Digium Fine-Tunes Switchvox SMB With Latest Release

Digium Wednesday unveiled Switchvox SMB 4.5, a new version of the small- and midsize-business-geared open-source PBX. The biggest difference between 4.5 and previous versions of Switchvox is the availability of Phone Feature Packs: individual features such as call recording, visual voice mail and searchable company directories that were previously available only from Web interfaces can now appear on phone handsets themselves.

"It turns out that a lot of our VARs are pretty good with IP phones and were looking to get a lot of different options to the phones themselves," said Tristan Barnum, director of Switchvox product marketing at Digium. "I think we didn't sell as many as we could have, frankly, because VARs didn't have the flexibility they wanted."

The 4.5 offering is available as a free software upgrade for existing Switchvox users. Other features include caller profiling, language support in the Switchvox GUI for English (American and U.K.), Spanish (both Castilian and Latin American) and Italian, and sound packs that add Australian English, French and French Canadian for audio prompts. It also includes SNMP features for monitoring and troubleshooting the network.

Individual Phone Feature Packs are priced at $30 per pack, per phone. Switchvox SMB systems start at $3,390 for a 10-user system, which includes the necessary hardware and software, plus a one-year subscription and warranty.

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Count Polycom among the Digium vendor partners pleased with the Switchvox upgrade -- the applications work on any Polycom IP handset except for a scant few niche versions, Barnum said.

"The release of Switchvox SMB 4.5 makes the level of UC integration with Polycom handsets one of the deepest of any manufacturer in the industry," said Patrick Ferriter, Polycom's senior director of product management, in a statement.

Barnum admitted Switchvox can't yet offer support for every type of handset in SIP and open standard environments but starting with the Polycoms and other staple brands was helping to expand Switchvox's exposure in the channel.

Digium's Switchvox portfolio is expanding at the same time the company is looking to bolster its channel mind-share. In 2009, Digium retooled its channel program and has moved to capitalize on interest in Asterisk-based solutions as lower-cost, but still feature-rich alternatives to UC powerhouses like Cisco and Avaya.

"The Switchvox does as much, if not more, than the Cisco and Avaya solutions they have," Barnum said of Digium's expanding VAR base. "Without any trouble, they want to target SMBs right now, and our largest servers can handle about 400 extensions. There's a lot we're able to improve and a lot we'll improve in future releases, but I think in version 4.0 we crossed the point where Switchvox was just a PBX. Suddenly you have something very powerful, and we think a lot of [VARs] are seeing us as an important alternative."

Greater acceptance of open-source solutions is helping Digium be more competitive, she suggested.

"We see ShoreTel VARs getting cranky, too," Barnum said. "Part of it is triggered by the economy and part of it's triggered by people finally being so comfortable with Linux and open source. We need to make sure we're quick enough to meet that new demand."