Fonality Upgrades Call Center, Affords VARs Higher Margins, Hardware Options

The upgrade will arm Fonality's trixbox Pro hybrid-hosted call center solution with CentOS 6.3, the latest version of the Linux-based open-source operating system. According to Fonality, the upgrade will allow VARs to bundle the trixbox Pro software with a broader array of servers and drivers. This flexibility means VARs can increase margins by coupling trixbox Pro with less expensive hardware and piece together tailored VoIP solutions to better meet their customers' demands, explained John Young, vice president of Fonality's global channel sales organization.

"[VARs] don't want to be put into a box to sell only the hardware and only the phones that are available to them from a catalog," Young told CRN. "Now, they can take and create their own environment and support their customers the way they want to, to provide better customer service." Young also said the flexibility of trixbox Pro with CentOS 6.3 prevents VARs from having to commit to a single hardware and software vendor in the VoIP space, allowing them instead to pick and choose based on their customers' needs.

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"By us selling the software, and allowing [VARs] to source other pieces as they need to, resellers are able to go out and create alliances with ... distributors who sell phones ... and switches and routers," he told CRN. "They can create those relationships independent of where they buy their phone systems. That's very unique in the traditional telephony space."

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Kevin Smith, a consultant and technician at eSmith IT, a Huntersville, N.C. -based Fonality partner, said he is excited to see the trixbox Pro upgrade to CentOS 6, especially given the security shortfalls and limited hardware support native to CentOS 4, the earlier version of the software.

"[The upgrade] brings hardware support for a vast array of newer devices, not the least of which is network interface card support for a much larger pool of widely available and commonly used interfaces, cards, and components," Smith told CRN in an email. "This leads to lower system cost and easier hardware sourcing."

Smith also said he was happy to see the upgrade usher in a more "security-hardened" version of CentOS, which will especially minimize risks during on-premise deployments of the trixbox Pro solution.

The trixbox Pro upgrade is the latest of several attempts made by Fonality to support and grow its channel. When Microsoft Office 365 chief David Scult was named Fonality's new CEO in January 2012 -- the third CEO Fonality tapped in as many as three years -- he emphasized the company's need to refocus on the channel, particularly after losing some of that focus during the company's string of executive shake-ups.

"The channel has stayed pretty vibrant in spite of that misstep," Scult told CRN in an interview after being appointed CEO. "That's great, because if and when we really invest in it, we can create the best role possible for the channel. One thing I learned a lot from my most recent experience at Microsoft is that you have to be clear about how the partner makes money."