I’ve always been a sucker for Switchvox, I first discovered it around 2005, and in 2007 Digium acquired it. Switchvox uses open source Asterisk as its engine, but doesn’t modify the core code, so its enhancements are not open. Many people assume Switchvox is open source (it is not), and many people assume its free (it is not). It is Digium’s commercial offering – with full support, and it is usually sold as an appliance.
Switchvox is a bit of an anomaly. As a commercial product, it receives regular updates and support. As a relative to open source, it receives creative crowd-sourced engineering, and includes ideas and innovation from developers around the world. Though rare, certain not unique, there are other commercial products based on Asterisk. But Switchvox is the leader in the space.
So what’s new in 5.0? You can probably guess most of it; improved mobility features, GUI improvements, reporting enhancements, no big shockers there. You can read about the new features here. But I would like to specifically address FMC, Extend, and Maintenance.
FMC: This stands for Fixed Mobile Convergence. It used to mean that phone calls could be handed off from cellular to WiFi, but now more increasingly means cellular to VoIP. It is a term you should never just accept as something everyone clearly agrees to and understands. Some insist it requires a SIP client on the smart phone, some insist there should be no client. Some interpret simultaneous ring as FMC (I don’t), and some insist it has more to do with hotdesking. The root of the confusion is few agree on what ‘mobile’ means. Road Warrior, Corridor Warrior, or occasional home teleworker? Does a mobile worker require a mobile or even smart phone? The point is never assume, makes an ASS out of U and ME.
In the case of Switchvox 5.0, FMC is fairly comprehensive. You can read about it here.
Extend: Extend is a set of APIs supported on Switchvox, and it is what separates this solution from so many other intuitive, powerful UC solutions. In enterprise UC circles, the cool kids are talking about CEBP or Communications Enabled Business Processes. It is everything as simple as click to dial, to rather complex scripted applications that potentially alert or notify via communications certain conditions. In order to integrate various business line applications with unified communications requires a set of APIs. APIs are effectively more powerful than open source itself because a much larger population of developers exist to modify and tweak APIs than open source telephony types.
Extend has been around for years, and keeps getting stronger with each Switchvox release. It makes Switchvox an ideal CEBP platform, often more powerful than many big boy systems that cost lots more, and it makes Switchvox an ideal appliance for many developers or system integrators. You can view the list of APIs supported by Extend here. Note, Extend is free – Digium taxes users, but not APIs.
Maintenance: Last and final, I am still shocked when I meet people who insist that telephone systems should not require software maintenance. In the old days, telephone systems were hardware based – we measured them in terms of the number of ports they had. Maintenance agreements, typically sold by the dealer, were extended warranties of sorts. Today, systems are pure software, ironically, even the appliances.
Software requires manufacturer maintenance. No one is using Windows For WorkGroups or MacOS9 any more. Some assume that since its basic purpose (PBX) won’t change, it won’t require upgrades, but this is flawed logic. Computers do change, viruses, security enhancements, bug fixes, and operational improvements are all real. Plus, we expect our vendors to support us, and it isn’t reasonable for them to support older (3+) versions back. As a reward for software maintenance, vendors through in new features. It’s the new norm – welcome to today.
Switchvox 5.0, a major upgrade, is included/available to all Switchvox SMB users that have maintenance. Switchvox SOHO will just have to wait (as usual).