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Drop-In Replacement For Exchange Now Open Source 434

Fjan11 writes "Over 150 man-years of work were added to the Open Source community today when Zarafa decided to put their successful Exchange server replacement under GPLv3. This is not just the typical mail-server-that-works-with-Outlook, it is the whole package — including 100% MAPI, web access, tasks, iCal and Activesync. (The native syncing works great with my iPhone!) Binaries and source are available for all major Linux distros."
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Drop-In Replacement For Exchange Now Open Source

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  • by jd ( 1658 ) <imipak.yahoo@com> on Friday September 19, 2008 @05:46PM (#25078689) Homepage Journal
    I seem to remember ogo being a full replacement and that's been out for a while. Also, although you want to provide compatibility with Exchange, don't you want to provide additional capabilities so that Exchange systems are forced to upgrade to you, rather than the other way round? (Embrace-and-extend, but non-toxic.)
  • Patent encumbered? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by timotten ( 5411 ) on Friday September 19, 2008 @06:01PM (#25078937) Homepage

    I did a quick test with this product a few weeks ago, and it sync'd well with my phone. My only concern was that Microsoft appears to assert patent claims [microsoft.com] relating to ActiveSync. Anyone have thoughts or experiences on using this product in the US market?

  • Sounds Great for SMB (Score:2, Interesting)

    by joelleo ( 900926 ) on Friday September 19, 2008 @06:10PM (#25079045)

    Big things missing though - No public folders, which allow automated, customized workflow processes, no single instance store (each attachment is a separate file within the message store,) limited support (enterprise class support 24x7 is > 15,000 euros and their business hours aren't conducive to US business support - GMT+1) and it runs on linux instead of bsd *grin*

    With that being said, I can see where a LOT of businesses will be able to make extensive use of this. Best of luck to them!

  • by RAMMS+EIN ( 578166 ) on Friday September 19, 2008 @06:15PM (#25079111) Homepage Journal

    Well, I imagine that an open source alternative to Exchange would not have Exchange's arbitrary limitations (e.g. maximum size of mailboxes) and would allow you to fix bugs and add features as you see fit. Those things _should_ make the switch worthwhile to many companies. I've heard complaints about arbitrary limitations and things just not working right in more than one company.

  • by shaitand ( 626655 ) on Friday September 19, 2008 @06:18PM (#25079139) Journal

    'Was it "successful" at actually replacing Exchange with no [significant] trouble for Systems Administrators? I need to know. How come it is not that known in IT circles? What's going on?'

    Probably because there are six to a dozen functional drop in replacements for exchange on the market that work fine. None of them are free as in beer or free as in speech though. Or if they are, they require an 'outlook connector' that is not.

  • by OrangeTide ( 124937 ) on Friday September 19, 2008 @06:19PM (#25079153) Homepage Journal

    after working the storage industry I have come to the conclusion that exchange is not very effective at handling heavy email load or large message database. How many of us get annoying emails when we have more than a few hundred MB of messages in our mailbox? Did you know that Exchange performs like crap when you run low on local disk space to keep the data. CIFS won't save your ass either, you end up having to go to using SAN (which looks like local disk from Exchange's point of view).

    Some bullshit scripts with postfix, exim or qmail can spool and forward terabytes of email an hour. With the added advantage that you can cluster your IMAP services out to deal with the space and load in an incredibly simple yet scalable manner. You can use a SAN, but you can just as easily setup a new box for every 100 employees and still have a very usable system.

    Exchange is inflexible and can only scale if you use on particular (and very expensive) setup. Microsoft only focuses on the operating modes of Exchange server that they use at corporate HQ. The inferior modes are just there so they can sucker companies into buying it at the low end, when in a short while the company will have to invest an exponential rate of money to scale the system.

    The TCO of Exchange is very high. And Microsoft's way is not the only way to manage messages, events, meetings and users.

  • by xouumalperxe ( 815707 ) on Friday September 19, 2008 @06:32PM (#25079375)

    I know, it doesn't sound like that sort of thing would be all that important, and it's not even clear all the time that it makes a lot of sense, but there are companies that run on this sort of procedure.

