"Distro" in the cloud?

A question for Sangoma management:

For small business or home office, a cloud based system is usually preferable to on-site, because it is more robust. If your internet, power or networking gear fails, the system continues to process calls, forwarding them to staff mobiles and voicemail.

Many users prefer the offerings of Amazon, Google, Microsoft, IBM, etc., because they have expertise with the platform, there is a geographically nearby data center, or they simply feel more comfortable with a large company.

However, none of those systems can boot an ISO directly; the workarounds are complex and beyond the abilities of many. On some, installing an ISO entails first building a ‘boot disk image’ on an external non-cloud system. OTOH, if you simply follow the official instructions for ‘Installing FreePBX X on OS Y’, you get a lame system that lacks many administrative functions and can’t run commercial modules.

So, I’d expect that the work of The AWS/Vultr/Linode/DO cloud distro dude would be welcomed by Sangoma. But @tonyclewis said “You can’t have a Distro install without using the ISO.” and “Well you said it’s a Distro install without using the ISO which would not make it a Distro install and actually violates the Distro ToS you agree to when using it.”

Can you please explain the restriction(s)? There is IMO a huge demand for a system that ‘quacks’ like a Distro and can legally be run. Is there a way to get there?

We also offer an official partnership for FreePBX Distro hosting with freepbxhosting.com.

Thanks for the replies. Here is the dilemma:

A cloud based PBX for a small business must obviously run on a VPS – a dedicated server is simply too expensive. Somewhat oversimplifying, virtualization systems fall into two classes, those that emulate ‘bare metal’ such as KVM, and those that share operating system components such as OpenVZ.

An ISO file such as the FreePBX Distro can be straightforwardly installed on KVM and it will run fine. OTOH, getting it to run on OpenVZ would require significant modification. Systems with shared components have less overhead and can support more users at a given performance level. For example, the same hosting company might offer an OpenVZ server at $10 per month and an equivalent KVM server at $15. If that were the only issue, I’d say “Fine, pay the extra $5 and run the Distro.”

However, most of the large cloud providers offer only a shared component model (proprietary, not OpenVZ). For many applications, there are compelling advantages other than cost, including data centers around the world, first-class reliability, network connectivity and financial stability, ease of creating snapshots, image backups, clone systems, etc. And, if the user is already a customer of one of these platforms and has related expertise, it’s the obvious home for his PBX.

So, is it possible to legally run FreePBX, including the modules included with the Distro and capable of installing commercial modules, on a shared component server? The Distro ToS says “The FreePBX Distro is a complete ISO or USB or bash script installer that installs …” Is there actually a bash script installer? If so, how can one obtain it? ToS also says “Modifying the FreePBX Distro to work on other environments, such as VPS containers, is an explicit violation of these Terms of Service.” Would you consider a properly designed script (that reads the mounted .iso file, basically ignoring the OS installation and processing the other packages) to be in compliance? If not, is there a legal way to build a non-Distro FreePBX installation that can run commercial modules?

Just a pragmatic observance, FreePBX post 13 without UCP will happily run on a $5 , 1Gb instance for quite a few dozen endpoints or more, if you add the js UCP component you will feel your toes being squeezed in that environment, I don’t see adding cpu’s as particularly pertinent either way . Containers of any flavor might save you a buck, but they will kick you in the butt in many ways you will later discover.


Instance of what? Is this a Distro install? If not, can it run commercial modules? Are sysadmin, firewall, etc. (modules part of the Distro but not open source) included?

Yes , either as an iso install or a roll your own, the resource pig is the javascript/ucp/nodejs code if you don’t need it then delete it. If you need it add another $5 bucks a month.

Using which cloud provider?

Any, VULTR works for me with as many as 100 endpoints with faxing hundreds of pages a day (bloody doctors offices :slight_smile: )

No we have no such bash installer. Years and years ago we did but it created to many issues with people with there base OS having packages and things installed we were not expecting or versions of pacakages newer or older then we tested or expected and creating problems.

As far as commercial modules you can only use them on our Distro. Using them on your own roll you are on your own and we don’t provide any support or assistance on it.

OK, does that mean that you do not want systems with commercial modules running on Amazon, Google, IBM, Microsoft or any other cloud provider that does not support booting from an ISO? Or, could a new carefully designed install script get it running without violating the ToS?

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No, I don’t think it means that at all. What is means is that the commercial modules were design and built under a specific environment with specific libraries, modules, etc. Not to meantion specific versions of them all. Then there is the fact that the commercial modules are encode with Zen Guard which requires them to not only be encoded to a specific version of PHP but the OS as well.

This would require the modules to be encoded for each OS someone would want to install on FreePBX. This would mean each module would have to be tested/written to support each OS and hopefully each OS supports the libraries, modules, etc needed for the commercial module to work properly.

For the most part doing a manual install on CentOS/RHEL can allow you to install what is needed to use commercial modules but they still remain unsupported because there is no guarantee that you will have all the needed dependencies to run the module properly. Due to them being commercial, they are closed source (pretty much) so we have no idea what is actually being used, called on, etc to even attempt to add all those needed things to install instructions.

This goes back to my post about support in the Yealink thread. It’s a waste of resources and time on both sides (user/Sangoma) to support the modules on non-Distro installs. Even if it was as simple as “Install X and configure A, B, C” and could be done in 10 minutes to make the module work flawlessly, Sangoma can’t tell you those things. That would be divulging protected proprietary information. That would be a no-no.

So this has nothing to do with not running on Amazon, Google, IBM, Microsoft, etc. If they supported loading your own ISO’s onto their VMs this wouldn’t be a conversation, would it?

We wont stop you from running them on non Distro systems as stated above we won’t provide support or assistance and we have no plans at this time to support installs on those providers. We have our own cloud.pbxact.com for PBXact customers and we have a partnership with a hosting provider for FreePBXhosting.com. Please stop asking me the same thing over and over but with different wording. This is our stance at this time and has been for years.


@tonyclewis , @BlazeStudios , thanks for the replies.

I understand, but would you be receptive to this feature request? Provide a shell script installer that operates only with a specific major cloud provider, e.g. AWS and with a specific base image, e.g. “CentOS 7”. The user would be required to create a new instance from the designated machine image, download the install script and run it without changing any packages or configuration files. I’d expect that to be a pretty stable target. Although conceivable, it seems very unlikely that newer versions of e.g. grep or sed would break your script. The complex packages where changes are likely to cause trouble are simply not present in these “minimal” images. The result of this installation would be a valid Distro eligible for commercial support.

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