AsteriskNOW Open Source Software Appliance Released

by Bruce Stewart

Digium has released their AsteriskNOW software appliance today, which promises to drastically reduce the complexities involved in installing and running the popular open source PBX Asterisk. True to their word, Digium has released the entire package, including their new GUI front end to the complex Asterisk application, under the GPL open source license. We're big believers in open source at O'Reilly, and it's great to see a company like Digium walking the walk here, as there was some speculation that the GUI front end they have developed would be a proprietary product.

I don't have any personal experience or feedback on Digium's new front end to Asterisk yet, but it clearly addresses a large need that many have had with Asterisk, to simplify the installation and set up process. Asterisk is known for being a tricky and finicky beast to install correctly and tame, with set up and administration tasks normally requiring a seasoned Linux command-line guru. It sounds as if Digium has made real strides in this area with this new release.

AsteriskNOW is being labeled as a "software appliance", meaning that it comes with a version of the underlying OS (Linux) and everything else you should need to run the Asterisk application. Probably one of the biggest advantages in going this route is that Asterisk admins no longer need to worry about things like kernel versions and package dependencies. Digium also makes a point of claiming that unlike other Linux distributions used to deploy Asterisk, there are no unnecessary components that might compromise security or performance included in the AsteriskNOW distribution.

There's also a newly designed web site to support the AsteriskNOW release, which includes documentation, developer blogs, forums, and other developer resources.

This space is getting very interesting. Clearly there's some competition brewing between Digium, the creators of Asterisk, and Fonality, who sell a hosted Asterisk-based product for SMBs and recently bought Trixbox (formerly Asterisk@Home) and added a GUI front end to that more user-friendy version of Asterisk. We'll be evaluating and producing some hands-on comparisons of the various Asterisk distributions and products here on ETel in the coming year, so stay tuned!