D.I.Y. Asterisk Appliances: A Question Of Scale

Selecting hardware appropriate for a particular Asterisk installation has been a topic of discussion ever since the emergence of Asterisk. This typically centers around choosing hardware to handle n users or x concurrent calls. Often the focus is on how to scale up to the greatest number of users for a given server. However, there can be different but related considerations as we consider ever smaller applications.

In various circles I’ve lately witnessed a minor spike in interest in small form factor Asterisk systems. I have found it curious to survey the various hardware platforms that people are considering when creating their own DIY Asterisk Appliances. To establish some perspective on this I recently posted my own history of using Asterisk my own little Asterisk retrospective.

There are quite a range of small computing platforms available to the enthusiast seeking to tinker with Asterisk. It seemed to me that an overview of such hardware and related resources would be helpful.


For my purposes I’ll only consider generic platforms suitable for a DIY project , not the commercially offered embedded Asterisk devices, of which there are many. These small host platforms tend to be in the $50-$300 range which makes them approachable for hobbyists, home users and some small businesses.

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Compulab Introduces The Fit-PC2i

I am just such a sucker for little embedded systems platforms. It started with the Soekris Net4501, but I’ve also used the Soekris Net4801, ALIX boards and HP thin clients in appliance-like roles. Most recently I bought a FIT-PC2 to use as a little Astlinux server.

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Easy Asterisk in a Box: Jazinga VoIP PBX Appliance Reviewed

Originally published in December 2008 at Small Net Builder.

It has been nearly three years since I first published an article detailing my experience setting up an Asterisk server on an embedded PC platform. That turned out to be just the start of a wave of interest in the embedded system or “appliance” approach to Asterisk. Since then, a number of companies have offered ready-to-roll Asterisk appliances.

Many of these Asterisk “appliances” are really just pre-configured servers running a bundle of software built around Asterisk. To meet my definition of “appliance” the system should have no moving parts. That means diskless, fanless, silent and reliable.

Preconfigured servers are very capable but they often have much of the administrative overhead of an old-school Asterisk installation. They usually require someone with Asterisk or telecom experience to plan and implement a working system.

I have deferred upgrading my own Astlinux server a very long time. I knew it had to be done, but also knew that it would be essentially rebuilding the system from scratch. When Jazinga offered to let me evaluate their new Asterisk appliance, I saw the possibility of deploying something simpler, with less administrative overhead.

jazinga-product-shot

In their flagship MGA120 PBX appliance, Jazinga set out to build a device that could be installed in a typical small business, home or home office by someone with minimal IT skills. It combines common networking and IP telephony functions with software designed to make installation and administration truly easy.

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Choosing A Router/Firewall For A Small Office

net4801_2_lOne project that I’m am about to start is moving from my m0n0wall router to a new one build around pfsense. The motivation for the project is the integration of our Comcast Business Class internet service into the rest of the household. At present there are two separate networks, with only a few devices enjoying the high speed cable service. The pfsense system will be configured for dual WAN, accessing both the cable service and Covad DSL circuit.

My existing m0n0wall runs on an old Soekris Net4801. In service for many years, it has been extremely reliable. If m0n0wall does what you need I have no hesitation in recommending the software. Support from the user community is tremendous as well.

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Freeswitch 1.0.3 is released

Wow! The crew working on Freeswitch are certainly pushing forward. Michael Collins just post a notice of the availability of v1.0.3 which includes 127 fixes & changes. A couple of the more interesting include leveraging the Digium TC400B hardware for multi-channel G.729a and G.723.1 transcoding,  also AMR-WB passthough.

Kristian K of Star2Star and Astlinux fame has also worked to make Freeswitch compile within the Astlinux development environment. So you can have a high-performance SIP proxy and Asterisk running on small format embedded hardware. OMG, I love that!

Since Freeswitch is now an installable module for pfsense you could also have it running on your router. That’s great, too!

An Interesting Opinion On The iPhone

Kristian Kielhofner, of Astlinux and Star2Star fame, posted a most interesting and thoughtful opinion on the iPhone today. He’s had a couple for the past week for the express purpose of starting to develop apps for it.

I found it an interesting read. I remain a little contrarian with respect to the iPhone. I think that the reality does not match the hype. I remain committed to not doing business with AT&T, so no iPhone for me.

OTOH, the Nokia N810 is getting cheaper as a new model approaches. I find myself wondering which I’d like more, a N810 or one of the new small PCs like the Asus Eee, or perhaps Dell’s forthcoming small model?