Typically, setting up an Asterisk software PBX server involves editing a lot of configuration files – fun for geeks, but maybe not the most productive use of anyone’s time. Elastix is a GNU/Linux/Asterisk distribution that integrates a number of tools with a graphical interface to allow administrators an easier way to configure Asterisk. That capability earned it a recommendation for a Reader’s Choice profile here.
With Elastix, installing Asterisk with a web interface takes about five minutes on a modern server. And Elastix give you more capabilities than just a PBX – it integrates packages such as FreePBX, Postfix, Hylafax, and Openfire to provide services such as email, fax, and Jabber instant messaging, all of them interacting with each other. For instance, you can receive voicemail messages via email in your Elastix server’s inbox or on an external server, and you can receive faxes, convert them to PDF files, and attach them to email. Around all of these packages the project wraps a common web interface for administrators.
Among the other tools bundled with the software is an endpoint configurator and the Elastix Call Center Module, one of the first GPL call center applications.
While it’s in use worldwide, Elastix is developed mostly in Ecuador by the folks at PaloSanto Solutions. Rafael Bonifaz, community manager for the project, says, “We were selling Asterisk services here in Ecuador in 2006, but the installation process took us too long, and every time it was the same job, so we needed to automated it. One standard installation process would also make support easier. We came up with Elastix and decided to GPL it and publish it on SourceForge.net, because it is the biggest and the best known FLOSS repository. It has great tools and makes our job easier. We love to show our users and clients the Elastix download stats.
“We use PHP as our main developer language. We built our own framework, known as NEO. For the web interface we use SQLite as our primary database, but some third-party modules and our call center modules use MySQL. We chose all of these tools because they are FLOSS and do a great job when integrating with Asterisk and GNU/Linux.”
While the current 1.6 release has been a great success, Bonifaz says Elastix 2.0, which is in alpha now, includes several improvements. One is a conference room that will allow users to share a presentation via a web server. The presentation may be any document that OpenOffice.org supports, such as ODF or even a proprietary format like Powerpoint. Users can also have a document repository for the conference and a chat channel – all of this without the need for a plugin in the browser.
Another upcoming feature is the Elastix Operator Panel (EOP), which is similar to the current Flash Operator Panel (FOP) but does not need the Flash browser plugin because it is pure AJAX. Bonifaz says users can also expect to see improvements in the mail module and a VOIP provider module for easier SIP/IAX trunk configuration with VOIP providers.
If you’d like to help build new modules for Elastix, Bonifaz says the best thing is to join the developer mailing list. The project also welcomes help from anyone interested in creating documentation.