What is Asterisk?
Asterisk is an open source framework for building communications applications. Asterisk turns an ordinary computer into a communications server. Asterisk powers IP PBX systems, VoIP gateways, conference servers and other custom solutions. It is used by small businesses, large businesses, call centers, carriers and government agencies, worldwide. Asterisk is free and open source. Asterisk is sponsored by Digium.
Today, there are more than one million Asterisk-based communications systems in use, in more than 170 countries. Asterisk is used by almost the entire Fortune 1000 list of customers. Most often deployed by system integrators and developers, Asterisk can become the basis for a complete business phone system, or used to enhance or extend an existing system, or to bridge a gap between systems.
Where Did It Come From?
The Asterisk project started in 1999 when Mark Spencer released the initial code under the GPL open source license. Since that time, it has been enhanced and tested by a global community of thousands. Today, Asterisk is maintained by the combined efforts of Digium and the Asterisk community.
What Can You Do With Asterisk?
Asterisk is a framework for building multi-protocol, real-time communications applications and solutions. Asterisk is to realtime voice and video applications as what Apache is to web applications: the underlying platform. Asterisk abstracts the complexities of communications protocols and technologies, allowing you to concentrate on creating innovative products and solutions.
You can use Asterisk to build communications applications, things like business phone systems (also known as PBXs), call distributors, VoIP gateways and conference bridges. Asterisk includes both low and high-level components that significantly simplify the process of building these complex applications. See the Asterisk Applications section for more examples.
What Makes Asterisk Different?
Asterisk is open source, which means you can get under the hood, see how it works and make any changes or enhancements you like. Asterisk is flexible and lets you define the solution that truly fits your requirements. Asterisk is stable, reliable and in production on thousands of systems worldwide. Asterisk is free to use.
What Do I Need To Know To Use Asterisk?
It depends. The Asterisk framework itself is built by developers for developers. If you want to create applications and solutions with Asterisk you will need a working knowledge of Linux, script programming, networking and telephony.
If you're not a developer, you can still take advantage of the power of Asterisk by using pre-packaged solutions built on Asterisk, or by working with an Asterisk integrator or consultant. For a comprehensive list of pre-built solutions, see the AsteriskExchange community marketplace.
If you want to get started building products or solutions with Asterisk, here are a few steps that should help:
- Watch Say Hello to Asterisk for a good, general introduction to the project
- Work through the Getting Started wiki pages to learn about some Asterisk basics
- Read Asterisk: The Definitive Guide the comprehensive manual from O'Reilly Press
- Take the Asterisk Essentials online training course
- Attend one of Digium's live, instructor led Asterisk classes