Which Asterisk distribution should I use?

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Which Asterisk distribution should I use?

Post by crmuser » Sun Nov 27, 2016 4:33 pm

I've been asked to create a secure, high availability, phone system using Asterisk and there are lots of Asterisk distributions. Which do you recommend?
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Re: Which Asterisk distribution should I use?

Post by Telium Support » Sun Nov 27, 2016 4:57 pm

To start with, you should be aware that there is only one Asterisk 'distribution' and it's from Digium. it's a telephony engine only (no GUI) - it's powerful and many large enterprise users demand the level of control afforded by using this powerful engine directly (no GUI).

Next there are configuration generators, which add a nice GUI to Asterisk. (But Asterisk is still the telephony engine handling your PBX). These configuration generators hide a lot of complexity (and power) of Asterisk so they're not right for everyone. There are undoubtedly lots of opinions on the best configuration generator but here's what we've heard from our users in a recent survey:
  • xCally Motion: A popular configuration generator in Europe and Africa, and growing in popularity in North America. xCally Motion is squarely targeted at small call centers. The user interface is slick and the range of features is impressive.
  • FreePBX: A popular configuration generator in North America. FreePBX has a nice GUI and is a popular product. However, updates may introduce critical, bugs which can disable features or crash the PBX. We feel that these types of issues make this product best suited to home users and small offices (with high tolerance for such issues).
  • PBX In A Flash: This distribution is actually approximately 13 different distributions. The authors take other distributions and repackage them, often taking out commercial code to support a purely open source movement. The PIAF repackaging of FreePBX was one of the most popular distributions available (particularly since FreePBX is moving towards closed source and commercial). However, as FreePBX is closing its source code PIAF is trying to find a new position in the marketplace.
  • Elastix: A popular configuration generator in Latin America. A mostly open source product with strong support for Spanish users (and English too). Although not as popular as some of the others, their open source commitment was building a dedicated following. Recent legal troubles have shut down the product, and as of 2017 they are offering a free edition of '3CX' for windows as a replacement. (Most users are switching to a different configuration generator).
  • Issabel: After the Elastix project was shut down the user community resurrected it as Issabel. This is the only remaining fully open source PBX. As noted above with Elastix, much of the support community and forums are in Spanish, but the product is suitable for all languages. Issabel remains a popular PBX.
  • Thirdlane: A small distribution whose claim to fame was multi-tenant PBX's (as used by hosted PBX resellers). However, other major distributions have since added multi-tenant capabilities making this distribution less popular / obsolete.
  • Other: There are lots more distributions as well, so we'll post more info here over time.
Telium is happy to support all distributions/configuration generators so HAAst can work equally well with all of them. Many configuration generators are trying to compete with one another on secondary features - covering everything from security, faxing, messaging, email, high availability, and more. Many users disable/remove these add-ons as they can be poorly designed (the real strength of configuration generators is in managing the Asterisk configuration files). If you are planning to use their add-ons compare each carefully to stand alone products so you know what you are buying. (You may even find that the commercial module that you are buying is just a collection of open source packages).

Next there are more sophisticated PBX's which use Asterisk as the media engine/call processing engine but extend the functionality using a variety of other programs. PBX's like Amtelco's Genesis / ISS fall into this category. Telium is also pleased to work directly with manufacturers of more sophisticated PBX's suchs as Amtelco Genesis / ISS to ensure full compatibility and deep product integration.

And finally there are some 'closed' PBX's which are Asterisk based, but according to their vendors they are not compatible with ANY add-ons (unless sold from that same manufacturer). In reality we have helped customers install HAAst/SecAst/and many other 3rd party products onto these systems. However, we don't want to upset these vendors so we leave it up to the customer to determine if they can/want to reset the root password and install other products. (It's your product, so you probably have a right to modify it as you see fit). But we don't offer any assistance that might violate the DMCA in the USA, or similar laws in other countries. (eg: you can find instructions on how to unlock/remove vendor protections on the internet, but we can't give those instructions to you). Also if you are an authorized vendor of such closed systems read your reseller agreement carefully; your customer can do what he wants with the PBX but you might violate your reseller agreement if you unlock the box for them.

If you are a large corporation or critical call center using Asterisk directly (no configuration generator) then HAAst can fully support you as well. You don't need a configuration generator / add-ons to use HAAst, SecAst, etc.