Fonality Answers Rivals

Tech Analysis: The telephony company unveils a Web-based Asterisk GUI configuration tool and a new Trixbox appliance.

Fonality, the small-business-oriented telephony company, this week announced a series of moves to co-opt some of the gains made in competing Asterisk distributions, while enhancing and further integrating the Trixbox distribution of Asterisk into their portfolio of products.

One of the most appealing elements of the forthcoming AsteriskNow distribution is the Web-based Asterisk GUI configuration tool. Infinitely easier to use than hand-editing text configuration files, the Asterisk GUI is also proving slicker and simpler to use than FreePBX, the open-source configuration tool found in the Trixbox distribution.

As the Asterisk GUI has been licensed under the GNU GPL (General Public License), however, Fonality decided to integrate the tool into Trixbox Version 2.2. Administrators will be able to select which GUI they want to use during initial installation.

"The Asterisk GUI is quite young, so it doesnt have all the features found in other free tools, like FreePBX. But it looks good, and Digium is behind it," said Chris Lyman, CEO of Los Angeles-based Fonality. "And the Trixbox community will help Digium with bug reports."

Lyman indicated they will look at bundling other configuration GUIs down the road.

Fonality also introduced its Trixbox Asterisk appliance, a rack-mountable server with two hard disks in RAID 1 configuration that retails for only $999. The Trixbox Asterisk has an Intel Pentium 4 processor with 512MB of RAM and an LCD panel on the front of the appliance that displays information such as the IP address, server uptime and the number of active calls.

The $999 price for the Trixbox Asterisk is for the VOIP (voice over IP)-only model and therefore does not include any trunk cards. Fonality will offer seven SKUs of the appliance with different trunk options. There will also be a model with dual power supplies.

The Trixbox Asterisk appliance is an interesting step for Fonality. On one hand, it solves some of the problems inherent in open-source telephony: hardware compatibility and reliability. The components in the server will be tested to ensure compatibility with Trixbox and the underlying Asterisk application. In addition, the appliance offers redundancy, allowing implementers to feel more secure with the reliability of platform that can afford no downtime.

On the other hand, however, on the surface it seems like the Trixbox Asterisk will compete directly with Fonalitys existing PBXtra Standard appliance. The PBXtra Standard is also based on Asterisk, has options for redundancy and is priced starting at about $1,000.

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read a review of Fonalitys PBXtra Professional.

Lyman indicated there will be a kind of logical segregation of the two appliances, depending on how customers are looking for products. Resellers already working with Asterisk or Trixbox will likely prefer the Trixbox Asterisk, whereas customers contacting Fonality directly will be steered toward the PBXtra Standard.

Fonality is also getting into the Trixbox support business. In February, the company hosted its first Trixbox training course, which apparently was well-received. And now Fonality will be offering both hourly support rates and yearlong support agreements (with the price dependent on the number of extensions) for Trixbox software implementers.

Technical Analyst Andrew Garcia can be reached at

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