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trixbox is the Latest Revolutionary Product From Fonality/trixbox

chris lymanChris Lyman is one of my favorite CEO’s in the VoIP industry. I have interviewed Chris on numerous occasion’s, but with every new interview, Chris continues to impress me with his vision for the future of the VoIP and IP industry and the innovative products and services that his company continues develop to help shape that vision.

The release of trixbox Pro, a free hybrid-hosted phone system, that allows a business to install the software on a local computer and then the local computer connects to the Fonality network where server health, call quality and usage are constantly monitored. The hybrid-hosted nature of trixbox Pro also extends the corporate phone system outside the firewall, so an employee’s extension can follow them when they work from home, remotely on a laptop, or even on their mobile phone.

trixbox pro

With the release of trixbox Pro, Fonality has also launched trixNet. trixNet is a free in-network calling service which lets any trixbox Pro user call any other trixbox Pro user, using their regular phone numbers. Calls over trixNet are not subject to any local or long-distance charges.

I had a chance to sit down and speak with Chris recently about these new products and services from trixbox and the impact they will have on the industry and the trixbox community.

Chris, what does Fonality/trixbox hope to accomplish with the release of trixbox Pro?

Fonality has been watching the IT consultant closely for 4 years as they began to learn about IP telephony. Finally, we feel that this education phase is winding down and this group is getting ready to truly monetize telephony at the low-end. Remember, this group already controls the SMB router and firewall — now they want control of the IP voice traffic which has begun to traverse their domain.

So, trixbox Pro, is their answer. It is a highly commercial, highly stable software-only, IP-PBX. It is based on Fonality’s hardened version of Asterisk which has been almost four years in the making. To put it into perspective, Asterisk 1.2 is around 200,000 lines of code. The trixbox Pro application stack adds an additional 1,300,000 lines of code.

Wow. That is a substantial increase. Why go with the software only model when so many others are releasing phone system appliances?

We say trixbox Pro is “software only”. This works as advertised. You can download our software and install it on any PC, using any interface cards, and any IP phone. It detects your cards, detects your servers, and auto-provisions your phones including downloading and installing their firmware, bootcode, configcode, and dial-plan. Of course we can’t do this for every type of phone and card, so we picked industry leaders and wrote interfaces to them for automatic provisioning.

This all goes back to offering customers and resellers unlimited choices, right? After all that is what open source is all about.

Garrett, we wanted to make trixbox Pro a no brainer. So, we made its entry point free. We call this trixbox Pro Standard Edition (SE) and it should be a great fit for offices under 20 people. We also made it brandable based on reseller ID. So, folks can roll SE for free, customize the look-and-feel (for all of their deployments) and manage them all remotely from a web browser. No more truck rolls!

Tell me more about trixbox Pro EE and trixbox CCE.

trixbox Pro also comes in two paid flavors, Enterprise Edition (for larger offices) and Call Center Edition (you can guess who this target is grin). These paid editions can be purchased on a monthly basis (as a recurring service) or as a life-time buy. We added the recurring model so that it naturally folds into the evolutionary managed services play that we have witnessed unfolding in the SMB IT space. More on that later.

From an outsiders perspective you seem to be following Digium’s model of building additional features and functionality into the open source platform and then selling it as packaged products. Do you think there will be any fall out from the trixbox community of developers, for “playing in their sandbox?”

No correlation at all. trixbox Pro is not based on the open source trixbox CE platform. Rather, it is based on our commercial product, PBXtra. That is why we named it “Pro” because it is a professional product aimed at IT professionals to deploy in commercial environments.

As for “fall-out”…I don’t think so. We are continuing to invest more dollars, time, and engineers each quarter to the open source trixbox CE platform. For instance, just this week we released trixbox CE V2.4 into beta. 2.4 is a big step forward as it is based on the latest: CentOS5, FreePBX 2.3, and Asterisk 1.4.

We just really feel that trixbox is all about choice. CE is a completely customizable platform. It is perfect for exotic deployments and do-it-your-selfers. trixbox Pro is a fully commercial product, aimed at someone who wants to painlessly roll a lot of PBXs and be able to manage them all from a single web browser and not have to worry about NATs, firewalls, servers crashing, firmware, and all that jazz. They both solve different needs and we will continue to invest in both of them.

