Digium AsteriskDigium, one of Asterisk's strongest proponents, plans to announce a global distribution partnership within two weeks, The VAR Guy has learned. The announcement, expected to be made at VoiceCon Orlando, could accelerate customer interest in open source PBXs and IP telephony systems.

In recent years, major vendors from Cisco Systems to Microsoft and Nortel Networks have used VoiceCon to promote their unified communications efforts. But during the March 2007 VoiceCon, our resident blogger began to hear from attendees who were aggressively embracing Asterisk -- the open source PBX -- for their telephony needs.

The call for Asterisk should grow even loader at this month's VoiceCon, scheduled for March 17-20 in Orlando. In fact, Digium plans to announce a global distribution agreement for Asterisk at the show, confirms a top source in the know. The news could stir more demand for Digium's IP-PBX appliance within small and midsize businesses, The VAR Guy believes.

Digium's Perspective

Steve Harvey, VP of worldwide sales at Digium, declines to speculate about future announcements. But he confirms that Digium has spent the past year or so building its channel. Key partners so far include Interlink Communication Systems Inc., a specialty distributor in Clearwater, Florida.

Digium is also building an online marketplace, where partners, VARs and developers can tout their Asterisk wares and expertise.

In recent weeks Harvey has been on the road at reseller meetings, teaching them the basics about open source's value to the IT channel. Digium has also announced a new support guarantee to give partners and customers peace of mind about Asterisk deployments.

"A lot of networking vendors go to events and tell resellers about a new widget that's 3 percent cheaper and 5 percent smaller than their last product," says Harvey. In stark contrast, Harvey says he's able to describe how Asterisk disrupts established PBX markets, shortens development cycles and cuts development costs for integrators seeking to customize IP PBX solutions.

Don't Forget Software as a Service

Digium also is making progress on the software as a service (SaaS) front. Some of the company's partners are now embracing a hosted version of Asterisk, known as SwitchVox Hosted Edition. Harvey avoids the temptation to hype the hosted offering, but says it's off to a solid start in the market.

Although Digium is the best-known backer of Asterisk, the company has its share of rivals. Dell, for instance, recently announce plans to sell Asterisk gear from Fonality.

Despite Asterisk's momentum, it could be years before the open source PBX begins to put financial pressure on Cisco Systems and other traditional networking companies, The VAR Guy believes.

But much in the way that Linux gradually matured to take on Windows Server, watch for Asterisk's momentum to build on a global scale -- starting at this month's VoiceCon in Orlando.