Wednesday, May 7, 2008

More on Asterisk for Small Biz

Thirdlane CEO and founder Alex Epshteyn sent this thoughtful reply to my post Asterisk Ideal for Small Biz? Not Without Help.  

Asterisk did foster a cottage industry for packaged solutions -- with varying prices and degrees of openness. Most of these emphasize simplicity, but at the expense of one of the principal reasons for using Asterisk in the first place: its power and flexibility. It's like buying a Ferrari and only driving it in first gear.

As these Asterisk-based solutions have become widely known, the myth has taken hold that the addition of a GUI makes building a PBX “so simple, a caveman can do it.”

Yes, you can install and configure a simple PBX in an hour – but do the GUI constraints – what makes it so simple -- let you configure it exactly to your customer's needs? Not likely. Ironically, while the core of these systems is open source, they lack the customization tools system integrators need.

A side effect of the “so simple” story was that some important contributors to Asterisk's success did not receive the credit they deserved. I'm talking about system integrators – the guys who understood Asterisk’s value early, included it in their solutions and provided real world QA and "product management," driving Asterisk's development.

There's no one solution that fits all applications. When we designed the Thirdlane PBX Manager GUI, our goal was building a system that addresses the needs of systems integrators and VARs. They tell us that they need to build customer PBXs quickly, extend them to accommodate special requirements, and provide customers with tools for daily operations.

Many of Thirdlane's VARs came to us after trying other – both free and commercial – Asterisk-based systems with more "showroom appeal." Their main reason for switching to Thirdlane was that, with PBX Manager, they could always find a way to do what they needed. Their previous systems gave them only what was "in the box” -- they couldn't extend or adapt them. 

Our multi-tenant solution addresses the same needs for service providers and gives them an extensible and open platform for their hosted customers. And, they can offer customers both hosted and on-premises solutions, all within the same product family and requiring no additional training -- for both themselves and their customers.

Thirdlane is offering a downloadable trial version of Thirdlane PBX Manager. 

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