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Open Xchange Server Source-code Released 94

d3vi1 writes "Netline, the main developer of Open-Xchange, has just released the GPL licenced version to the masses. The product is mostly known by users because of SuSE's Open-Xchange Server, a product started from "comFire Groupware". Open-Xchange is a groupware suite with WebDAV interface (XML), LDAP, iCal and HTTP(S) support. An Evolution plugin is on the way."
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Open Xchange Server Source-code Released

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  • Very ncie, but ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sonic McTails ( 700139 ) on Monday August 30, 2004 @09:29AM (#10108580)
    Open-Xchange is a very promising M$ Exchange replacement, but until they have an upgrade path from Exchange, we can't upgrade. If programs to convert away from Exchange were to exist, it would break our M$ lockin here.
    • by Micah ( 278 ) on Monday August 30, 2004 @10:01AM (#10108804) Homepage Journal
      That might be the same with my organization, although Exchange (5.5) is only used in one location.

      There's also Bynari Insight Server which has a somewhat impressive feature list [bynari.net], including an Exchange migration tool. We're testing it now. I would be interested in knowing if anyone here uses that.
      • by KodaK ( 5477 )
        We've been using it for two years and are happy with it. If you're interested in further discussion, feel free to email.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        You know I've been wondering this ever since the whole "lets replace Exchange" movement started. What is so unique about exchange that no one else (commercial or otherwise) has come out with a viable replacement? And no I don't consider "lockin" unique.
        • >>> You know I've been wondering this ever since the whole "lets replace Exchange" movement started. What is so unique about exchange that no one else (commercial or otherwise) has come out with a viable replacement? And no I don't consider "lockin" unique.

          Very good question. It's highly pathetic IMHO. I keep hearing about organization after organization switching to Exchange, despite the fact that it's by far the most expensive available (my organization did a cost study on several different gr
          • Very good question. It's highly pathetic IMHO. I keep hearing about organization after organization switching to Exchange, despite the fact that it's by far the most expensive available (my organization did a cost study on several different groupware/mail products, and we found that Exchange cost TEN TIMES what Bynari Insight would cost, and significantly more than the second most expensive) and a standards-non-compliance nightmare.

            Have you really gone through and looked at what you get when you go the whole Exchange route vs. what else is out there? Microsoft pricing and security aside for the moment (yes, it sucks. That's a given. No arguments.) the equivalent you get in the Open Source world for Exchange is...

            SMTP server
            NNTP server
            LDAP server
            IMAP server
            POP server
            HTTP server
            Database Server
            MS-Specific (MAPI) server

            This is all the back-end stuff that has nothing to do with Outlook. In addition, all of the various servers act well distributed and use the ldap server for central authentication for all users. The database server currently doesn't do replication for individual mailboxes but does for the NNTP portion. The SMTP server uses the LDAP server to reference valid mailbox addresses and
            the specific database server users's mailboxes reside on. The MAPI, POP and IMAP servers all use LDAP to reference where the specific database server user's mailboxes reside on. They also use LDAP for authentication.

            (This is why you can use IMAP [which is still supported half-assed in Exchange 2003] or POP with any client - and the http stuff with any modern web client)

            Then let's add the Outlook client. This builds the calendaring into the picture. Server-side everyone's scheduling information is stored in a newsgroup and an entry in the database. When building a new meeting, the client queries the newsgroup to see if time is clear or not (to allow checking to see if everyone is free) and then sends the meeting info out to the various invites.
            Oh - and the client also allows setting up for viewing other's calendars and administrative assistants can handle their bosses' mail and calendaring functions through the client without having to lose their own stuff or log in as their boss. And I haven't touched a lot of the other server-side stuff and how 3rd parties have built tools around it.

            Consider the complexity of mail and groupware. It can't be squat compared to, say, the Linux Kernel. So why is it so evasive?

