Saturday, 3 March 2012

Investigating Asterisk 1.8 and Apstel DialPlan Pro

This last week apart from the usual "day job" at News Int, I've been looking at Asterisk 1.8 and Apstel's DialPlan Pro. I took a look at this a little while back before it was quite as mature as it is now. I'm very impressed with the ease of creating dial plan logic and its ability to recognise the different flavours of Asterisk addons you may be running - such as Trixbox, AsteriskNOW or PIAF for example (FreePBX).

I opted for a Native install of Asterisk 1.8 on 64 bit Centos 6.2:
Asterisk built by root @ apstelasterisk on a x86_64 running Linux on 2012-01-28 23:19:09 UTC

I've favoured Centos for my server builds for some time now and built a successful Asterisk and SER hosted telephony platform back in 2004/5 based on Asterisk 1.2 code using Centos 4 back then. I've swung to Ubuntu for my desktop builds and like many don't find the latest Unity interface to my liking so these days my desktop is Mint or XUbuntu, and of course my now constant OSX Lion desktop on my Mac Mini.

Back to the current project, I've got a customer who wants to built a telephony platform for a large-ish volume of callers who will be required to complete automated surveys (IVR) and both the survey results and in a number of the calls recorded feedback from the caller. There will be a fair number of prompts to record and playback too, with the Initial system starting with a single PRI (E1) worth of calls, and the platform requirement scaling to up to 8E1 of traffic. The customer needs to be a self sufficient as possible, building their own dialplans and IVR logic Apstel's Dialplan Profession and Integration Server is perfect for this.

Whilst Apstel's GUI hides the complexity and errors that can creep in to an Asterisk dial plan built using text editor, it can also lull the user in to a false sense of perspective of what is actually happing within Asterisk. This means that whilst Apstel's Visual Dial Plan Pro (VDP) application is a great tool, it is not a substitute for knowing how the Asterisk dial plan works. If fact you can end up with some very ugly and inefficient dial plans if you're not careful.

Using Apstel VDP, you still need to plan your dial plan and carefully understand your requirements and what you want to achieve before building the dial plan logic. Next time I'll take a look at VDP and go through the settings and some screen shots of how this application interfaces with Asterisk.