The heart and soul of a business telephone system-at least until now-has been the PBX. These hardware and/or software devices are changing rapidly, however: They increasingly are IP-based, moving from the premise to the cloud and in other ways evolving as conditions change.
It hasn't been smooth sailing. The Dell'Oro Group released a report this week that said the PBX market revenue declined in the first quarter of this year compared to the fourth quarter of 2009. However, the study said that line shipments will rebound. Revenues will suffer because the strength will be in Europe and a weak euro will drive the total down.
It's too bad that the release doesn't discuss why line shipments are on the upswing, and it didn't make a distinction between IP and analog PBXes. The report does say that vendors are migrating to VoIP and that eight vendors (Aastra, Alcatel-Lucent, Avaya, Cisco, Mitel, NEC, Shoretel and Siemens) accounted for 80 percent of the shipments during the first quarter. Some of the advantages of IP PBXes are offered in the piece at 3CX.
Clearly, the world of PBXes is changing rapidly-even beyond the transition from analog to IP. One change is where the PBX actually is. This TMCnet story by Paula Bernier starts by making the point that cloud-based hosted PBXes are more common for smaller companies, while larger entities still lean toward on-premise gear. At the same time, however, the two offerings are converging a bit.
Another big change-and something that isn't good news for the overall PBX category-is the expected release of Office Communications Server 14 during the second half of the year. Bernier explains that it provides a good deal of unified communications functionality to Microsoft Office, SharePoint and Exchange and works with existing PBXes. However, it also can make do without a PBX altogether.
This article is good background for two reasons. It starts out by giving a clear and jargon-free definition of a PBX that can be sent to executives who ultimately are called on to make key decisions. The writer than lists the 10 leading open source IP PBXes. They are Asterisk, sipX, Elastix, FreeSwitch, OpenPBX, CallButler, VoicePulse VoIP Service, CoreDial VoiceAxis 3.0, Digium Switchvox SMB 4.5 and Fonality trixbox Pro.
Microsoft's advances notwithstanding, PBXes will be with us over the long haul. It is interesting to watch them and the systems into which they are used evolve as the needs of users and other capabilities of the network change.