            Ease of use. Ease to support. Interoperability. Support of just about any mail client. Ties to make the functions that are not mail-specific work even with non-MS mail clients. (link on meeting invite to the web based item for completion)

            These are just a few of the reasons why organizations go this route and it has nothing to do with being in Microsoft's pocket to begin with. And it doesn't include things like tying your voice mail into your inbox so that it is available via your wireless device, your phone or your e-mail client.. or being able to schedule multi-user conference calls that update calendars and send out notifications or.. .. :)

            The open source packages that are available today do not have the level of integration or functionality that is offered via Exchange to an organization. Once the above si working fairly seamlessly as an integrated package that could be deployed - then a true challenge to Exchange would exist - for now it isn't there.

        • by killjoe ( 766577 ) on Monday August 30, 2004 @04:45PM (#10112554)
          In actuality exchange does not do much. It's outlook that does all the heavy lifting.

          If you want to replace exchange look to replace outlook first.
        • This is were brand recognition gets you sales. Especially the top people in organisations love Outlook because it syncs with their expensive phones/pdas. So when the CEO asks the head of IT "why aren't we using outlook" guess what the result is.

          It is the same with MP3 players. Look at the thousands of MP3 players out there and then look at the number of people with iPods. Ask people (non geeks) about MP3 players and most people will nearly always say 'oh you mean an iPod'.
      • by sw155kn1f3 ( 600118 ) on Monday August 30, 2004 @02:14PM (#10111149)
        CommuniGate Pro [stalker.com] is an exchange replacement too
    • by Micah ( 278 ) on Monday August 30, 2004 @10:07AM (#10108851) Homepage Journal
      A migration tool for openxchange that supports MS Exchange! [binarytree.com] It's commercial, but if you're already using Exchange, that shouldn't be TOO big a turn off. It might only support the commercial version of OpenXchange, not sure about that.
    • EXMERGE (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      export your stuff to psts, then import it to your (imap) mailbox. i still wouldn't use the product though.
    • I think it is a good idea to always explore alternatives.. the integration with outlook and exchange are what keeps these products ahead.. that and Outlook Web is probably the best webmail interface out there (even if mainly ie)...

      It's nice to see someone offer an F/OSS alternative, now to get it up to par with exchange.
    • business opportunity (Score:4, Informative)

      by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Monday August 30, 2004 @12:21PM (#10110069) Homepage Journal
      The "outlook" ;) for upgrades is less daunting. There is an upgrade *path*, though it's not as automated as we'd like. Publishing and supporting a migration tool sounds like a good way to make a living, capitalizing on the migration from Exchange to Open-Xchange. Especially if it were a plugin installed when O-X is installed, which led the installer through the upgrade path with data import and a tutorial. A "Call for Help" button connected to a live support desk could also clock some ducats, while ensuring a graceful migration. Corporate IT departments love that kind of organizational reliability when risking any platform change.
    • by tzanger ( 1575 ) on Monday August 30, 2004 @12:30PM (#10110149) Homepage

      Meh. This is why I'm putting my money and energy into Exchange4Linux [exchange4linux.org] -- it's a MUCH better Exchange Server replacement than anything else I've tried, and that includes SLOX, Bynari, OGO, Kroupware, Samsung Contact and whatever else I've forgotten. Server is free and totally open-source (written in Python) and runs Postgres for the backend. Outlook connectors are reasonably priced, too.

      You have no idea how wonderful it is to just drag and drop the user's store into E4L and then be able to use straight SQL to pull data out. I haven't yet tried inserting data but it looks to be just as straightforward. And no goofy-ass web-based crap is involved. :-)

    • Depending on the size of your organization, Nitix http://www.net-itech.com/ [net-itech.com] offers ExchangeIT with it's servers, but it doesn't seem to scale too well past 150 users. It's been tested and works very well. It does the conversion over for you. Your current Exchange users shouldn't notice anything.
    • by dbIII ( 701233 )

      very promising M$ Exchange replacement,

      There's always the option of upgrading Exchange to conventional standards compliant email - but that is difficult and painful because of the lock in to the wierd undocumented MS Exchange way of doing things - plus the tendancy of users to use Outlook for everything and put the only copies of critical company information into those nasty PST files (somehow got it out of there and into clearquest, and from there to anywhere).

