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November 2008 | Volume 11/ Number 11
The VoIP Authority

Astricon Delivers for Asterisk Community

The fifth annual Astricon event in Glendale Arizona was by all visible measures a success. On behalf of TMC (News - Alert) I traveled down to the event to conduct a series of video interviews and while at the event I heard some interesting conversations and some exciting news regarding Asterisk (News - Alert). Due to an unfortunate flight delay and related circumstance, Brian Akers of Sun/MySQL — the keynote speaker who was set to kick off the event – was unable to attend.

This forced the Digium (News - Alert) executive team to make some last minute adjustments and they did a wonderful job filling in with a group keynote, which featured CEO Danny Windham, CTO and founder (and creator of Asterisk) Mark Spencer, VP of product management Bill Miller (News - Alert) and Steve Sokol who was the originator of the Astricon events.

Windham kicked off the session with a review of Digium and he touched upon the company’s unique, dual purpose for existence.

“We have dual missions,” Windham said. “First off, we are the lead sponsor and benevolent maintainer of the Asterisk open source project. Our second mission is that of a for profit entity.”

He described that second mission further as simply, “all things Asterisk.”

“We want to provide products and services that allow businesses and people serving those businesses to take advantage of all things Asterisk,” he explained.

Of course, sometimes the mission of what’s best for Asterisk is in conflict with what’s best for the Digium for-profit entity.

Windham outlined a three-pronged approach to what he believes needs to be done for Asterisk to survive long term.

First, Asterisk has to be the best choice that developers have to build their solutions. Second, for Asterisk to succeed there needs to be true innovation from the community. And lastly, Digium needs to provide the tools to allow the community to thrive and grow, to put the ecosystem in place for the entire range of users — from the home office user to a large enterprise.

Award Winners

Addressing Windham’s point about innovation in the community, Miller took the stage and discussed the just announced winners of the 2008 Digium Innovation Awards.

The list of companies deemed award worthy this year included:

  • Greenfield Technology (Pioneer Award) who came up with a unique use case for Asterisk allowing people to pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
  • Integrics, Ltd. (Big Biz Asterisk Award) who has deployed a solution scaling to nearly 500,000 endpoints.
  • Emdeon (News - Alert) Business Services (ROI Award) who has created an Asterisk-based verification of a Medicaid recipient’s current eligibility status. Available 24/7/365, the system is accessed over 22,000 times daily by over 60,000 physicians and hospitals.
  • PhonePlay (Inside Out Award) for creating big screen games that crowds of people can play simultaneously using their mobile phones as controllers.

Lastly the judges awarded NTT Software Corp. an Honorable Mention award for being the first major telecom company in Japan to use Asterisk in its network. The solution is currently in trial.

Addressing Windham’s third point, regarding the need for tools to allow the community to thrive and grow Sokol outlined four current initiatives at Digium that will be launching over the next several quarters.

First is the availability of a new version of AsteriskNOW; followed by a revamped Asterisk Marketplace, a new solution called A2M or Asterisk Application Manager and lastly the fact that Digium was going to start providing support by way of subscriptions for their open source Asterisk. This last item garnered a large round of applause from the assembled audience.

Skype (News - Alert) News

Day 2 of the event brought the biggest news.

Addressing the audience from the keynote stage, Stefan Öberg, vice president and general manager for Skype Telecom and Skype for Business joined Mark Spencer (News - Alert) in announcing an exciting new collaboration between Skype and Digium.

The news centered around a beta version of Skype For Asterisk, which will allow the integration of Skype functionality into Digium’s Asterisk software and enable customers to make, receive and transfer Skype calls from within their Asterisk phone systems.

According to the announcement, the beta version of Skype For Asterisk will enable business users to:

  • Complement existing services with low Skype global rates (as low as 2.1¢ per minute to more than 35 countries worldwide).
  • Save money on inbound calling solutions such as free click-to-call from a Web site, as well as receive inbound calling from the PSTN through Skype’s online numbers.
  • Manage Skype calls using Asterisk applications such as call routing, conferencing, phone menus and voicemail.

Following the beta period when the product is released, Skype For Asterisk will be sold and distributed by Digium and its worldwide network of resellers.

Overall, Astricon was a good one for Digium and the Asterisk user community. Everyone had praise for the venue, and speaking to the attendance and the full session rooms, Miller commented, “The Asterisk audience can’t get enough.”

Windham too felt the event went well. “By all quantifiable measures, such as attendance, exhibitors, sponsors… the show is a success.” IT

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