Open Source PBX vs Proprietary Question



  • What are the pros and cons of implementing an open-source PBX as opposed to a proprietary system?
    I've worked in shops that ran Cisco Unity, and after that - Shoretel. I found Shoretel to be a great deal easier to learn over the Cisco system and had a fairly easy time administering it.
    How do these compare to something like Elastix or Asterisk?



  • While I have only a little experience with proprietary systems, I can tell you that Asterisk systems are pretty easy to administer in an overall sense. You've got countless options- Elastix, FreePBX straight, PBX in a Flash, etc. Extension creation takes 30 seconds, and modifying current settings is pretty intuitive from the interface.

    Could you give me some examples on what administering a proprietary system like that is like?



  • @FiyaFly said:

    Could you give me some examples on what administering a proprietary system like that is like?

    In the systems I've administered, the hardware and software involved had to be specific - I had a closet full of Shoretel gear and Shoretel-branded phones on every desk. The Cisco system was even more intensive in terms of hardware, at a much greater cost.

    I think for some enterprise environments, the comfort of a well-known name brand is preferred, even though it comes at a higher cost. In the SMB market, open-source seems to be more cost effective. Much of the research I've done on this topic seems to support open source as a better alternative. I wanted to get some feedback on one vs the other. I'm sure there are advantages to each, wanted to spark some discussion on that.



  • @FiyaFly said:

    Could you give me some examples on what administering a proprietary system like that is like?

    A PBX is a PBX is a PBX.

    Cisco is much more CLI driven which makes for a little harder curve if you are not fluent in Ciscoese.

    I work in Avaya and Aspect. They each have different terms versus Cisco and Asterisk when it comes to doing things, but it's easy enough to figure it out. Aspect is a completely different animal though, which requires lots more training to know the subtleties than Avaya, Cisco, or Asterisk.



  • @PSX_Defector said:

    I work in Avaya and Aspect. They each have different terms versus Cisco and Asterisk when it comes to doing things, but it's easy enough to figure it out. Aspect is a completely different animal though, which requires lots more training to know the subtleties than Avaya, Cisco, or Asterisk.

    I remember a lot of things in Cisco were relatively buried, while in Shoretel being much easier to find. And yes - different terms on each for some things.



  • I've been looking at this same topic. A bigger thing that I've had to look at is the cost difference between simply upgrading what you currently have versus rip and replace to move to an open source PBX.

    In my case I have 50+ digital phones on a system that is now EOL. The vendor has an upgrade path that will allow me to install a VOIP switch and a digital backplane that allows me to keep all of my current phones for about $6000. Replacing the phones alone will cost me around $6250 ($125/ea + tax and maybe shipping) not to mention the hardware to run the PBX (granted there should be plenty of room on my current ESXi server for this) or the PoE switches.

    Then I'll also need to build all of the routing/huntgroups/ACDs, etc to get my system online (I'd really like to bring in a Pro which will add in more expense).

    So while I could get a ton of extras in the Opensource 'free' solution, it will cost me probably 30-50% more than upgrading my current system.



  • @Dashrender said:

    I've been looking at this same topic. A bigger thing that I've had to look at is the cost difference between simply upgrading what you currently have versus rip and replace to move to an open source PBX.

    In my case I have 50+ digital phones on a system that is now EOL. The vendor has an upgrade path that will allow me to install a VOIP switch and a digital backplane that allows me to keep all of my current phones for about $6000. Replacing the phones alone will cost me around $6250 ($125/ea + tax and maybe shipping) not to mention the hardware to run the PBX (granted there should be plenty of room on my current ESXi server for this) or the PoE switches.

    Then I'll also need to build all of the routing/huntgroups/ACDs, etc to get my system online (I'd really like to bring in a Pro which will add in more expense).

    So while I could get a ton of extras in the Opensource 'free' solution, it will cost me probably 30-50% more than upgrading my current system.

    They do make TVAs for digital phones that could be utilized to assist you moving to open source (similar to FXS but for digital phones). It's worth researching: http://www.citel.com/Products/Portico.asp.



  • @Katie said:

    @FiyaFly said:

    Could you give me some examples on what administering a proprietary system like that is like?

    In the systems I've administered, the hardware and software involved had to be specific - I had a closet full of Shoretel gear and Shoretel-branded phones on every desk. The Cisco system was even more intensive in terms of hardware, at a much greater cost.

    I think for some enterprise environments, the comfort of a well-known name brand is preferred, even though it comes at a higher cost. In the SMB market, open-source seems to be more cost effective. Much of the research I've done on this topic seems to support open source as a better alternative. I wanted to get some feedback on one vs the other. I'm sure there are advantages to each, wanted to spark some discussion on that.