What about trixNet? This something I never saw coming.

trixNet is so cool. It is our free worldwide calling service which allows any two businesses, anywhere in the world, to call each other for free – using their existing phone numbers. This is unique from other free “in-network” calling services like the ones from Skype, Vonage, or even your cell phone provider. Those services force both parties to be using the same carrier. trixNet is carrier agnostic, while still allowing you to use the same number your carrier provided. Let me illustrate: take a business in France, using analog lines from France Telecom. They call another businesses who they “don’t know”, in…say…New York, which is using analog lines from Verizon. If both businesses are using trixbox Pro – boom – instead of both companies paying their carriers, that call becomes a FREE call point-to-point between the two businesses. Cooler still: trixNet “falls back” to normal phone lines if the quality of the call is not good or the free route is not available.

Give me some of your thoughts on VoIP peering, obviously you must think there is demand out there for it or else you would not have created trixNet, but do you think the concept is a little to much for the do-it-yourself small business to wrap their head around?

I agree, VoIP peering is way too much for the average business owner to think about. Even saying it makes me tired. That is why all existing VoIP peering concepts have had such slow adoption. Enum is crawling along (especially in the US). DUNDI is all but dead. Why is this? They are hard to setup, require technical acumen, and often force a change in user behavior.

trixNet is quite different. It auto-peers with every other trixbox Pro PBX (soon CE too). No setup required. It uses existing phone numbers (no weird FWD or Skype numbers needed). It auto-falls back to your normal lines if there is a network issue. Download trixbox Pro and then call me sometime on my Los Angeles number. It just works.

How far off are we from seeing the day when anyone, and I mean anyone, will be able to set-up a phone system?

This is it. I invite you to try a trixbox Pro yourself and tell me if you don’t think Fonality has finally done it. Grab a $200 PC, grab a Polycom or Aastra phone, and maybe even a Sangoma card if you need analog calling. Start your stopwatch. If you haven’t rolled yourself a PBX in about 30 minutes, you might have been heavily drinking last night or something.

With the push towards free calling and free phone systems, how and where do you see the biggest opportunity for those who want to make money in the VoIP industry? More specifically where is the money to be made for a reseller of this product?

Answer: service. Specifically, managed service. Some IT consultants are figuring out this managed service model, where they can say: “Hey Mr. (or Mrs.) small business owner, let me sell you all your IT needs ranging from your computers, to your printer, to your firewall, to your email hosting, for one low monthly ‘per seat’ fee.” The small business owner loves it because they can manage their tight cash flow via a predictable expense line. And the IT consultant loves it because recurring revenue is yummy. For this reason, we have optionally allowed trixbox Pro to be purchased on a per-seat-per-month basis, so it elegantly folds into this service model.

Of course, if folks are still billing hourly, they use our life-time buy option.

Cisco and Dell have collaboratively gutted the concept of commissionable hardware. Dell did it via disintermediation and Cisco did it by forcing the dollars to shape-shift into service. We have learned from these Goliaths. As such, trixbox Pro comes with up to a 50% discount for resellers – they can make a great living off this thing!

Why should a reseller or integrator choose the trixbox product vs. an asterisk based system?

Time is money. We have written 1,300,000 lines of code to make this thing commercial ready. This means we have added more features (such as HUD) than I can name, and lots of stability and management control. If people have enough time to do that themselves, or to use a garage start-up that has stapled a GUI on Asterisk, then so be it. But, the real resellers, who want to grow a business around SELLING and not WRITING CODE should use a commercial product — such as what we have built with trixbox Pro. Remember, this thing is market proven. It is based on PBXtra, which is now deployed in 2,500 sites in 50 countries with 120,000,000 calls made across it. I have a 25 man support team that offers phone and email support, even emergency phone support around the clock.

trixbox Pro was built for the reseller — to increase their ROI and not burn their precious hours futzing with disparate open source stacks.

For more information about trixbox Pro, visit http://www.trixbox.com.

Garrett Smith

Garrett Smith is an author, consultant, and marketer with almost 20 years of experience selling and marketing VoIP solutions. Garrett has helped thousands of businesses select the right VoIP system over his career, in addition to helping hundreds of vendors, and dozens of service providers with their go to market strategies. This experience gives him a unique position in industry that allows him to cut through all the noise. Garrett has been named one of the most influential people in the VoIP, and has written over 3,000 articles about VoIP since 2004.

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