SOGo—Open-Source Groupware

The current state of SOGo and its integration capabilities with desktop and mobile clients.
OpenChange Integration

To provide SOGo connectivity options to Microsoft Outlook users, SOGo makes use of the OpenChange Project. The project was founded in 2003 by Julien Kerihuel in the context of his EPITECH Innovative Project. Tightly integrated with Samba 4, the OpenChange solution is divided into three subprojects:

  1. libmapi: a client-side library that can be used in existing messaging clients (Evolution, Akonadi, Mailody and so on) and offers native compatibility with Exchange server.

  2. mapiproxy: a transparent gateway/proxy used to accelerate the communication between Outlook clients and an Exchange server.

  3. OpenChange Server: a full implementation of the Exchange protocols that features pluggable storage providers.

The third subproject is what really interests us here. SOGo developers have created a storage provider for OpenChange that makes use of SOGo libraries in order to reuse all the business logic associated to address books, calendars and e-mail management. Microsoft Outlook communicates directly and natively to OpenChange (because it behaves like any Microsoft Exchange server), which in turn uses the SOGo storage provider to access all the information SOGo handles.

This makes SOGo a real, transparent Microsoft Exchange replacement, because it does not force Outlook users to use costly and hard-to-maintain MAPI connectors, which often are limited in terms of functionality. A proof of concept was released in October 2010 with many capabilities for e-mail, contacts, events and tasks. The project is being worked on actively, and by the time you read this article, a well-working version should be available for public consumption.

Samba, being vastly popular in numerous organizations and its ambitious rewrite to become an Active Directory-compatible Domain Controller, might eventually position a Samba 4, OpenChange and SOGo combo as a turnkey solution for lots of organizations requiring well-integrated directory services, file and printing services and a collaboration solution on top of it.

Mobile Devices

Although the Web interface or desktop client applications will satisfy most users, the high popularity of mobile devices, the increasing mobility of users and the need to access events, tasks, contacts or e-mail from everywhere can't be neglected by any groupware solution.

Through its Funambol connector, SOGo can synchronize events, contacts and tasks fully with any SyncML-capable device. The Funambol Project is composed of a SyncML server and clients for devices with no built-in SyncML support, such as Research in Motion BlackBerry, Microsoft Windows Mobile, Symbian S60 or Google Android. The server part, which is a middleware, can reuse all data from SOGo using the Funambol SOGo Connector. All those free components enable billions of SyncML-capable devices to synchronize to the SOGo platform.

The Funambol middleware is a self-contained Java application. Installation is as easy as downloading Funambol Server, the Funambol SOGo Connector and creating the sync sources. Full instructions are provided in the “SOGo—Installation and Configuration Guide”.

Apple iPhone users can configure their phones to use CalDAV and CardDAV and have access to their calendars and address books whenever they want. On Google Android-based devices, it also is possible to use the freely available Hypermatix CalDAV client to access calendar information from SOGo.

Figure 4. Apple iPhone OS 4

Configuration instructions for mobile devices are available in the “Mobile Devices—Installation and Configuration Guide”.

Conclusion

As discussed in this article, the industry is moving toward open standards, such as CalDAV and CardDAV, to support collaborative applications, which SOGo supports well. Hopefully, this trend will continue, if not improve.

The native compatibility SOGo offers to Outlook users using OpenChange will be a major step in dislodging Microsoft's biggest enterprise lock-in—Exchange.

SOGo is not a finished product, and it will continue to evolve. Developers actively are improving the OpenChange and Exchange integration, implementing more Apple extensions, such as file attachments for meetings, as well as adding scripting capabilities to SOGo. The virtual appliance for SOGo, called ZEG for “Zero Effort Groupware”, is a good way to try the sogo application and download it.

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At last !

Jason Simmons's picture

A lot of the "open source" groupware products that run on Linux servers are designed to service primarly windows clients.

This is the first solution that I have seen that can be run in a linux server, and be consumed by windows,linux and mac clients, via a single application via Thunderbird & Lightining.

Windows users can still have their MS Outlook comfort blanket if they cant bear to part with it, without the need to install cludgy Mapi connectors.

This looks like a fantastic project, and I will be trying it out myself

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