    Hell, I read what you described and thought "damn, that's a really good idea, hope it's also a well thought out and implemented feature". The idea that I can easily give you permission to act on my behalf is probably the single best way to kill account promiscuity. Plus the example you gave is also a damned practical one too, and a good way to prove that this is a feature, and not a solution looking for a problem.

    So there are a bunch of random things like shared calendars and push-email to phones that people don't want to live without, and unless you can provide a seamless replacement, you're stuck with Exchange.

    In other news, when a piece of software is truly convenient, you use it, even if it's not perfect.

  • by johnjones ( 14274 ) on Friday September 19, 2008 @06:40PM (#25079513) Homepage Journal

    I just get bad checksum so there is a way to advertise... say its (A)GPL and then not provide the source !

    links anyone ?

  • MORE than that (Score:5, Interesting)

    by way2trivial ( 601132 ) on Friday September 19, 2008 @07:40PM (#25080195) Homepage Journal

    I can give a meeting room, or a projector, or any other resource-- it's own exchange account- and set it to !automatically accept! some peoples meeting request, and other people's requests will have to be approved.. and when I send a meeting request to my boss, and two co-workers, and conference room B-- then conference room B will automatically show that it is 'busy' for my meeting.. and if I need a projector later-- I can send an invite to the 'projector' and reserve it as well..

    I can de-invite individual attendees....

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 19, 2008 @07:44PM (#25080225)

    > What do you say to the Hundreds of Thousands of clients who get their Exchange via SBS (Small Business Server)? And that's just the 2003 version.

    That they require too many administrators and cause more downtime.

    > How many Enterprise apps do you know of by ANY vendor that dont degrade with low disk space? Come on, dude, that aint fair and you know it.

    He also mentioned it degrading due to *large mailbox size* That's the big PITA. And you have to buy crapware to shovel messages around, whereas with normal mail spools, you can shuffle mail around pretty easily with a few quick scripts.

    > Exchange is one of those apps that can look bad if installed by an idiot. You would think a proper architect would have worked out space and usage requirements early on.

    Yeah, but it's also one of those apps that's usually installed by an idiot.

    > How do you reach a low space condition ANYWAY, if you are making proper use of quotas? No product takes more abuse due to stupid administration than Exchange server.

    No product needs as much administration as Exchange server.

    > How do you reach a low space condition ANYWAY, if you are making proper use of quotas? No product takes more abuse due to stupid administration than Exchange server.

    Powerpoint with #$#%ing embedded videos. But that's another story entirely.

    > But please, inflexible? When you have dozens of 100K+ client installations of Exchange humming along at places like Chevron and others, while the very same product can keep 20 people happy on a $500 box, you cant call it inflexible. Thats just wrong, pal.

    Everyone else can do that too. But they do it better. The main advantage of Exchange is all that integration so they can send polls or schedule meetings or whatever else. But as far as simple email goes, Exchange is more trouble than its worth.

    Which is why this project is important.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 19, 2008 @07:48PM (#25080283)

    You hit the nail on the head...those that fail to admin MS systems fail out of their own ignorance of the systems.

    So many on /. are just on the MS hatewagon without having a clue how to admin it, thus fail and blame MS for it, instead of looking in the mirror and asking "why did I not research and LEARN how to use Microsoft systems properly before placing my foot in mouth"

    I've been an admin on *nix and worked with many others that did...and the common factor of the MS haters was that they never bothered to read, practice, and use the trial versions until competent...instead they got linux and all the "free" stuff and jumped on the hatewagon out of ignorance.

  • by DittoBox ( 978894 ) on Friday September 19, 2008 @07:49PM (#25080289) Homepage

    As a user I understand that most of the proprietary crap that MS dishes out for protocols is indeed "cruft" (Most slashdotter's could shit better protocols in their sleep). I've experienced more bizarre behavior than I care to admit, but what are some technical or design examples that could be cited as to why most of their protocols (exchange in particular) are so bad? I know their implementation of IMAP is very poor, I think it has to do with various connection and sync commands not being fully or at all implemented which can cause all sorts of weirdness on the client end and lost mail on the server.

