisco kept talking about unified communication as being about the network.

"I wouldn't deny that the network is an important part of unified communication, but just like power is a resource you need to have, you need to have quality connectivity," Spencer said. "But that is just a resource that is used by unified communications; it's not really the strategy. The network is just a prerequisite for building a strategy."