[This post originally appeared on http://zimmerontelephony.wordpress.com on April 13th, 2009.]
Most telephony solutions these days rely on expensive hardware to interface with the PSTN or provide VoIP services. Historically, this has been a necessity, but developments in conventional server hardware and software based telephony platforms over the last decade have effectively nullified the need for dedicated, proprietary and above all, expensive telephony hardware.
Companies like Pika, NMS, Aculab, and Dialogic each have a line of server expansion boards that provide an interface to the PSTN as well as provide voice processing resources (known as digital signal processors, or DSPs). These boards, being complex and proprietary are therefore also very expensive. Decade old, refurbished, legacy models of these boards still run over a thousand dollars in the used hardware market, and this for only a single T1 or E1 interface. Newer boards with multiple T1/E1 interfaces or access to VoIP processing run an average of ten thousand dollars and in many cases more. Until recently, this was the price of admission into the computer telephony marketplace, not to mention the development costs for integrating with this technology.