Open Source Controls 18% of PBX Market

In a finding that will surprise many suppliers of traditional telephony gear and services, a research firm has concluded that open-source systems make up nearly one-fifth of all sales of enterprise PBXs.

“We conclude that in 2008, 2.86 million open source PBX end points were installed,” wrote John Malone, CEO of telecom consultancy Eastern Management Group in an article summarizing the report findings on No Jitter. “The total market was 15.88 million lines, giving Open Source PBXs an 18% share.”

Entitled “The Market for Open Source PBXs,” the study is based on three surveys: one of 6,734 IT executives, one of open-source PBX vendors, and the third of 100 telecom resellers.

“A market shift is underway, and has been since Open Source PBXs arrived,” the report concluded. “Traditional telephone system manufacturers are now, largely unknowingly, competing for a bigger share of a shrinking market.”

Besides the sheer size of the market for phone systems based on open-source software, several points from the report stand out:

  • Open source accounts for a larger slice of the market than any single vendor of conventional PBXs. “Nortel (NT), the largest manufacturer of conventional business telephone systems, lagged Open Source by 8%, having sold 2.63 million lines,” the study reported.
  • Size and scale are not deterrents to adopting open source. “The size of a company does not bear on whether it uses an Open Source PBX to handle business communications,” Malone wrote. “Hundreds of companies we surveyed have more than 1,000 employees. Dozens have more than 20,000.”
  • Few traditional vendors are fully aware of the threat from open source PBXs. “We came across no traditional PBX manufacturer that knew open source is 18% of the total market. And it’s growing.”

The most widely used open source PBX is Asterisk, primarily driven and supplied by Digium. Alternatives include CallWeaver, FreeSWITCH, and sipX/sipXecs.

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