Though Asterisk – the open source telephony platform created and developed by Digium (News - Alert) – has helped many companies migrate to Voice over IP, incremental costs such as migrating and upgrading IP phones eventually emerge and become critical budgetary factors, the head of a company develops VoIP network-edge products told TMCnet in an interview this week.
As such, according to Ian Gomm, vice president of operations at Citel Technologies, Inc. – a company that’s exhibiting at and sponsoring AstriCon 2009, to be held Oct. 13 to 15 in Glendale, Ariz. – the company’s Portico “telephone VoIP adapter” or “TVA” migration device is a timely product for the market.
Pictured right, the Portico TVA helps enterprises obtain all the benefits of IP telephony utilizing the PBX (News - Alert) telephones and wiring infrastructure they already have in place.
“We also recognize that the Portico TVA is a migration device in more ways than one. People are increasingly migrating to VoIP and we have to ensure we migrate with them,” Gomm told TMC Editorial Director Erik Linask (News - Alert) in an interview, printed in full below. “We have developed an IP phone that is both SIP and IAX2 compatible and have our own Asterisk based IP-PBX that ensures, as IP telephony becomes the only way to go, we are there with our own offerings to assist customers.”
Citel, whose U.S. headquarters are in Amherst, N.Y., is attending AstriCon 2009, in part, to introduce customers and other Asterisk users to a new firmware release for the Portico TVA designed with Asterisk user in mind.
“For those customers who do not have the concerns with infrastructure issues of migrating to VoIP we want to demonstrate our IP Phone which entered the market in May this year and our IP-PBX which will be getting its first public working presentation at this year’s show,” Gomm said.
Their full exchange follows.
Erik Linask: Why have you chosen to leverage the Asterisk platform in your product(s)?
Iam Gomm (pictured left): Our engineering headquarters in the United Kingdom has been using the Asterisk platform for a number of years as their service network. Citel’s Portico TVA, Citel’s Telephone VoIP Adapter enables companies to migrate to IP telephony while continuing to use their digital and Centrex handsets. As the market for our digital gateway grew, more and more companies using and selling Asterisk-based solutions asked if we could develop an interoperability between the platform and our Portico TVA so they could offer the same easy set up for their customers who wanted to continue to use their legacy handsets as was in place for larger companies who were offering Avaya (News - Alert), Broadsoft, and so on.
With the flexibility of Asterisk and the ease it provides to interface at a protocol level, we then decided to take the interface a step further and developed our own Asterisk based IP-PBX, the CCM (News - Alert)-100, which has a seamless interface between the Portico TVA enabling people with legacy phones to switch to IP telephony easily and cost effectively.
EL: What advantages does an Asterisk-based product offer for your customers?
IG: For the customers who buy our Portico TVA, the Asterisk based IP-PBX offers them the ability to provide the end user with the features they want, while tailoring support and maintenance costs to their business model. With the addition of our CCM-100, we are able to provide our customers with a solution that is cost effective, enabling them to switch to IP telephony quickly and simply, something not the case with many other IP solutions.
EL: What are the key differentiators of your product over others on the market?
IG: Citel’s Portico TVA provides a SIP/IP interface for up to 24 business telephones that would traditionally have been connected to a TDM based PBX, or Centrex system. By interfacing the Portico TVA between the legacy handsets and the IP-PBX, clients can easily migrate to VoIP without the need for upgrading cabling, installing Power over Ethernet or buying IP phones. They can reduce their costs as they no longer have to maintain a legacy PBX and do not have to wait to implement IP telephony if infrastructure upgrades would have been required to go with IP telephones.
Our IP-PBX offering is fully integrated with the Portico TVA to ensure a very smooth migration to VoIP. The user friendly device ensures that compatible handsets can be plugged into the TVA which is then plugged into the IP-PBX and can connect using the same button patterns already in place on their legacy handsets.
EL: Who is your target customer and how are you adapting your approach to selling to them under current economic conditions?
IG: Our target customer is one who is looking for an economic way to migrate to VoIP or one where there are infrastructural impediments to migrating to IP phones. Asterisk has enabled customers to migrate to VoIP in a very cost effective way, however, the incremental infrastructure costs involved and the desire to maintain their investment in handsets is a critical factor in a customer’s evaluation. In this economic environment, these are critical considerations and they make promoting the Portico TVA extremely simple.
We also recognize that the Portico TVA is a migration device in more ways than one. People are increasingly migrating to VoIP and we have to ensure we migrate with them. We have developed an IP phone that is both SIP and IAX2 compatible and have our own Asterisk based IP-PBX that ensures, as IP telephony becomes the only way to go, we are there with our own offerings to assist customers.
EL: How does working with Digium help increase the value and awareness of your product?
IG: Many of the companies that are using an Asterisk platform have worked closely with us to ensure that we are offering all of the new features available. We are introducing at the show a new firmware release that highlights much of what our Asterisk users have requested. For example, when someone plugs a Norstar handset into an Asterisk platform via our Portico TVA, all of the keys are matched and will operate as they had done when plugged into the Norstar system providing a seamless transition for the handset users.
This has all happened due to the desire by Asterisk users to more fully leverage the system.
EL: What is the state of the Asterisk market, from your perspective?
IG: We see the Asterisk market as a vibrant, growing market. Some of the bigger players in the market have tried to corner parts of the market and with the open source platform the smaller companies are able to fight back and give people what they want cost effectively.
EL: This year marks the 10th birthday of Asterisk. What has driven its growth over a decade?
IG: The open development model has kept Asterisk up to date with protocols and features that people want. There has also been an effective symbiotic relationship with the commercial companies, particularly Digium, that have driven Asterisk as a professional and highly usable platform.
EL: Why are you participating in AstriCon 2009?
IG: We want to introduce our customers and other Asterisk users to a new firmware release for the Portico TVA designed with Asterisk user in mind. For those customers who do not have the concerns with infrastructure issues of migrating to VoIP we want to demonstrate our IP Phone which entered the market in May this year and our IP-PBX which will be getting its first public working presentation at this year’s show.
EL: What do you expect to see at the event this year?
IG: We are looking to see all of the new peripherals and products developed for the open source market and to see what plans people have for the next five years.
EL: Why should attendees make sure they visit you at your booth?
IG: We would like to ask all attendees interested in a cost effective VoIP migration solution to stop by our booth so we can demonstrate how to make the most of their customers’ existing telecom infrastructure, keeping the cost of migrating to VoIP as low as is possible, yet still enabling the customer to gain the full benefits of IP telephony.
EL: Where do you see the Asterisk market in five years?
IG: We hope to see a vibrant market competing head on with the current market giants who do not always offer customers what they want but what the companies think the end user should have.
Learn more about Citel at AstriCon 2009, to be held Oct. 13 to 15 in Glendale, Ariz. The conference’s mission is to expand awareness and knowledge of Asterisk, the world's leading open source PBX, telephony engine, and telephony applications toolkit, over the course of a three-day conference and exhibition. AstriCon includes a wealth of information for every Asterisk user, whether you are getting started or have already discovered the power of Asterisk. Visit Citel in booth #504. Register now.
Michael Dinan is a contributing editor for TMCnet, covering news in the IP communications, call center and customer relationship management industries. To read more of Michael's articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Michael Dinan