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Initial thoughts on FreePBXv3 and FreeSWITCH vs Asterisk

January 14, 2010

As I’ve been testing out FreePBXv3 with FreeSWITCH, I figured I should blog my experiences, as they’ve been surprisingly pleasant!

After I got notification on the Elastix Beta mailing list about FreePBXv3, I was stoaked to learn it’s been released, even in an unfinished form! I went looking a while back for a FreeSWITCH GUI and was sadly disappointed. I found a few like tcapi and Phonebooth, but couldn’t get tcapi working and Phonebooth had just had all its code donated to FreePBX. So for the time I’d given up.

Anyway, so I grabbed the latest Install CD for FreePBXv3 which is based off CentOS. Ran through smoothly, no issues, got it installed, but I didn’t really do anything much with it.

For one reason or another I jumped into IRC in #freeswitch on freenode, I’ll have to look over my logs and figure out why. Anyway it turns out that some of the FreePBXv3 devs hang out there, and they’re actually friendly! It was a nice change from some of the other projects I’d had involvement in. I think Elastix is probably the only other project that’s been so friendly.

So I got chatting with one of the guys there, and it came up that I was happy to do some testing, so he asks me to do a clean install from a vanilla distro (And not the LiveCD. Again I’m not sure why, I’ll go re-read the chat logs later). No worries, so I install vanilla debian and get to work. Anyway a few bug reports later, 3 SVN updates later, and I’ve got a nicely working system running currently in VirtualBox.

I’m pleased to say that FreeSWITCH as a product from what I can see appears quite mature, but still growing at a steady rate. They even recommend you install from SVN, they’re that confident in the code. Most projects would have you install from a “stable” peg in the code and update as & when they release a new “final” version. The first and most obvious thing I’ve noticed about FreeSWITCH is the sounds. Even just the female voice that guides you through recording a Voicemail sounds *so* much nicer than the Asterisk one, it’s absolutely crazy! There’s also the nice feature that Voicemail automatically stops recording when you’re silent for 2 seconds. Quite cool I thought!

There was no “additional” configuration of any endpoints that I needed to do, tested with ZoIPer and an SPA942 successfully. It simply “just worked” making calls between the devices, as was to be expected. I’m still yet to setup an external trunk to test over.

FreePBXv3 is still a *little* rough around the edges, but overall I must say that the infrastructure that they’ve built, or framework, seems like a great improvement over the current FreePBX 2.X! Not only that, but the developers are very approachable, keen for feedback, they seem to be excellent coders who love doing what they do, and they’re rapidly pumping out an awesome project! It still crashes at times, or at least doesn’t display what it should, however the changes seem to get saved at least even though the correct followup output isn’t shown. Some features aren’t 100% implemented, but overall there’s most of the basic things in there that the majority of people would use. The developers also seemed pretty keen for suggestions and improvements, even just the trivial little things.

I’m just looking forward to trying this out on an Alix system soon to see how it handles the load from FreeSWITCH :D

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30 comments

  1. the freeswitch irc channel is on freenode, not internode, just a quick FYI


    • Hey Raymond,
      Thanks for that, a bit of an oversight on my behalf. I should really re-read things when posting them. Serves me right for doing so first thing at the crack of dawn prior to a business meeting. All fixed now, cheers.


  2. Thanks for this great write-up!

    It’s really appreciated.

    I couldn’t help but note that, I believe, all the bugs you’ve requested to have fixed are now fixed. We’re working hard to get this release up and running perfectly, but I believe you could use it in production at this point, since it’s just generating configs for you.

    Hope it continues to serve you well!

    Creator of FreePBX v3


    • Hi Daren, great to see you along!
      TCAPI still shows up quite well in Google searches as well as other forum references, is it worth adding something to that homepage noting what you’ve just mentioned?
      Yes, all the bugs I’ve mentioned have been addressed, funnily enough this blog post was found by some of the guys in #freepbx-dev only 4-5 hours after it was posted! Crazy :D
      I’ve been incredibly impressed by the rapid development that’s going on, ideas come up with, tested and implemented. I do feel sorry for some of the guys there, they’ve been given a good run for their money, and my VPS isn’t the quickest. Installing on some *real* hardware now, expect a follow-up blog soon!


  3. It’s worth noting that FreePBX v3 *is* the TCAPI project. It’s just been renamed.

    Same original author, same code base for the most part (a different framework was slipped in, but XML generation code is all from the TCAPI project).

    I left TCAPI in a broken state knowing that I would be rebranding the project as FreePBX sometime last year. Sorry for any confusion it has caused.


  4. Another GUI would be fusionpbx.com


    • Yes, that was mentioned to me in #freepbx-dev also. Looked like a nice project, and I plan on checking it out a bit more in-depth at some point. Both projects have their own intentions, specifics, pros & cons, so there’s bound to be something to suit everyone :)


  5. Thanks for the info – I’ve been using freepbx for just under a year now for one of my clients, but I’m looking to install my own system shortly, so I’m looking around for all options.

    The lack of GUI does not bother me at all. Actually, the GUI in freepbx kind of annoys me at times, being someone who started in a world without GUIs and vi without arrow keys, on SCO Xenix back in the 80’s. I’ve recently been trying to implement a couple of customizations on the freepbx system and have been hampered by that very same gui, combined with a total lack of documentation & “RTFM” (what “FM”s?) attitude from the volunteers on the IRC channel.

    However, from an end-user perspective, keep in mind that the Flash Operator Panel does not require FreePBX or any other GUI to run – just an Apache web server. So if all you need is something for your users to connect to for an “Operator Console”, call tracker and customizable call control center, you should definitely check that out.