      With every other mail server on the planet it

    • Couldn't Microsoft 'Test', or 'Windows Scripting' software 'scrape' the information from its Exchange product?

      I haven't looked at the ' Open-Xchange' product yet, does it have an 'import' option?
  • by wonkavader ( 605434 ) on Monday August 30, 2004 @09:37AM (#10108625)
    Before spending any time on this guy (as a corporate head, anyhow) I need to know how well it works with outlook. To wit: I need to know that the company users won't know the difference -- that they won't have a clue that anything has changed.

    If that's the case, I'd be a bug on the ass of my LAN manager to convert us immediately, and he'd probably jump at it.
    • Or at least a good Evolution Windows port.
      • Corporate users will almost certainly notice a replacement of their Outlook with *any* Evolution port. Even if it's better - that's just more of a difference. The most important consideration in corporate desktop upgrades is that users not spend *any* time coping with the change, as that's work not producing the product or service that is the company's actual business. And any noticeable change adds to training time, and all that adds to the risk that the users won't successfully cope, and that is an unreco
    • I have recently begun using a Linux PC in my office, and am using Mandrake 9.1, OpenOffice, and Evolution. There are a couple of things that Outlook has that Evolution does not (at least my version of it -- 1.4.6), but overall I have been very pleased. What is it that holds you back from using Evolution instead of Outlook?

    • I completely agree. If this supported Outlook I could begin planning a migration today. I've gotten many people to move away from IE to Firefox, but I just don't see being able to get people to move from Outlook to Mozilla.
    • by wonkavader ( 605434 ) on Monday August 30, 2004 @10:27AM (#10109015)
      I should be more clear -- I use Evolution. But all the drones in the office use Windows desktops and Outlook.

      Outlook bonds with Exchange (which we also use -- a slightly older version which works poorly with Evolution's calendaring) so that we cannot leave Outlook, and therefore cannot leave Windows. If we can get a work-alike for Exchange, we can slowly move people into a hetrogeneous (or even completely non-Windows) evironment.

      We COULD upgrade our Exchange to allow Evolution to be more of a replacement for Outlook than it is, but that means spending money on a service, and our uppers would, after that, be unwilling to let us scrap it.

      The optimal path would be to replace the Exchange server with something that plays well with Outlook, then migrate our people to Linux desktop, where those people don't need Windows speghettified apps.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        To make it transparent to Outlook users, you would need a set of MAPI service provider DLLs for Open-Xchange, just like what Lotus did for its Domino Server (http://www-306.ibm.com/software/lotus/products/ac cessoutlook/).

        Anybody know of any MAPI service provider development project for Open-Xchange?

      • Sun has an exchange replacement, which specifically works with the older versions, and has been pushing it as it's easier and cheaper to migrate to than the new exchange (:-))

        --dave

      • Evolution to be more of a replacement for Outlook
        Evolution IMHO is a step backwards, going through its Outlook style GUI I couldn't even find where it put its files after it mangled some messages. Why do we have to do a copy of the worst MS programs we can find?

        I suspect the future is not MS Outlook or evolution, but webmail that will work on telephones - just like what some people have been using for a while.

    • We've been using SuSE's SLOX for a while and while Outlook connectors exists (OSLOX, ISLOX), they are basically syncing tools. It would be a semi-transparent cutover, but I don't think this newly GPLd groupware (similar, but different) supports such a connector....
    • Danger, Danger! (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      You know what will happen, don't you? You will replace Exchange on the backend. Your replacement will interface with Outlook like shit on a stick. Everyone will be happy, birds will be singing, small animals will skip and play in the sunny meadow.

