A new use for the A in LAMP

by Jim Van Meggelen

The concept of LAMP is an acknowledgement of the fact that a complete web solution can be deployed using open-source technologies. The viability of the concept is demonstrated by the fact that LAMP has emerged as the most popular way to deliver such things.

LAMP is essentially this:
L - Stands for Linux, but can also be any of the flavours of BSD
A - Is Apache, and little else (more on that in a moment)
M - Is MySql, but also, increasingly, PostgreSQL
P - Is PHP, Perl, Python or Pretty-much-whatever-language-you-like.

So what does all this do? It allows you to deliver web pages. OK, it’s clearly far more than that, but only to a certain point.

Here’s the concept that could shake things up a bit:

With the advent of open-source telephony systems (especially the darling of the media, Asterisk), the concept of LAMP takes an exciting left turn. What if we were to replace "A"pache with "A"sterisk?

Sound a bit far fetched? It's happening right now.

L - Asterisk runs on Linux
A - This one's easy :-)
M - Asterisk has support for databases: MySQL, PostgreSQL, ODBC . . .
P - Asterisk hackers love Perl, and the Asterisk Gateway Interface (AGI) allows you to script with any language that can communicate using STDIN and STDOUT

Suddenly, LAMP isn't just about delivering web content, it's about all the various ways open-source software can allow us to creatively communicate.

There are many of us who believe that the open-sourcing of telecom heralds a revolution. Just as Linux and the Internet changed the industry, so too will the ability to finally, properly integrate telecommunications with the rest of the services and applications we use to communicate across our networks.

This is going to get very interesting, very quickly.

How are you using Asterisk?


2005-07-18 18:15:59
Example applications?
I can see the fun-factor in doing your own PBX or voicemail system, but the only other application I can think of is telemarketing boiler rooms. What are some other non-evil possibilities?

2005-07-18 21:23:39
Example applications?
Possibly the most compelling idea right now may be delivering VoIP to an otherwise obsolete PBX system. I'm not just talking about carrying calls on the Internet, but rather the concept of having the PBX able to integrate with the network at an application level. Asterisk will talk the language that the PBX understands (typically PRI), and will translate between that traditional telecom technology and whatever you need to connect it to. This was sold in the past as Computer Telephony Integration. CTI never really worked right, but it wasn't because it was a bad idea; it was because the hooks into the proprietary systems didn't deliver enough flexibility.

Another compelling idea might be to have a VoIP client (maybe Flash or Java-based) integrated into the corporate web site. "To speak to a live agent, click here". A VoIP call is then placed from the browser to the Asterisk box, which then places the caller into the exact smae queue on the PBX that a regluar client would call using the PSTN (I believe work is underway to create a Skype channel into Asterisk).

Many people are using the text-to-speech capabilities of Asterisk to have their email read to them whle on the road. Another popular use of TTS is to have it pipe IRC to a telephone.

A common business plan these days is building a VoIP long-distance business using Asterisk servers. Now I personally believe long distance is a business that requires a short term exit strategy, but thewre can be no doubt that for the next few years money can be made in that business.

Another popular concept is hosted PBX solutions. Road warriors who need the power of a PBX, but for one or two users. Asterisk allows a service provider to deliver such things in a very competitive manner.

I'm going to be blogging more and more about this, because your question begs a thousand responses. I'll predict this: the most killer application of this technology is going to be something nobody could have predicted. We have to begin to think of our telephones as media devices, which we aren't used to doing.

2005-07-19 07:40:26
This article would have been much more informative if a (brief at least) description of just what asterisk is had been included.
2005-07-19 11:07:05
Good point. I've made a minor editorial tweak, which gives a link to the official Asterisk website.

Thanks for the feedback.

2005-07-27 08:05:57
Phone Book/Directory
I have written a phone book agi which uses a dump of the contacts in my Outlook as a basis. I can get Asterisk to look up a contact and dial the number.

By incorporating the text-to-speach features of Festival I can get a pretty good interaction where I only have to type the first few letter (1 = ABC, 2 = DEF, ...) of a name and have asterisk prompt me for the rest. Similarly if a contact has multiple numbers asterisk will prompt me to chose which one to dial.

I can also access this remotely by dialing my home number and have asterisk tell me the number for a contact - handy if I do not have the number at hand.

2005-07-27 17:25:16
Phone Book/Directory
That sounds like cookbook material!