Perception vs. RealityNo one is pretending that companies such as Avaya and Cisco feel threatened yet by the likes of Digium and Fonality, which sell Asterisk PBXes, or by SIPfoundry-basedPingtel.
Digium, the leading Asterix-based open source PBX provider, is still viewed as a “nit” in the overall scheme of the telephony and unified communications market, according to E. Brent Kelly, a senior analyst with Wainhouse Research. Though he also believes it could ultimately prove an able competitor.
For many potential users, the final decision may be one of perception. As it still is with more established open-source solutions such as Linux there’s a cultural bias against open-source on the part of IT buyers at many companies.
Bill Miller, vice president of product management and marketing at Digium, admits that’s a barrier for him. A lack of support for his company’s products is not a problem in reality, for example, but he still has to struggle with the perception that it is.
“We are in the transitional period for businesses and enterprises to change their mindsets as they experience the differences [with open source PBXes],” he said.
Open Source = Support
To that extent it’s incumbent on the open source vendors to provide solutions that will put the buyer’s mind at ease.
The downloaded Asterisk software is community-supported through email and online forums and this works for many folks, Miller said. But for mission-critical businesses, he recommends using Digium’s Asterisk Business Edition for a “fully regression tested” version of Asterisk that comes with 24/7 tech support and complete maintenance and support programs.
Large enterprises will also have to be convinced that open source PBXes, which so far have mostly been used in small and midsize businesses, will scale to the thousands of users they need the products for.
However, if credibility is a guide to the future for the open source PBXes, then the past year was a good one for the movement.
Pingtel scored a major coup in October, for example, when it announced a deal with Amazon for that company to replace a legacy PBX with Pingtel’s SIPxchange Enterprise Communications Solution. Given that telephony is such a critical element of Amazon’s business, that was seen as a major endorsement of Pingtel’s product and open source in general.
Likewise, Digium also in October struck a multi-year deal with conferencing giant Polycom Inc. for that company to integrate Asterisk telephony features into its SIP-based desktop and phone products for sale to small and midsize businesses.