      Then Microsoft will upgrade their Office Suite. Your PHB will insist on upgrading. And suddenly the clouds roll in. It just won't work right anymore. And who's to blame? Microsoft? Nah, they're just being a good little feudal kingdom, and behaving in the
  • Whoa! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by 4of12 ( 97621 ) on Monday August 30, 2004 @09:43AM (#10108658) Homepage Journal

    With Evolution, Connector and now Open Exchange the barriers to interoperability are breaking down.

    Microsoft made a deft move by bundling together database and mail server technologies for Exchange (Outlook/Exchange gets used heavily at MyCorp).

    It's good to see some opens source alternatives become available, not least because of the competitive pricing pressure it will put on those heavily used products.

  • by a.koepke ( 688359 ) on Monday August 30, 2004 @10:40AM (#10109121)
    This product sounds good but out of personal experience it leaves quite a bit to be desired.

    We recently installed this and tried using it in our office and found it to be very buggy and unstable. The first version we installed, 4.0, wouldn't even create user accounts properly. It would screw up the samba each time it tried to create the account.

    The whole fact that it uses IMAP for its email made it clumsy to use in Outlook as you had your personal folders and then also had your IMAP folders and then also had your SLOX folders. Was quite confusing for most of the users. Also the calendar sharing wasn't that well designed at all. The user was forced to have two calendars, one in public folders and their own one. There was no way to share your normal calendar around the network.

    SuSE have a good product here but it is still far from a proper Exchange replacement. We ended up sending the software back and getting Exchange instead.
    • by mandreiana ( 591979 ) on Monday August 30, 2004 @11:00AM (#10109281) Homepage
      Try OpenGroupware [opengroupware.org], it doesn't have these problems (except IMAP email, for which it has a simple web client). I recently had to compare them both for a company and OpenGroupware was better in terms of stability, implementation and community.

      It misses Knowledge Management (but has already a bugzilla request) and forum. OX's KM module wasn't very useful though compared with OGO's request.

      The only drawback we saw for OGO it's the language - Objective C, but it has a nice way to use xml-rpc requests so we can add java or php functionality over it (forum, if needed). OX it's a mix of Java, perl and C.

    • Isn't that the whole point of OpenSource? Expose your bugs to the world and let them help you fix them.

      It may not be ready for prime time today, but in 6 months or so I bet it is. This is the most needed FOSS project yet (IMHO). Anything that keeps me from having to maintane an Exchange server is awesome in book.
  • by Micah ( 278 ) on Monday August 30, 2004 @10:50AM (#10109193) Homepage Journal
    Just took a look at some of the code. Comments are in German! Not that there's anything wrong with German, but that might limit North American involvement in development.....

    Other than that, the code seems organized well, from a quick glance.
    • Not a problem really, babelfish is your friend here. I recently worked on some code written by Germans and it went pretty well. Sure the translations come out a bit funny sometimes, and there may be slang which babel does not understand, but hey, geeks like learning new languages right?

      We'd better get used to it, more and more software is being written outside the English speaking world (it always was but open source brings it to ya). Just think how anoying writing C is for Germans, all the keywords are En
      • The comments are even funny if they are not translated by babelfish... well, let's say that sometimes you get an idea of personal animosities in the team when you look at certain variable names and comments. Rough translation: "String bennyshugestinkingpileofshit = ..."

        By the way, I really prefer English keywords because mostly they are shorter than their german translations.
  • We need a standard. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by IGnatius T Foobar ( 4328 ) on Monday August 30, 2004 @11:54AM (#10109765) Homepage Journal
    All these different projects trying to come up with an end-to-end solution, and none of them really getting anywhere. We need a standard.

    A few months ago, the folks at the Citadel [citadel.org] project took notice of the specs for the Kolab [kolab.org] project, and began promoting its storage and network formats as a proposed standard [citadel.org] for open source groupware. It was a nice, simple, elegant design, using vCard and vCalendar formats. Others shared the same view: for example, the Aethera [thekompany.com] people joined in, and made their client Kolab-compatible. We at the Citadel project made our server Kolab-compatible. This was shaping up to be something good.

