Free and open just met free and closed. But the introduction of the two will come with a price tag on it.
This week during Digium's Astricon conference in Glendale, Ariz., Digium and Skype announced Skype for Asterisk—granting Asterisk PBX users the ability to leverage Skype for both outbound and inbound calling.
Users on an Asterisk-based VOIP system will be able to place calls to Skype users for free from their desktop phones. Likewise, Asterisk users will be able to receive calls from Skype users on their desk phones.
Users can also gain some benefits of least-cost routing, as administrators can configure Asterisk to route international calls via SkypeOut to save a little coin on long distance bills. Telephony administrators can buy and manage the allocation of SkypeOut minutes to Skype users via Skype's Business Control Panel.
The partnership could also ease the integration of voice services into a company's Web site. For instance, Web site administrators could place a button on the company Web site to call the company, triggering a Skype call (or Skype download and install) to the company that can be routed into the corporate phone system—to a receptionist, sales person or whomever else may be appropriate.
The Skype for Asterisk integration occurs through an add-on channel driver module that needs to be installed on an Asterisk server (running either Asterisk 1.4 or 1.6). This connector will not be open source and will be for-pay, as the software will be available for purchase directly from Digium or from an Asterisk system integrator. Although pricing has not been announced as of yet for the connector, expect the price to be based on how many concurrent channels will be needed to bridge between the Asterisk implementation and the Skype network.
PBX integration for Skype calls is not new, as companies such as VoSKY have offered appliances that provide Skype trunks to PBX implementations for a couple years now. However, Digium representatives claim the Skype for Asterisk integration will scale much better and is expressly designed to handle multiple concurrent Skype channels.
Skype and Digium are staging product availability for the time being. Interested parties (whether you are a company using Asterisk or a system integrator reselling it) can register for the private, Stage One of the beta here. Later on, there will also be a public beta—but there is no announced time frame for that yet.
Digium's CEO Danny Windham encouraged me to sign up for the private beta and write about the process, so I hope to be testing the integration soon.