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Interview: Chris Lyman of Fonality

Fonality started in 2003 as a residential VoIP provider. As its business grew, the company went shopping for an enterprise PBX system -- and came back with a serious case of sticker shock.

Luckily, said Chris Lyman, Fonality's founder and CEO, the company discovered Asterisk -- along with a promising new business opportunity. The company's management, Lyman stated, decided to "make this open-source project into a product -- meaning stable, easy-to-use, and feature-rich. We changed the focus of our company in 2004. Now, two years and over 1,000 customers later, we have a heck of a business on our hands."

Lyman spoke with TechWeb about Asterisk's impact on the enterprise PBX market and about the challenges Fonality faced turning a relatively unproven, open-source application into a product capable of competing in one of the IT industry's most demanding, expensive, and traditionally highly proprietary market segments.

TechWeb: What do you think has been the appeal of Asterisk? Why has it done so well in the PBX market?

Lyman: In short, it's cheap. The PBX industry is a big one -- over $6 billion in the U.S. alone. Traditionally, this industry has made its living by gouging businesses on the purchase of a new phone system, typically costing between $1,000 and $5,000 per employee. Asterisk has changed the price dynamics of the PBX industry forever.

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