    So what did the Kolab people do? They designed "Kolab 2" which uses data formats that are neither forward nor backward compatible with Kolab 1. They completely disregarded not only their installed base, but other projects that were working towards compatibility. The new format is proprietary (documented and unencumbered, but proprietary) and gratuitously abuses XML instead of following the industry-standard vCard and vCalendar formats.

    The Aethera and Citadel projects are currently in discussions to work together to create a true. open, standards-compliant, cross-platform, end-to-end groupware solution. We invite others to participate as well -- we won't ignore you the way the Kolab people have.

    As for OpenXchange? As others have suggested, this is really just a couple of bells and whistles glued onto someone else's IMAP server. It's not really a true solution.
    • Need some info (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Can you please back this up with links to discussions you have had with Kolab project? Specifically where you noted on the mailing lists that you had started working on their format with a 3rd party and wanted to keep synce with Kolab? Did they not inform you then what plans were? I find it very hard to believe that once told that two other OSS projets wanted to work with them that they just ignored you or didn't advise on the new changes to come.

      Also since you just noticed the specs a few months ago it
  • Free/Cheap Host (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FU_Fish ( 140910 ) on Monday August 30, 2004 @01:21PM (#10110619) Homepage
    I'm still looking for a free/cheap host for these servers. I can sync bookmarks and calendar via webdav from a free/cheap web host, but I can't find anyone that provides ldap, so the only way I can sync my contacts between home and work is to run my own ldap server. Does anyone know of a place providing ldap/open exchange services to the public?
  • What baffles me... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sw155kn1f3 ( 600118 ) on Monday August 30, 2004 @02:34PM (#10111357)
    Is why we didn't get some open source Outlook Connector yet. Some companies (OpenExchange) won't even provide an eval of the connector to see if it really works in Outlook.
    Bynari - too buggy.
    SLOX - not tried yet.
    We ended up using CommuniGate Pro from stalker.com.
    I don't like it.. server is too closed source and inflexible.
    BUT it has _excellent_ OL interoperability... My boss just forced me to use it because of this.

    When we'll see some open source or at least free Outlook Connector to these exch-replacing systems, we effectively killed exchange.
  • I'm curious if Apple could port this to compile on Darwin and then include it in the XServe offering as a email server application... if so they would do an awesome job of re-outfitting it with a great front end for admins... and since XServe can be purchased with unlimited seat license it would be a serious conversion tool both to XServe for email as well as away from Windows Desktops.
  • Does OpenExchange run on any open source Java implementation (gcj, Kaffe, etc.)? If not, you have an open source project running on a closed-source runtime only--less than ideal.
  • by darnok ( 650458 ) on Monday August 30, 2004 @06:19PM (#10113154)
    Does anyone know of a reasonably objective review of MS Exchange/Outlook replacements, running on Linux/BSD? I'm looking for categories such as:
    - feature list compared with Exchange / Outlook (calendar, public folders)
    - plays well with Outlook (many sites just want to replace Exchange, but still use Outlook)

    I've got several small business customers who are well informed and don't want to get caught up in MS dependency. They're either running demo Exchange (with the built in time bomb), or an email-only server and wishing they had calendaring. In general, they'd prefer to use Outlook as long as they have the ability to dump it and replace it with something else with little / no business impact.

    Any pointers / URLs?
  • Why isn't their a Win32 port of Evolution?
  • There is also Scalix [scalix.com], which does have a migration tool from Exchange, and can also live side-by-side with Exchange servers, making a migration easier. It's not Open Source, but it's an easier migration path than other commercial (and Open Source) options for those looking to get away from Exchange.
  • If someone is interested in creating a list/feature overview of opensource groupware with me, please mail me (adress in my journal).

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