Last month at AstriCon we announced the upcoming launch of AsteriskNOW 1.5, a new version of Digium’s award winning software appliance that incorporates the FreePBX graphical user interface. Today I’m very pleased to announce that the first beta release of AN1.5 is available on asterisknow.org.
For those of you not familiar with the product, AsteriskNOW is a free Linux install image (.iso file) that reduces the process of building an Asterisk-based system to “burn, boot and run”. Simply download the .iso image, burn it to a CD, drop the CD into your soon-to-be Asterisk computer and boot. The integrated installation process will ask a few basic questions, install Linux, Asterisk, the FreePBX GUI and all the other bits and pieces necessary to transform an ordinary PC into an extraordinary communications platform.
AsteriskNOW 1.5 accomplishes the same goal (easy-to-install Asterisk) as AsteriskNOW 1.0 did, but that’s where the similarity ends. We’ve been collecting feedback from users since the launch of 1.0 and the changes in 1.5 reflect the general consensus.
CentOS Linux 5.2
We’ve replaced the original rPath Linux distribution with CentOS 5.2. While rPath has some amazing capabilities its focus is on building fixed-function appliances, which makes it complex and sometimes awkward for end users to add packages or customize the system. CentOS is an Enterprise-class Linux distribution derived from sources freely provided to the public by a prominent North American Enterprise Linux vendor.
Yum Package Management / Updates
With CentOS 5.2, the native ‘yum’ package management tool handles software updates and customizations, making AsteriskNOW 1.5 simple to manage. Digium has launched its own yum software repository so updates to Asterisk, LibPRI, DAHDi and other core packages are as simple as “yum update asterisk”. We’ve also drastically simplified the process of upgrading Asterisk. Want to go from 1.4 (and associated packages) to 1.6 (and associated packages)? No problem. Install an upgrade package and the system will be reconfigured to run the latest stable version of 1.6.
Another key change in AsteriskNOW 1.5 is the addition of the FreePBX graphical user interface (GUI). AsteriskNOW 1.0 used AsteriskGUI, the light-weight UI that was originally built to run on the AA50. While the AsteriskGUI is a compelling example of Web 2.0 capabilities, many developers have already created add-on packages that are compatible with FreePBX, and many users are already familiar with FreePBX administration. Like the rest of the packages in AsteriskNOW 1.5, you can keep your installation of FreePBX up to date with yum.
Over the past six months Digium has been working to retire the name “Zaptel” (long story) and roll out DAHDi (pronounced like a wealthy and precocious British child would say “Daddy”). DAHDi stands for “Digium|Asterisk Hardware Device interface” and describes the kernel-level framework that allows Asterisk to communicate with a wide range of telephony cards and devices. The name change gave us the opportunity to make some under the covers improvements, so DAHDi sports a shiny new modular architecture and driver performance improvements. Look for more DAHDi-related news in the coming months.
So, Why All The Changes?
As Mark Spencer mentioned during his portion of the AstriCon keynote address, Asterisk started life as an application but has become the platform on which other applications are built. Our first cut of AsteriskNOW was a solid application (SoHo PBX) but a poor application server. AsteriskNOW 1.5 is our first big step towards a building a platform that’s both end-user friendly and developer-ready. Over the next several quarters you’ll see more of this as we launch:
- Support Subscriptions for open source Asterisk
- AsteriskNOW 2.0
- Asterisk Marketplace 2.0
- Asterisk Application Manager (a2m)
Each of these deserves its own blog entry (perhaps its own blog) so I’ll not go into details here. Suffice it to say that AsteriskNOW 1.5 is a tasty sample of the shape of things to come.