Single vendor for IMAP VM storage

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I am interested in IMAP Voicemail storage for some of my customers. Does anyone know of any vendors of asterisk appliances (physical PBXs) that provide this as a “standard feature” (or an optional standard feature)?

Ultimately, I’d like to be able to have a single point of accountability for the system as a whole. I would like an intuitive & powerful configuration GUI (such as FreePBX), good endpoint configuration provisioning (and possibly management), good reporting with usage graphs over time.

I would like to be able to position an asterisk solution with this feature (IMAP Voicemail storage) as a viable competitor against Cisco, Avaya, etc. However one challenge I see is that we have so many “cooks in the kitchen” with the asterisk solution.

With Cisco & Avaya, just about EVERYTHING comes from a single vendor who serves a single point of accountability & support. This includes the VoIP system (PBX), endpoint handsets, network switches, routers, etc.

With the asterisk solution, we have several vendors in the picture:
– Digium for the asterisk core + DAHDI interface
– Rhino, OpenVox, Sangoma, Digium or whatever other company that makes the PSTN cards
– Rhino, Dell or some other company who makes the actual server box we use
– Elastix, Trixbox, Digium (AsteriskNOW), Debian, etc. depending on the OS distribution that we use
– FreePBX for the GUI
– Some company providing the endpoint configuration management (FreePBX 2.9, Elastix, Trixbox, Digium, etc)
– Polycom, Aastra, Snom, or whatever company we use for the phones.

The best case scenario I can see is 4 vendors:
1. Rhino for the PSTN cards & physical server box
2. Digium for AsteriskNOW (and of course the Asterisk core)
3. FreePBX 2.9 for the PBX configuration GUI + their new endpoint configuration management
4. Polycom for the phones

Of course I realize the fact that the interoperability of asterisk is not a weakness, but rather a strength. However, from a management perspective it certainly is much more complex than a single vendor solution. I have personally had experience where I’ve had a little bit of a run-around in the past were I went to asterisk-users mailing list & they told me I either needed to recompile asterisk from the pure Digium sources, or they couldn’t help me (this was because I was using Elastix, which has some degree of customization in their asterisk). Then I’ve been aware of asterisk bugs which if I approach Elastix support, they say, “Sorry this is an asterisk bug which we have no control over. We can’t help you”. Then we have different vendors whose implementations or interpretations of various standards differ. And you wind up with occasional issues, or more work upfront to get them all configured in a way that they are happy together (I know I am exaggerating this a little bit, as it generally isn’t that bad at all).

Still, I would like it if there were a simple solution from 1 company that gave us the asterisk system as a solution that they stand behind, so that I don’t have to build something custom that “I” stand behind. I have enough irons in the fire that I question whether it would be a wise decision for us to start to act as a VoIP vendor (meaning the company that is the face of the system, and the single point of accountability to customers).

I would be interested in a single company that I could use AT LEAST for the asterisk PBX. I can handle the switches and the endpoints/phones. But it would be nice to have one single point of accountability for the rest. Specifically again the features I am after are:
1. Intuitive & powerful configuration GUI (such as FreePBX)
2. Good endpoint configuration provisioning (and possibly management)
3. Good reporting with usage graphs over time.
4. IMAP VM storage
Additionally I would want a company who provides good support when needed.

Switchvox seems very compelling for all of these requirements + many advanced features. The only thing I can see that it really lacks it the IMAP VM storage. Instead, they store the VM locally in the Switchvox, and give an IMAP interface to access it from PCs + a mobile app to access it from the iPhone & BlackBerry (android is said to be in the works). This really is great, and I think satisfactory for most users.

But for those certain customers who just want to see their VM show up in their Exchange mailbox, as well as their MWI lamp light up, and then have the MWI lamp go off when they open the VM in Outlook, the Switchvox solution just doesn’t cut it. They’re close, but not there. Managing this in a larger network would be especially challenging. It is also more difficult for me to grow my business when we have much complexity in our product. If I piece together my own custom solution using products from 4-6 different vendors, then each technician I hire is going to have to be an asterisk guru to be able to implement new systems & troubleshoot issues without having to involve me. This is more expensive for me. Either I have to train them more which costs me money, or I have to hire someone with the advanced skillset which costs me more money, or I have to train them more and then seeing that they’re worth more, then they ask for more and that costs me more money too…. 🙂

I haven’t really looked much at Fonality for a few years. I don’t know whether they specifically have this. But really I’m interested in any company who will say that they provide the required features & stand behind all of them. Even if they are using more than 4 vendors’ components. I don’t care if they use 10 vendors’ components as long as they all work really well together & I have only 1 company who fully stands behind the product.

To me, this is no different from a computer motherboard (or entire PC) or a mobile phone or a more recent tablet device (iPad, Android tablets, etc). If you look inside most of these devices, you’ll see that there are components from a LOT of vendors (Intel, Samsung, Hitachi, Texas Instruments, LG, nVidia, etc.). However, the product is sold from a single company who brands it as their own, and sells & supports it that way. You can’t really tell by using one of these devices that everything inside doesn’t come from 1 company. It sure feels that way.

That’s what I’m looking for from asterisk w/ IMAP VM storage. I can sell Switchvox to the masses and like that we have one single company who serves as a single point of accountability and support. But when I come across the customers who have used Cisco Call Manager, they really like the true voicemail-email integration with the BLF synchronization, etc. Cisco has probably had this for 10+ years (I know they’ve had it at least since 2002). Asterisk has had it since asterisk 1.4, but it’s not a standard feature. Instead, you have to recompile asterisk to get the feature. As soon as I decide to start recompiling asterisk, it no longer becomes a standard system from Elastix, etc. Instead, now I am responsible for maintaining the asterisk core components of the system. That’s what I’d like to avoid.

Any input is greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,

Doug Mortensen
Network Consultant
Impala Networks Inc
CCNA, MCSA, Security+, A+
Linux+, Network+, Server+
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www.impalanetworks.com
P: (505) 327-7300
F: (505) 327-7545
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