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February 06, 2008

Aretta's Hosted Asterisk Looking Forward

By Rich Tehrani, President and Editor-in-Chief

 

In the nineties when communications manufacturers gave the market few choices and there were many proprietary options, companies like Dialogic (News - Alert), NMS Aculab and others came on the scene and gave users choice by allowing them to purchase DSP resource boards, which let computers become communications processors. For the first time you could build your own PBX, prepaid calling card system or anything else you could want.


Best of all, you could have it any way you wanted it… Not just the way the manufacturer of a product-line dictated.

During this time Marc Fribush was working at Dialogic and was selling DSP boards for a variety of the applications outlined above. More recently, however, Mark is the president of Aretta Communications and when he started his company he had a vision of leveraging open-source communications to change the market the way the DSP resource board changed communications in the nineties.

Fribush took hold of Asterisk (News - Alert) and decided the market needed an embedded IP PBX that was dropped in on premise, eliminating the need for custom installation.

Just as they he was going to market with this idea, Digium (News - Alert) decided to launch its own appliance. So the idea was then to push the Asterisk idea up into the cloud where it would benefit from diesel generated backup and a direct internet connection.

The next step was to use virtualization and to pack 50-70 instances of Asterisk on a single server.

This business model is awash in successful buzzwords. Consider there is open source, software as a service (SaaS (News - Alert))/hosting, Asterisk and virtualization. From a Wall Street perspective I just can't think of a more attractive combination of hot trends and topics.

Oh, I almost forgot the company is selling into the SMB which is literally on fire at the moment.

In addition to hosted Asterisk the company offers SIP trunking and preconfigured Polycom phones yielding what Fribush calls, "The ultimate solution for SMBs."

Fribush explained this week that the cost of competitive hosted carriers was about $35-$40/month per extension and they decided to revolutionize the pricing model. You basically pay for the system and get unlimited extensions and instead you pay for simultaneous active calls.

For less than $100/month you get a full blown system he tells me.

You start at 2 simultaneous lines and go up by powers of 2 (4, 8, 16) and you get a dedicated server after 32 simultaneous lines.

You get your own hosted server with an IP address and every feature on Asterisk such as conferencing, ACD, queuing, etc.

But this is just the start of this business model. Fribush explains that no one has taken cool open-source apps into a production-ready environment with support, allowing you to run your business on it. He alluded to the fact that just most technical among us have tried such things.

For example they have built-in IVR, an outbound dialer, A2Billing (a popular open-source prepaid calling platform), Vicidial (a popular outbound dialer) and more. This as a reminder is all hosted.

There is a certain magic to providing hosted best-of-breed Asterisk solutions in a SaaS model to small business customers. The open source market is incredible in how rich it is but it is scary to many small companies who don't really want to deal with the problems of keeping their phone system up and running themselves.

What Aretta (News - Alert) Communications is doing is takikng much of the pain away from utilizing the best open source applications. This is a new way to enjoy the great taste of open-source communications while enjoying the less filling sensation of keeping the hardware and backup problems out of your office.

The company sells direct to small business and they have over 500 customers so far.

Rich Tehrani is President and Group Editor in Chief at TMC (News - Alert) (News - Alert). In addition he is the Chairman of the world’s best attended IP Communications event, Internet Telephony Conference & EXPO.

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