VoiceCon: Time to pay attention to open source PBX

On Monday at VoiceCon I attended an afternoon session about the adoption of open source PBX in the enterprise. The session was presented and led by John Malone, CEO of the Eastern Management Group. Steve Sokol, Director of Product Marketing at Digium, and Jeronimo Romero, Managing Partner at EUS Networks, were panelists.

Malone’s team did a study on open source PBX market share and found that it has an impressive foothold:

Open Source PBXs accounted for 18 percent of the 15.88 million line market for business telephone systems in North America in 2008, based on a new Eastern Management Group study “2009 Open Source PBX Market Forecast”. This represents a 40 percent growth of Open Source PBXs in the last year. Open Source now accounts for a larger slice of the market than any single manufacturer of PBXs, and eight percent more than Nortel, the largest traditional vendor.

Additionally, open source PBX usage is found in all sectors and sizes of businesses, debunking the myth that it’s often the high-tech firms that embrace open source PBX. And the primary driving force? Value, of course. No licensing costs, no hidden fees, no upgrade purchases. Anyone can go download a full-featured PBX like Asterisk today and have it up and running in no time, albeit with very basic setup.

If you’re an open source fan like I am, then you’re probably very excited about the seemingly bright future ahead for open source PBXs. However, Malone predicts open source telephony gaining no more than 33% of the market based on his research into Linux’s history. We’re all aware of Linux’s catapult into stardom and receiving attention from the likes of IBM and Microsoft. Yet today Linux’s market share appears to have plateaued. According to Malone, there are just some companies that won’t be receptive to open source software and there’s nothing to be done.

Still, it’s worth noting that Digium, a company with less than 200 employees, has created a telephony project in just a few years to capture nearly 20% of the market and turning up the heat on Big Telephony. However, one major advantage for Big Telephony is its well-established VARs and integrators — these are the guys who are driving the sales of Big Telephony PBXs.

The road ahead for open source PBX will be filled with potholes and bumps. Steve Sokol’s job to promote Asterisk and other open source PBXs remains challenging. But if he can convince some folks from the flourishing Asterisk community to take a good look at the commercial opportunities in becoming a VAR or systems integrator (like Jeronimo Romero), then there may be a chance of smashing Malone’s prediction of 33%.


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