Memo to Asterisk PCI Card Manufacturers: Please Build This!

December 4, 2008 by Garrett Smith

Here at VoIPSupply, one of the least fun parts of our job is managing the literally thousands of individual product SKU’s, collectively, from PCI card hardware manufacturers including Digium, Sangoma and Rhino Equipment.

Take, for example, the Digium TDM2400P Series….a full length PCI card that can be populated with FXS or FXO resource modules, up to a total of (24) ports. Also comes with optional echo cancellation. This single product series contains 60+ SKU/Manufacturer Part # variations, depending upon the specific combination of FXS and FXO ports, and whether or not the Echo cancellation module is included.

With all of these SKU’s, it gets confusing for everyone, especially the customer.

I don’t intend to single out Digium with this little rant. Sangoma and Rhino, who both compete with Digium in the Digital/Analog TDM hardware marketplace, all suffer from “Superfluous SKU Syndrome”.

I won’t pretend to know more than I do about the actual engineering science, manufacturing and embedded systems know-how involved in producing these products, but it seems to me there is a simpler approach.

Why not manufacture a single, full length analog card…which provides a full 24 ports of FXS/FXO connectivity in a single card, and includes Echo cancellation as a standard feature.

Next, add the full complement of pre-populated FXS and FXO hardware resources, such that the card can be jumpered or software configured for FXS/FXO functionality on an individual, “Port by Port” basis.

Voila….we have a single card (albeit an expensive one, considering the hardware resources it contains), that can provide any combination of FXS and FXO resources up to 24 total ports. If you want 24 FXS ports, you can quick jumper or software configure the card for that configuration. Need 7 FXO ports and 17 FXS ports, reconfigure the card on the fly.

If you want any configuration of FXS and FXO, you can set the card up in minutes for your specific application. No need to break out your Dick Tracy decoder ring and decipher the specific model number of the card you currently need, double check it, order it, and hope your reseller ships you the correct model.

You tell me….I think people would be willing to pay a premium for a flexible product like this. You create a tremendous value proposition and you drastically extend the products’ useful lifespan by allowing it to be re-configured for different deployment scenarios. You get to call yourself a “Green” company by cutting down on production materials and facilitate a slimmer, trimmer carbon footprint. BEST OF ALL….You save a product manager from going completely gray headed at 35 years of age.

More from: Asterisk Garrett Smith


1 Comment

  • roderickm

    When I visit my favorite online t-shirt seller Threadless.com, they offer each t-shirt design in a variety of sizes, colors, and types (guys tee, girly tee, hoody, etc). They helpfully group the options together on one page to show all the configurations available for that design, while showing the variation in pricing and inventory/availability.

    You might consider the same for your online store, grouping the combinations in a condensed, easy-to-understand way. Perhaps a dropbox for the 28 FXO/FXS choices and a checkbox for whether to include hardware echo cancellation. That would reduce 56 SKUs to one sales page for the PCI cards, and you might do the same for the PCIe base card, the AEX2400.

    You mentioned environmental concerns — building a card that included twice the number of ports required (just in case a customer wants to change all their FXO ports to FXS) is wasteful by definition… and more expensive for everyone involved. If given the choice between an all-FXO card and a switchable FXO/FXS card that cost say, 65-85% more, how many customers would pay the premium?

    It’s actually very “green” to offer 112 different configurations with just five parts: PCI base card, PCIe base card, echo cancelling DSP module, 4-port FXO module, and 4-port FXS module.

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