Is Digium Dialing In Small-Business Customers?

In response to last month's interview with Digium CEO Danny Windham, a reader recently contacted me to give his two cents on Digium's newfound interest in small businesses looking for an easy-to-manage-and-deploy telephony system. The gist of this reader's note (and I am both paraphrasing and assuming a few things based on what he wrote me) was that, while he was happy with Digium's products and support, he felt that the company -- particularly when it comes to the training courses -- was too focused on the hardest-core developers who installed the application from source, managed it the old-fashioned way (via the text configuration files), and had the most know-how to creatively use the software and develop it toward any number of ingenious new purposes. Those customers who just wanted an affordable phone system that they could manage via a GUI were somewhat marginalized and forced to at least explore other options (like Trixbox). This type of impression is precisely what Digium is trying to combat via last year's acquisition of the Switchvox interface and appliances. Take, for example, a note I received last week from Digium's PR representatives regarding an upcoming Switchvox announcement: "... Digium will announce a new product for SMBs that completes Asterisk's transition from developer-focused software to easy-to-use communications system for businesses." The announcement did not quite live up to this type of billing, however, as it did not concern a fundamental change in the way Digium approaches its users, but instead spoke of a new middle tier in the line of Switchvox appliances. The new AA300 appliance ($4,240 list price) is geared to support up to around 150 users, in a 3U half-depth, rack-mountable appliance that can be installed in a Telco rack. (Digium already offers the AA350 and the AA60 appliances for larger and smaller deployments.) The appliance features the same ease of deployment, management and configuration featured in these other Switchvox appliances -- but the announcement is hardly as compelling as the PR team made it out to be. Ultimately, my reader wanted to see Digium allocate some of its development manpower toward enhancing the open-source FreePBX management GUI (the powerful GUI that comes bundled with the Trixbox distribution) -- which is maintained by a comparatively smaller cadre of developers. This, over time, would put more power and flexibility in the hands of those who also want a GUI. Unfortunately for this reader, Digium seems unlikely to spend its development dollars in this specific direction, but the company is taking steps to give GUI contributions back to the community. Right from the start with the Switchvox application, Digium claimed it was planning to contribute some of the Switchvox code back to the open-source community -- and now it appears the company is ready to start making good on that pledge. I didn't get a whole lot of details from Digium's representatives about the code in question, but it sounds like some of Switchvox's reporting capabilities will be the first elements to be set free. And in the meantime, the reader will be giving the free version of Switchvox a look.

In response to last month's interview with Digium CEO Danny Windham, a reader recently contacted me to give his two cents on Digium's newfound interest in small businesses looking for an easy-to-manage-and-deploy telephony system.

The gist of this reader's note (and I am both paraphrasing and assuming a few things based on what he wrote me) was that, while he was happy with Digium's products and support, he felt that the company -- particularly when it comes to the training courses -- was too focused on the hardest-core developers who installed the application from source, managed it the old-fashioned way (via the text configuration files), and had the most know-how to creatively use the software and develop it toward any number of ingenious new purposes. Those customers who just wanted an affordable phone system that they could manage via a GUI were somewhat marginalized and forced to at least explore other options (like Trixbox).

This type of impression is precisely what Digium is trying to combat via last year's acquisition of the Switchvox interface and appliances. Take, for example, a note I received last week from Digium's PR representatives regarding an upcoming Switchvox announcement:

"... Digium will announce a new product for SMBs that completes Asterisk's transition from developer-focused software to easy-to-use communications system for businesses."

The announcement did not quite live up to this type of billing, however, as it did not concern a fundamental change in the way Digium approaches its users, but instead spoke of a new middle tier in the line of Switchvox appliances.

The new AA300 appliance ($4,240 list price) is geared to support up to around 150 users, in a 3U half-depth, rack-mountable appliance that can be installed in a Telco rack. (Digium already offers the AA350 and the AA60 appliances for larger and smaller deployments.) The appliance features the same ease of deployment, management and configuration featured in these other Switchvox appliances -- but the announcement is hardly as compelling as the PR team made it out to be.

Ultimately, my reader wanted to see Digium allocate some of its development manpower toward enhancing the open-source FreePBX management GUI (the powerful GUI that comes bundled with the Trixbox distribution) -- which is maintained by a comparatively smaller cadre of developers. This, over time, would put more power and flexibility in the hands of those who also want a GUI.

Unfortunately for this reader, Digium seems unlikely to spend its development dollars in this specific direction, but the company is taking steps to give GUI contributions back to the community. Right from the start with the Switchvox application, Digium claimed it was planning to contribute some of the Switchvox code back to the open-source community -- and now it appears the company is ready to start making good on that pledge. I didn't get a whole lot of details from Digium's representatives about the code in question, but it sounds like some of Switchvox's reporting capabilities will be the first elements to be set free.

And in the meantime, the reader will be giving the free version of Switchvox a look.