  • by mistermocha ( 670194 ) on Friday September 19, 2008 @08:03PM (#25080467) Homepage
    Well, there are some of us who work at mom & pop software shops that do have a clatch of intelligent developers on site but don't have a huge budget to buy an email solution.... and we're a lot more than 0.0000001% of all companies.
  • by rickb928 ( 945187 ) on Friday September 19, 2008 @08:47PM (#25080865) Homepage Journal

    ...which is why I turn down admin/AD/Windows consulting jobs. I'm tired of being the angel of death, declaring death and data loss, due to past decisions and previous admins/mercenaries who did bad things.

    Yeah, I hear ya. After 17 years, I finally told my boss it wasn't worth it. He really didn't understand. Then again, he never really understood what we did.

    I do miss GroupWise, though. It just plain worked. But that's another story...

  • by VirtualSquid ( 311810 ) on Friday September 19, 2008 @08:49PM (#25080881) Homepage

    I'm happy for the server-side people if this is progress on replacing Exchange, but what about replacing Outlook itself?
    It's one of the 3-4 missing apps that prevent me from moving to Linux. I mean, how hard can it be, to implement an email client with integrated calendar and contacts? It doesn't need every single bell and whistle - just the few features i depend on (rich text in contact memo fields, savable contact searches). I'd happily buy such an app for Linux (at, say, the same price as Outlook.) Outlook's been around for what, 11 years? And in all that time, nobody's thought to make a viable Linux alternative?

  • by vawarayer ( 1035638 ) on Friday September 19, 2008 @10:30PM (#25081623)

    That's a nice long explanatory answer... for the first question! ;). Do you have an answer for the 2nd?

    I might even add... do you have suggestions?

    I have already checked out a few of 'em (not necessarily OSS):

    ...of which many of them have a great potential, but I always end up having some trouble somewhere or find 'em not user-friendly/admin-friendly enough.

  • by LibertineR ( 591918 ) on Friday September 19, 2008 @10:53PM (#25081803)
    True, but Microsoft bares some blame too (GASP). Initially, Microsoft marketed their tools as easier to maintain than the competition, which was true up to a point. However, beyond a 30 person shop, it is a good idea to have someone on staff who really knows what they are doing, not just the CEO's nephew who likes to tinker with shit.

    Microsoft is also to blame for the ease of passing the MCSE exams, resulting in a lot of people thinking they knew a lot more then they really did. A guy shows up with his shiny certification, and proceeds to fuck up your servers, and then it is EASY to blame the software, rather than the "genius" with the cert.

  • by jimicus ( 737525 ) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @06:20AM (#25083661)

    There are plenty, but most seem to miss the point of Exchange in some fashion.

    Point the First: Everything that you're likely to plug into Exchange must also work with whatever alternative or it isn't an Exchange alternative. That means things like Blackberries, other vendors' smartphones, seamless (yes seamless, not "install this plugin which sort-of works") Outlook integration, remote management of smartphones (including wiping them). Zimbra's pretty close here, but falls down on remote smartphone management and seamless Outlook integration.

    Point the Second (Scalix falls down here): Exchange is only a small proportion of the overall licensing costs. You've also got Active Directory (which implies a Windows Server infrastructure) and CALs for AD. There's not a lot of point in having AD without having your workstations on an AD domain, so you've got to factor in all the necessary licenses for this as well. If you demand I supply my own AD infrastructure and you price your product at [price for Exchange - 10%], I might as well just pay the extra 10% and eliminate the risk of being passed between vendors in a game of telephone tennis in the event of support issues.

    Point the Third: Whether you like it or not, the PHBs who like Exchange are often rather stuck in the Exchange way of thinking. I don't care how much better you think your solution is, if your argument is "it's cheaper but it's only better if you're prepared to accept a totally new way of thinking about groupware" then it's not better because the PHBs in question probably aren't. Citadel's a good example of this.

  • Re:Hell yeah (Score:3, Interesting)

    by julesh ( 229690 ) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @08:22AM (#25084077)

    If the source IS available under the GPL, one can correct it and provide a much more capable version, no?

    Given my experience with past "open source exchange replacements" (e.g. OpenExchange, HP OpenMail) you need an MAPI driver as a plugin to Outlook to enable the advanced features, and that part usually is not open source.

Never buy from a rich salesman. -- Goldenstern