trixbox Appliance Built For 5 to 500 Users
The race to an enterprise appliance between trixbox and Digium, has been well documented here at Smith On VoIP. First it was the Asterisk Developers Kit, and now trixbox has it’s own enterprise grade open source communications appliance. With Digium rumored to all be releasing a new appliance targeted at the do-it-yourself enterprise this week and already building a worldwide reseller channel, the timing of the trixbox appliance could not be any better.
Given the impact the trixbox community has on the VoIP industry and the distruptive potential the trixbox appliance holds, I sat down with Fonality (the sponsor of trixbox) CEO Chris Lyman to get the inside scoop on this awesome new appliance.
Chris Lyman on the trixbox Appliance
Garrett Smith: Chris, the tribox appliance looks like a mean machine – can you tell us a little more about what is under the hood?
Chris Lyman: The trixbox appliance is a true enterprise class machine. It is an industrial grade 3U rack mountable server that features dual hard drives and raid-1 configuration, with an option to upgrade to dual power supplies. For fun, there is a four port networking switch card, for those who choose to do everything on one box.
Garrett Smith: Is there any reason behind the rackmount design? Why not simply go with a “box” similar to Linksys and Digium?
Chris Lyman: You know Garrett, that is a great question. There are a few parts to the answer. One, we did not want to go with a solid state device because the requirements of Asterisk are just too great. We needed to up the hard drive capacity in order to do things like writing CDR’s and doing call recording. With these processes, disk space get’s taken up very quickly, and there is no way a solid state device could keep up.
We went with a rackmountable server primarily because a certain percentage of current VoIP PBX’s are mounted in datacenters, while a certain percentage of legacy PBX’s are mounted on the wall, or if you really have to, you can just set it on the floor, like you would a PC or a solid state device.
Garrett Smith: So this appliance is not just targeted at the enterprise; it truly is built to handle the stress and rigors of enterprise use?
Chris Lyman: Yes, exactly. When we take a look at the 5 to 500 user space, while the 5 space is fine for the Linksys or Digium, the 20 user and up space is not. It is not just hard disk space, it is the CPU power. The solid state devices are ridiculously under-powered, and if you know anything about Asterisk the biggest problem with Asterisk, is CPU consumption.
So we felt that we could not, in good faith, put anything inside of this appliance less than a pentium 4 processor. Having sold more than 2,000 PBXtra’s, we know the problems with Asterisk and CPU consumption. We built this box based on our experience selling over 2,000 PBXtra in order to ensure that users of the trixbox appliance never have to experience many of the problems we have.
Garrett Smith: So what is with the Xbox 360 look?
Chris Lyman: Yeah, it did come out looking a bit like an Xbox 360, but unfortunately we knew it too late. At least Xbox 360 is cool, though. We actually considered a redesign, but by that time it just was too late to do so. Overall we think that the design and performance of the trixbox appliance will be a hit with enterprise customers.
Garrett Smith: Yeah I thought it might be able to play video games…darn.
Chris Lyman: Well, although it does not play video games, we did do a couple of neat things to make the appliance more small medium enterprise friendly. First, we removed the power switch because we do not believe in power switches on telephony devices. The last thing we want is someone bumping into this applaince and have it power down. Secondly, we took the navigation buttons off of the external lcd screen becuase we do not want people accidentally changing the IP address. In every instance where we found something that someone could break or accidentally trigger on the appliance, we pulled it off.
Garrett Smith: I think that is a great strategy. Many of the enterprises I speak with “do not have a clue” about telephony appliances and the more you leave for them to break the more things the inevitably will break.
Chris Lyman: True, and while we think that the installers of the trixbox appliance will be mainly data var’s and computer consultants, we do not want their customers rebooting or changing the IP address of the trixbox appliance. We wanted to mimic a solid state device as much as possible to “keep it simple” without sacrificing performance.
Garrett Smith: Speaking of VAR’s is there any plans to roll out a formal reseller channel for the trixbox appliance?
Chris Lyman: Yes, that is were we are heading . This is becoming the “channel”. It always was a channel, but we are now just starting to provide the services behind the hardware and software. When we first acquired trixbox, we did not really know what we had, so we took six months to observe and really listen to what the community wanted.
The two big things that we heard loud and clear over the past six month were; give me an appliance and give me someone to call when I am in trouble. That is why we are launching these two things this week at VON.
Garrett Smith: Before I forget, that was pretty slick of Fonality to include the AsteriskNow GUI in the latest release of trixbox.
Chris Lyman: Yea, it took us about five minutes to weave that in. Trixbox is supposed to be about choice, it was founded on choice. It works with Digium, Sangoma, Rhino, and PIKA hardware, why shouldn’t it work with all of the free Asterisk GUI’s out there!
Garrett Smith: It is great to see trixbox staying true to it’s roots even while moving into the enterprise marketplace.
Chris Lyman: Exactly. You can get the trixbox appliance, have a blast with it, and never pay Fonality a dime. Trixbox always has and always will be about choice.