    • Hi Bob, great to hear your feedback.
      Yes, I’m definitely a fan of FOP2, not so much the “look / feel” of the original FOP. I don’t know of anything yet like that for FreeSWITCH, but if you do, then I’m all ears :)


      • Well, I have an experimental FOP2 version working with FreeSwitch. It is currently good for controlling conferences and to monitor activity and not much else. But it works.


      • Hi Nicolás,

        I’m a big fan of your work, love FOP2 :) Good to hear it’s already in the works. Is there a public Beta for it available at the moment?
        That reminds me, I need to email you about tracking the fpbx dnd states…


  6. I just added an active conference list and interactive conference control for FusionPBX/FreeSWITCH. Allows you to adjust gain, volume, energy, mute/unmute, deaf/undeaf, kick, record and more.


    • Very cool!
      I really should jump on and give FusionPBX a bit of a run for its money, see how it goes vs FreePBXv3 etc :) It’s definitely great to see two such promising GUI’s being developed for FreeSWITCH IMO!


  7. I hate fusionPBX. The main reason is that it store all config information in Database (MySQL or sqlite) and this make hard to edit any FS config file manually.

    I want to try FreePBX V3 but can anyone confirm about how it handles config files ?

    Thanks


    • Before you criticize the project learn how to use it and you may find that you can do more with it than you first realized. Still want it to be more flexible leave a message on the contact page on the FusionPBX website with your suggestions. The project is open to good suggestions and may incorporate them as time permits.

      FusionPBX does allow you to edit the XML files directly. There are some guide lines you may want to know. For example the dialplan entries created by FusionPBX have a specific prefix. Simply use a different file naming convention for your customizations and the files will be left untouched. Same goes for the public dialplan entries (aka inbound routes) and for many other things.

      See this link for more details

      http://wiki.fusionpbx.com/index.php/Edit_Config_Files

      No feature is forced upon you if you want to manually manage something and not use the gui for certain tasks then hide it or remove it from the menu. You can even take it a step further and delete the directory of the feature you prefer not to use.

      FusionPBX was designed to be flexible. Want to change the name of something in the menu you can directly from the gui using the menu manager.

      In some ways FusionPBX has even out grown its name. For example some people are using it as a voice switch.


      • Of course, and I met some of the devs in one of the #freepbxv3 rooms once, they seemed like a great bunch. The object of the post was to review FreePBXv3 & FreeSWITCH, not to try and give a comparison between the different GUI’s available for FreeSWITCH. So, that is what I wrote…


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  9. I have been running freeswitch for 2 years on a alix and its rock solid. This software and hardware combination is flawless for a soho or small office of 20 users.


    • Hi Damian,
      That’s good to hear, I did an article a while back with Elastix running on Alix. The hardware is awesome, it’s so small and completely fanless. I tried running the FreePBXv3 GUI on it and I must admit it was a bit slow. Haven’t had a chance to test it thoroughly though, but it’s something I’d like to pursue more actively, hopefully soon. What’s the most concurrent calls you’ve loaded onto the Alix with FreeSWITCH there Damian?


      • FusionPBX will respond fast on an Alix or similar hardware especially if you use an efficient web server such as nginx and sqlite for the database.


      • Yes that’s one thing I did notice, FusionPBX had a *much* quicker and snappier GUI, without a doubt, during my limited trial run-through of it :) I’m still not entirely clear why you’re so active to defend your product on a FreePBXv3 review page, following the logic from your previous comment, would it not be better to contact me, and get me to do a nice review of FusionPBX? After all, this post here is some good 9 months old now …


  10. FusionPBX FTW!

    Awesome GUI, ready for prime time. Picks up the ball where Freeswitch drops it.

    Freeswitch is better than Asterisk, hands down.


  11. Hey Guys. Just wanted to update you on the progress that has been made on the project. They have developed a new version that is under the name blue.box and you can check it out at our new website http://www.2600hz.org/. On a different note, they are also holding a Free SWITCH bootcamp in New York October 13-15. You can use the coupon code “freevoip”


  12. So FreePBXV3 & FusionPBX run on the soft-switch FreeSwitch.

    I’m looking for something for my small business (<10 employees), but I have heard horror stories about open source pbx / asterisk systems crashing. Is it true unless you pay for support, or you are extremely comfortable in configuring telephony systems, you might be headed for lost business?

    The $2k Cudatel server from Barracuda Networks seems reasonable, and perhaps the issue of administering may not be so high? Any other recommendations for a low-cost business voip system?


    • Hi Ben,

      To be honest I wouldn’t go with anything *but* FreeSWITCH or Asterisk. It’s not terribly difficult, and the community support is there too. I would strongly suggest you read Elastix Without Tears. It’s a free PDF download. Do that, and you’ll be more than equipped to do the basics :)


      • Thanks a bunch, that guide looks very good! Incidentally, Elastix is a frontend for Asterisk only correct (not freeswitch)?

        Aside from the obvious hardware needed, like the server to host the pbx/softswitch, and the ip phones for the employees, what’s a good voip service provider?

        I would have been nice to use google voice for everything, since at least for this year, it can call out to u.s. numbers for free, but unfortunately fax and international is needed.


    • Thought you might want to check out a platform built on FreeSwitch. http://www.fusionpbx.com


  13. Hi all!

    Just came across a FREEswitch training that’s happening in New York October 13-15 being taught by one of the authors of the new FREEswitch book. Seems like something work checking out if you want to learn or know more about FREEswitch and from what I understand they’ll be holding more throughout the country. There is a coupon code: “freevoip”


  14. http://freeswitchtraining.eventbrite.com/

    Woops! Forgot the link


  15. Thought everyone might want to check out a platform built on FreeSwitch. http://www.fusionpbx.com



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