Digium Preps Open-Source VoIP Appliance


Digium, the primary developer of the Asterisk open-source IP-PBX platform, is about 30 days to 45 days away from launching its first VoIP box for end users, said Steve Harvey, vice president of worldwide sales at Digium, during an interview with CRN this week at the VoiceCon Spring 2007 conference in Orlando, Fla. The company currently offers an appliance-based developer kit.

Today, Digium channel partners have to do a lot of integration work to build an Asterisk IP-PBX from scratch, using their Linux expertise to build solutions that tie off-the-shelf hardware, the Asterisk software and Digium's network interface cards together, Harvey said. Currently 85 percent of the vendor's business comes from sales of interface cards, which connect systems built on the Asterisk platform back to the public telephone network for dial-tone, he said.

"There is a whole group of resellers who love to add value through their Linux expertise and integration expertise and who are willing to do that level of integration. That market is growing," Harvey said. "But most [SMB] customers don't want to mess around to get their hands that dirty to make a phone system work," Harvey said.

That's why the Huntsville, Ala.-based company is planning the roll-out of an appliance family that should prove attractive to a larger number of customers and channel partners, Harvey said.

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"The most important thing we'll be getting out of the program is more sales support," said Chad Agate, co-founder of NeoPhonetics, formerly known as SIPbox, a Digium channel partner in Tinley Park, Ill.

The new channel program splits partners into three categories: Authorized Resellers, Premier Authorized Resellers and Elite Authorized Resellers, based on sales volumes. Digium offers program members a starter kit that includes a demo kit, sales collateral and tools. The vendor is also offering training and certification for solution providers that want to become Digium-Certified Asterisk Professionals, a required designation to sell the forthcoming appliances.

Harvey, who joined Digium a few weeks ago from networking vendor Adtran, said he expects to tweak the program to add more benefits and rewards in coming months. He hopes to have approximately 100 partners signed on within the next six to twelve months.

The company also is in talks to develop new partnerships with several value-added distributors. Once signed on, the VADs will help Digium recruit and train channel parters, which is one of the company's biggest challenges, he said. The company currently has 17 distribution partners around the world, including NETXUSA, Greenville, S.C., and CommLogik, Miami.