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October 4, 2005

Asterisk: The Future of Telephony: Both a Cultural and Technical Revolution in Telecom

Sebastopol, CA--"Shortly after discovering Asterisk, I realized that this phenomenon was going to radically alter the telecommunications industry. I knew that open source telephony represented a bright new future: not just for me, but also for the telecom industry as a whole," says Jim Van Meggelen, coauthor of the new book Asterisk: The Future of Telephony (Van Meggelen, Smith, and Madsen, O'Reilly, $39.95). "Asterisk is as much a cultural revolution in the IT and telecom industries as it is a technical one."

Internet telephony with VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) hasn't yet reached critical mass, but it's poised to. VoIP promises huge cost savings, but its ability to move data, images, and voice traffic over the same connection will undoubtedly cement its place in the future of telecommunications. That's why so many IT administrators and developers are exploring VoIP-based private telephone switching systems within the enterprise. The efficiency that network users can reach with it is almost mind-boggling. And cheap, if the system is built with open source software PBX like Asterisk.

There are commercial VoIP options out there, but many are expensive systems that run old, complicated code on obsolete hardware. Asterisk runs on Linux and can interoperate with almost all standards-based telephony equipment. Asterisk embraces the concept of standards-compliance, but also gives users the freedom to choose how to implement their systems.

"Asterisk is arguably the most influential and exciting piece of software since the operating system it runs on--Linux," says coauthor Leif Madsen. "Asterisk--or at least the open source telephony system concept--is going to change the telecommunications industry in a dramatic way, but its learning curve can certainly be a barrier. This book is designed to lower the barrier of entry, allowing the software to proliferate into the world, and to dramatically change the telecommunications world as we know it. All the big players have it in their labs, and have for some time now. They all know that this is the future of telephony."

"I believe this book will allow people to catch the vision of just how powerful and flexible Asterisk is as a telephony platform," says Jared Smith, the third coauthor of the book. "Finally, geeks can fiddle with their phone calls just like mechanics fiddle with their cars. They can add features, increase performance, add redundancy, and increase collaboration."

"It should also give IT managers an understanding of why their geeks are suddenly so excited about the phone system," adds Van Meggelen.

With Asterisk, users are no longer dependent on expensive and inflexible systems that are tuned to the vendor's needs, rather than the end user's. Asterisk's flexibility comes at a price, however: it's not a simple system to learn, and the documentation has hitherto been lacking. Linux pros need to learn a bit about telephony; telecom pros need to learn a bit about Linux. "To my fellow telecom professionals I say 'learn Asterisk--it's going to transform our industry, and you're gonna love it because you get to look your customer in the eye and say yes a lot,'" says Van Meggelen.

With Asterisk: The Future of Telephony, the future is no longer unmapped. The book will help readers to truly understand the core concepts of Asterisk. "The software really isn't that complex once you have an understanding of the main concepts, but those concepts can at times can seem disparate and unwieldy," Madsen notes. "This book will give you the grounding and knowledge required to explore the more complex concepts, which would otherwise be impossible."

This new book offers a complete roadmap for installing, configuring, and integrating Asterisk with existing phone systems. It walks readers through a basic dial plan step by step, and gives them enough working knowledge to set up a simple but complete system. The book outlines all the options, and shows how to set up voicemail services, call conferencing, interactive voice response, call waiting, caller ID, and more. Readers will also learn how Asterisk merges voice and data traffic seamlessly across disparate networks. And they won't need additional hardware: for interconnection with digital and analog telephone equipment, Asterisk supports a number of hardware devices.

The future of telephony is bright--and with Asterisk: The Future of Telephony, you can be ready for it.

Additional Resources:

Asterisk: The Future of Telephony
Jim Van Meggelen, Jared Smith, and Leif Madsen
ISBN: 0-596-00962-3, 380 pages, $39.95 US, $55.95 CA
order@oreilly.com
1-800-998-9938; 1-707-827-7000

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