    Since I am pro-open source, I will try to make an unbiased comment here. Going with a proprietary system (hardware / software / phones / whatever else) basically gives someone one throat to choke when there is an issue because it's all Avaya or it's all Digium / Cisco / Shortel. You're not using one type of PBX and trying to marry it to a hodgepodge of hardware for phones (usually). You pay a steep price to get support from a Tier one PBX vendor.

    I will also say that many proprietary vendors include things like an integrated chat platform with presence indicators (think Avaya One-X here), integration with platforms like Salesforce, centralized management of individual phone buttons and features, and other things like that. These types of functionalities may require an extreme effort to get working on an open source platform or may just not be possible without being an Asterisk developer. So if companies need the types of features mentioned here, they will pay for it.

    I think it comes down to business decisions in terms of what companies need from their phone system. Often times the proprietary vendors tout what makes them stand out in terms of features and functionality that open source does not have out of the box and sell business decision makers on things they do not actually need.



  • You can have one throat to choke in open source too. Open source and free are not synonymous. Digium makes a non-free, OEM vendor supported open source PBX product for example.

    Open source allows code review and allows a broader support ecosystem.



  • @FiyaFly said:

    While I have only a little experience with proprietary systems, I can tell you that Asterisk systems are pretty easy to administer in an overall sense. You've got countless options- Elastix, FreePBX straight, PBX in a Flash, etc. Extension creation takes 30 seconds, and modifying current settings is pretty intuitive from the interface.

    Could you give me some examples on what administering a proprietary system like that is like?

    We had an old Avaya system that Elastix replaced that would allow you to configure a button on a phone from the management console. That was a neat feature and did not require you to go into the web GUI of the phone. Also, the call flow designer was a bit more visual (very much like building a flow chart in Visio) so you could see the flow as you built it. You likely will not get that with open source and really have to think about what you want to do with your call flows, where they go next, etc. Not that this is difficult to do, but it is a significant difference.



  • @scottalanmiller said:

    You can have one throat to choke in open source too. Open source and free are not synonymous. Digium makes a non-free, OEM vendor supported open source PBX product for example.

    Open source allows code review and allows a broader support ecosystem.

    I completely agree, but I think business leaders do not see it that way, tending to think there is not as much support for open source solutions. And that, of course, is not the case.



  • @NetworkNerd said:

    @scottalanmiller said:

    You can have one throat to choke in open source too. Open source and free are not synonymous. Digium makes a non-free, OEM vendor supported open source PBX product for example.

    Open source allows code review and allows a broader support ecosystem.

    I completely agree, but I think business leaders do not see it that way, tending to think there is not as much support for open source solutions. And that, of course, is not the case.

    Business people using a license as a guide to support don't just fail to understand technology but also don't grasp their role in the process. That's a business failure at its core.



  • @NetworkNerd said:

    @scottalanmiller said:

    You can have one throat to choke in open source too. Open source and free are not synonymous. Digium makes a non-free, OEM vendor supported open source PBX product for example.

    Open source allows code review and allows a broader support ecosystem.

    I completely agree, but I think business leaders do not see it that way, tending to think there is not as much support for open source solutions. And that, of course, is not the case.

    I don't think this is true at all.... look how many Linux servers are out in the world.



  • I think, given the general trend of this forum and of the forum that shall not be named (Voldeforum) being SMB focused, that is the context assumed.

    In the enterprise where business leaders are routinely quite skills at their jobs, open source's value is well understood and purchased based on quality, not on price. And normally it is very expensive, not free.



  • @Katie said:

    What are the pros and cons of implementing an open-source PBX as opposed to a proprietary system?
    I've worked in shops that ran Cisco Unity, and after that - Shoretel. I found Shoretel to be a great deal easier to learn over the Cisco system and had a fairly easy time administering it.
    How do these compare to something like Elastix or Asterisk?
    3CX is also a good solution, but it is not an open source one. I personally do not prefer it, but if you have a windows license to spare for a VM, it is quite easy to setup and not nearly as expensive as other options.
    I use PBX in a Flash simply because I do not need the simplified Elastix interface and I want more up to date versions. If the Elastix team put more effort into staying updated I would use it everywhere.

    You hit the nail on the head about the true cost of switching the phone system though. No matter what you go to, if it is not a true upgrade,you will have to redesign all of the call handling from scratch. The thing you need to validate with you upgrade is whether or not it is a 100% no reconfig needed upgrade. If there is time not accounted for to do something like that, then you just leveled the playing field again.