4. Router Platforms
The Linksys WRT-54GL is a consumer router offering that broke out from the crowd at least in part because it was running a Linux based operating system. This meant that it was effectively a cheap hardware platform sufficiently open to allow software developers to enhance its capabilities through aftermarket firmware.
There are a variety of such releases including Open-WRT, DD-WRT and Tomato. Some like, DD-WRT, started out as open source projects but have evolved into commercial activities in their own right. They in turn have worked to support a variety of hardware platforms.
I am amazed at how often I find this type of software being used, even in small business establishments. I often find that IT staff from considerable companies run such wares in their homes. They seek the complexity of control that they have in their working lives, but on smaller and less costly hardware platforms more appropriate for the home.
This trend was so pronounced that in 2009 Netgear, a late comer to this party, introduced products specifically targeted at this open source, 3rd party firmware community.
While all of this is curious and possibly interesting, it’s application to Asterisk might be limited. However, these router platforms are on the $50-100 range and Asterisk has in fact been ported to this hardware. This makes such little routers a very cheap way to get started playing with Asterisk.
However, they are not without their issues. These devices were built to a task and so are inherently resource limited. That means limited memory, lack of persistent storage beyond on-board flash. They often lack the physical ports that other platforms, like the Sheeva Plug, provide to enhance storage and expansion capabilities. These factors tend to complicate the use of Asterisk if you’re not inclined to hack through some solutions on your own.
Yet, those people that I find making use of Asterisk on such hardware are often very committed to what they’re doing. They’ve accomplished something significant getting this little, limited hardware device to run something considerably beyond its original scope. They’ve added a lot of value along the way.
I would be remiss in leaving these little router platforms out of my overview, but I do feel that they are generally in the domain of the hobbyist / experimentalist. Not something that I’d recommend for a home-based small business.