Easy Asterisk in a Box: Jazinga VoIP PBX Appliance Reviewed

Conclusion

Jazinga has targeted an interesting niche with the MGA-120. Not long ago, the prospect of an inexpensive, easy-to-use IP PBX with big business features was essentially fantasy. By leveraging Linux and Asterisk on custom hardware, Jazinga has delivered an exceptional combination of value & capability with middleware that makes it simple to use.

The Jazinga system is definitely the easiest to set up IP PBX that I have ever encountered. But while it works well, it still requires some knowledge on the part of the person doing the configuration. For the moment, at least, that makes it the perfect complement to smaller VARs, IT consultants, and even ITSPs who can support inexperienced or indifferent end-users.

As a wireless router, Jazinga is definitely middle-of-the-road. But the synergy of routing and IP telephony functions in a single, reasonably-priced device is truly compelling for a new installation. In my case, I already have an draft 802.11n AP. So while I’ll probably use Jazinga as my primary router, I will simply disable the Wi-Fi.

At $1095, the Jazinga system is perhaps more expensive than assembling comparable hardware pieces. But the combined hardware and software approach ultimately saves a lot of time. If your time is valuable, then Jazinga is a bargain.

But should you consider spending that much on a product from a relatively unknown company that is just coming out with its first product, especially during these troubled times? You’ll have to decide that for yourself, but here is a little info to help:

  • The company was founded in February 2007
  • 10 employees
  • Product was introduced at ITXPO East in January 2008
  • Shipments began September 2008
  • Just closed a US distribution deal and will be available from the major online vendors in the next few weeks.
  • Primary support will be from retailer, not Jazinga.

As an Asterisk user since 2003, my approach has been to “roll my own” systems. I started out using a spare desktop PC, the eventually migrated to the Soekris Net4801 embedded hardware described in my January 2006 article. From that point, I moved to a recycled HP T5700 thin client, which has been in service for two years.

I’m not afraid to DIY, but I am not as compelled to tinker as I once was. Since I now depend daily on my Asterisk PBX, the prospect of rebuilding it was something I just kept putting off. Further, some of the new smaller Asterisk appliances finally addressed my desire for quiet, low power hardware.

Jazinga set out to create a one-box solution to SOHO networking and telephony. Their intent was that it should be simple enough to be installed by a complete beginner. Have they achieved that goal?  I don’t think that Jazinga is totally there yet, but they are well on the way, and I like where they are going with the product.

My bottom line is that I have decided to keep the Jazinga system and will put it into production very soon. If Iam lucky, I may eventually forget the vi skills that I had to learn when I first tried Asterisk many years ago.

8 thoughts on “Easy Asterisk in a Box: Jazinga VoIP PBX Appliance Reviewed”

  1. I would strongly suggest you take a look at http://www.rowetel.com/ucasterisk/. Not only is this a completely open-source project, but you can purchase one for < $300. So far, they don’t have support for G.722 or other wide-band codecs, but they are working on them (the beauty of Open Source).

    1. Shamus,

      I’m well aware of that project. It doesn’t really relate to the target market for Jazinga. A lot of Asterisk appliances are still too complicated for an end-user to setup & configure. The GUI that Jazinga has developed makes the system more approachable. To the VAR it’s a way to ease the rollout of a new site, and perhaps hand-off some admin functions to local staff. For some people it will be enough that they can pick up admin operations on their own.

      In many cases being the absolute cheapest is simply not the point. I run Astlinux on an HP thin client that I recycled. Cost $0. But that’s not very approachable for many people. Further, having a vendor to turn to for help can be very valuable.

  2. Thanks for your very informative blog. I hope it’s ok that I post on a somewhat tangential topic to this review. Do you know about hybrid phone systems such as the Panasonic KX-TDA50G, Samsung OfficeServ 100 or NEC DSX-40? They come to the IP-PBX market from a legacy of key systems, but otherwise they seem relatively comparable to me. It’s almost as if you need to focus more on what kind of handsets/cordless phones they offer than the systems themselves.

    I’m currently using a Google Voice+Vonage+Skype setup but I know my ancient Cisco ATA186 and discontinued Philips VOIP841 won’t last forever. Since I’m moving to a new house that we’re renovating, I’m trying to find a future-proof solution that’s a grade above the usual consumerware (Philips or Gigaset come to mind) but doesn’t cost too much ($1,000-$1,500 top with 4 or 5 handsets) and whose administration won’t ask me to turn into a telephony expert. Any additional thoughts welcome, if you have anything to add on the topic.

  3. Olivier,

    We once used a Panasonic KX-TG4000 key system, and really like it a lot. We had the main base, four cordless handsets and one cordless desk set. It worked really well in a very PSTN kind way.

    Now we use a Gigaset system and a couple of Polycom desk phones, all through a hosted IP-PBX. All wideband capable. Very nice, though the Gigasets are definitely consumer gear. Good, but consumer grade.

    If you want to go one step up I’d look into the new low-end Polycom Kirk DECT cordless systems. The cost has come down. The handsets are very nice, better than consumer grade. You can still use a couple of Polycom desk phones to fill it out. Probably within your stated budget.

  4. The restriction to the G711 codec is very limiting. The Rowtel IP04 provides much more functionality at a much lower price.

    1. Rod,

      Perhaps what you say is true at some level, but they’re fundamentally different devices. I really admire David Rowe and his various projects, but they target at a different group of users. More of a techie, open source crowd.

      In contrast, Jazinga is a commercial offering by a company devoted to its ongoing support and development. They have a unique GUI that makes system admin very simple, and possible even for end-users. The codec limit was something that they were willing to reconsider based on user feedback. Have you listened to the VUC podcast when their CTO appeared as our guest? Here’s a link: http://recordings.talkshoe.com/TC-22622/TS-172964.mp3

      I think that both systems have a legitimate place in the market.

      1. I agree that the IP04 used to be strictly for the open source techie, but I hope I don’t promise too much when I tell you that we have a stable firmware with GUI available in two flavors. There is the VoIPtel CE (Community Edition) which we support through our Forum, and for the business user we have VoIPtel SE (Supported Edition) that is available with 3 different level Support Contracts. More info is available at http://voiptel-se.com
        And there is a new and very innovative player around. We have just signed up with http://www.positrontelecom.com , they have a similar unit to the Jazinga without the WiFi. But what is even more interesting is their Blade PBX’s, PCI cards with a complete PBX onboard. You can install several of them into a PC, no software or drivers required. We are currently finalizing a series of 2U and 4U Blade Appliances based on these cards. The initial models will be with Positron Blades only, later we will introduce a Server Blade Upgrade for added functionality. You will find some more info at http://blog.voiptel.no

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