If you remember, I posted the press release on the Second Digium|Asterisk World a week ago. Well, that week is over and it seems that there are a lot of new and exciting things for Digium on the horizon. I visited their blog to see whatâ€™s going on and here are some bits and pieces:
There were three announcements that are exciting to Digium and they include a global Distribution partnership with Westcon to distribute the entire line of Digium products. Westconâ€™s new CollaborationPoint line of business is focused on open source solutions including Digiumâ€™s Switchvox IP PBX (http://www.digium.com/switchvox), the Asterisk Appliance (http://www.digium.com/en/products/appliance/), and Asterisk Developer Solutions and toolkits including all Digiumâ€™s telephony cards and Asterisk Business Edition (http://www.digium.com/en/products/).
I can see how the global distribution partnership can get our bloods pumping â€“ this is something big for Digium and Asterisk. I donâ€™t know how quick the growth will be but now that the international market is being opened, the possibilities are limitless!
On the software side, Digium announced the release of Switchvox SMB 3.5:
Tuesday Digium announced the Switchvox SMB 3.5 release, the new version of the award winning SMB software that already includes the Switchboard user panels with built in Salesforce.com, SugarCRM, and Google Maps web-based interface panels. These built in tools allow users to build outstanding customer and support relations with their target customers. New features include multi-level administration – unlimited levels, built in Phone Configuration tools which are great for resellers and larger systems allowing provisioning of Polycom phones in minutes using batch tools for DID assignments and caller IDs, and adding of extensions, and the ability to easily find users in the directory by simply typing the name and similar to your cell phones locates the name directly in as few keystrokes as possible. Also, the SMB 3.5 software automatically populates the users desktop Polycom phone directory with contact info from the Switchvox address book – a time saving tool and excellent user experience.
In line with this software release, Digium unveiled its latest appliance:
The Switchvox Appliance AA60 was also announced Tuesday and will be available with Switchvox SMB 3.5 software on March 31. The AA60 is a small footprint wall mountable package that offers higher reliability and lower costs and includes a standard 1 year warranty and an extended warranty option for 3 years.
I am liking the guarantee of higher reliability and lower costs and I am sure many other customers will do so as well.
I have always looked forward to Sony coming up with new products. The big company may have its detractors but I personally like how they go about their business and the nifty gadgets that they come up with. How about some new headsets that are VOIP compatible?
Sony recently announced a new range of VOIP compatible headsets that are sure to create some waves as soon as they are released. Here is Tech Digestâ€™s report on the matter:
Sony has introduced a new range of lightweight headsets for both music and VoIP calling, all designed for clear voice transmission with a fully adjustable rotating flexible boom microphone, Sony’s noise cancelling technology, Acoustic Twin Turbo Circuits and a Silent Cap Design for reduced sound leakage.The range includes the basic DR-220DP in metallic orange and silver, the DR-220DPV, which adds with volume control, the purple DR-G250DP with ‘collapsible street style design’ perfect for travel and padded ear pads, the DR-260USBS hands-free stereo headset with removable USB audio box for volume and microphone sound control, the DR-115DP with swivel feature for right to left ear switching and finally, the top-end DR-EX230DP, which offers in-ear silicon ear-buds in three sizes for comfort, an in-line microphone for sound recording and a travel case.
I like the fact that the new headsets can be used both for listening to music and to make calls over the Internet. The very important noise canceling technology should be the highlight of the products. When they do come out, VOIP users would be looking hard at just how effective Sonyâ€™s technology is. Tentative prices are 24 Euros to 45 Euros (USD35 to USD66) â€“ not bad for a good VOIP headset.
Here’s one of the better Asterisk-related hacks I’ve seen lately (though it’s nothing really new). The Linksys WRT54G series is, after all, flash-able, and it’s mostly Linux-based (saved for some versions that use another firmware). So this essentially means you can flash and re-flash your WRT54G router with another Linux variant, and you can configure it to run various Linux-based software, such as Asterisk.
Here’s an old but useful guide on how to install Asterisk on your WRT54G (or variants) router. It basically involves installing OpenWRT on your router and then installing Asterisk. OpenWRT is a Linux distro specifically intended to run on these embedded devices (meaning they’re not really computers, but they run their own operating system), and this depends on how much space and processing power your router has.
Reportedly, a version of Asterisk 1.4.x for OpenWRT is already downloadable at the OpenWRT forums. These are also available for download here.
And what are the interesting applications of using Asterisk on a wireless router? For one, you can use your router as a wireless gateway, so yo ucan use WiFi-enabled VoIP phones as your VoIP clients. This works pretty much like how a cordless VoIP phone would, and even one that works with WiFi. But you no longer need a separate Asterisk installation on another computer connected to the network. The router takes care of that. Some communities have reportedly installed WRT54Gs with high-altitude aerial antennae so they can use their VoIP phones to communicate even when outdoors (particularly useful in rural areas or farm lands, where wireless is preferred to wired networks).
We’ll discuss the specifics of installing Asterisk on routers later on.
We gave a brief introduction on VoIP gateways recently, and now we move on to factors that businesses should consider in choosing a VoIP gateway.
VoIP gateways come in both hardware and software forms. However, for businesses, hardware-based solutions are more widely adopted, but can be more expensive. Many prefer hardware-based gateways as they’re considered more reliable, and provide their built-in interfaces. These also don’t consume computer processing power since they have their own internal processors. These can be available as stand-alone boxes, chassis cards or modules.
When choosing a hardware solution, one could usually spot the packet processing capacity judging from the size of the chassis–bigger usually means more powerful. Higher packet processing capacity is preferred, so you can avoid poor voice quality (and potentially lost business).
As for capacity, you should choose a gateway based on the simultaneous VoIP calls it can handle. When switching from a traditional phone system to VoIP, It’s important that your gateway can handle your network’s existing load plus some allowance. One good rule of thumb to follow is that your VoIP gateway should have at least 20% greater capacity than the current network load. This way, you have room for expansion and you have some allowance–your gateway can accommodate growth before you find the need to upgrade or replace it.
The number and types of interfaces are also important to interoperability. An adequate number and variety of ports will make connecting devices to your gateway easier. These devices come in different forms, such as billing systems, network management systems, and yes, even your interface to the traditional phone system.
Gateways are essential aspects of any enterprise VoIP system. These transfer voice (and other traffic) between the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) and the IP (Internet Protocol) network. This means VoIP gateways should be able to do much more than traditional PBXes that only interface your internal analog network with the PSTN. As such, you should also expect the gateway to handle other tasks, such as call management, and routing of voice traffic, and translation across the various VoIP protocols, when needed.
Organizations looking into adopting a VoIP solution may be doing so for several reasons. For some, it’s a way to mitigate expensive long-distance and even overseas charges, particularly if offices and branches are located far away from each other (spanning continents, for instance). For others, VoIP gateways offer a more feature-rich network than possible with traditional telephone exchanges.
VoIP gateways basically offer the following features and functionalities: packetization (translation of analog signals to digital packets), compression and decompression (“codecs”), control signaling and voice/packet routing. If you intend to buy a gateway for your company, your decision should go beyond these basics. For one, you should consider the ease of integration of the gateway with your existing PSTN and PBX. You should also consider the level of support that the vendor is provding. Then, of course, you should consider whether the gateway is compatible with your existing VoIP equipment and infrastructure (if any). Finally, there are the added stability and usability features that you might want to have on your system, such as PSTN failover (you can move to the analog line if the VoIP connection fails), H323 and SIP survivability, multiplexing, NAT transversal (if you’re working behind a corporate firewall).