A Primer to AGI: Asterisk Gateway Interface

2 min read

How does AGI work

Let’s examine the following diagram:

A Primer to AGI: Asterisk Gateway Interface

As the previous diagram illustrates, an AGI script communicates with Asterisk via two standard data streams—STDIN (Standard Input) and STDOUT (Standard Output). From the AGI script point-of-view, any input coming in from Asterisk would be considered STDIN, while output to Asterisk would be considered as STDOUT.

The idea of using STDIN/STDOUT data streams with applications isn’t a new one, even if you’re a junior level programmer. Think of it as regarding any input from Asterisk with a read directive and outputting to Asterisk with a print or echo directive. When thinking about it in such a simplistic manner, it is clear that AGI scripts can be written in any scripting or programming language, ranging from BASH scripting, through PERL/PHP scripting, to even writing C/C++ programs to perform the same task.

Let’s now examine how an AGI script is invoked from within the Asterisk dialplan:

exten => _X.,1,AGI(some_script_name.agi,param1,param2,param3)

As you can see, the invocation is similar to the invocation of any other Asterisk dialplan application. However, there is one major difference between a regular dialplan application and an AGI script—the resources an AGI script consumes.While an internal application consumes a well-known set of resources from Asterisk, an AGI script simply hands over the control to an external process. Thus, the resources required to execute the external AGI script are now unknown, while at the same time, Asterisk consumes the resources for managing the execution of the AGI script.Ok, so BASH isn’t much of a resource hog, but what about Java? This means that the choice of programming language for your AGI scripts is important. Choosing the wrong programming language can often lead to slow systems and in most cases, non-operational systems.

While one may argue that the underlying programming language has a direct impact on the performance of your AGI application, it is imperative to learn the impact of each. To be more exact, it’s not the language itself, but more the technology of the programming language runtime that is important. The following table tries to distinguish between three programming languages’ families and their applicability to AGI development.


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