Caldera Volution Messaging Server: A Product Review

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One step closer to a killer app for corporate calendaring.

Linux is making progress in many server areas. For instance, I have a Mitel (formerly e-smith) server at home that serving files and printers with Samba and doing firewall and web server duties as well. One of the newest addition to the server arena came when Caldera launched Volution Messaging Server (VMS). VMS features integration with Microsoft's Outlook and offers calendaring/scheduling options with shared busy/free information, SSL support for e-mail and easy configuration.

The Specs

VMS is built around Postfix for the MTA, Cyrus for message storage, Horde/IMP/MySQL for web mail, and OpenSSL and pam-ldap for authentication.

After reading the administration guide I found some interesting details:

  • You can filter spam and other e-mail based on the headers.

  • You can integrate the server with antivirus solutions.

  • You can shut down web mail, which is nice if you don't use it and don't want to waste the processor time or if you want to minimize potential security leaks.

More importantly, the server is easy to administer once it is placed and configured. Adding and deleting users and setting up e-mail groups are easy and well thought out procedures. The LDAP server makes it possible for you to see the e-mail addresses of users in Outlook, and you can use them to send e-mail or you can copy them to your address book. Most important of all, VMS supports some functions for calendaring in Outlook 97/2000, such as sharing busy/free information (no Outlook XP sharing, though). Most administrators who have worked in small or medium-sized companies will understand that calendaring and group sharing information are extremely popular features of the IT infrastructure.

Installation and Configuration

I received two CDs for installation, one with Caldera's OpenLinux Server 3.1, which won't run on AMD K6 or Pentium I processors, and one with VMS. VMS itself only runs one OpenLinux and Open UNIX, so I could not use my old K6 even though it is fast enough (550MHz). I had to rip out the hard disks of my Athlon 1133 workstation, then put in a 10 gig disk and boot off the CD. About 20 minutes later I had Open Linux installed. You have to install it as a web server, and you can partition with Reiserfs (I wouldn't use a nonjournaling system on an e-mail server).

Next, I put in the VMS CD and a pop-up screen appeared. One bad thing was that the OK/Cancel buttons were off the screen, but with some blind Tab/Enter pressing I made it through. This install was too boring to write about (a good thing), so I'll move on to the nice bits.

For the installation, I named the server exchangekiller. Once the server is installed, you can go to several places. You can log in as admin:admin and change the admin password to something like adp1us. From this screen you can add/delete e-mail domains and users. You can also add users with some command-line tools if you have lists of users (nice if you have 120 users and RSI). I added Bert, Ernie and Pino, all @hc.net, a domain that I added. I also added postmaster@hc.net. You also can create e-mail groups, with owners that can add/delete users in the groups. E-mail users do not have to be users on the Linux sytem, but it's more secure if they are of course.

There are several more places you can go:

  • exchangekiller:1000--the webmin interface where you can add SSL certificates in an easy manner.

  • exchangekiller:8457--the document server for VMS.

  • exchangekiller--general Caldera e-server information.

  • exchangekiller/Horde/IMP--the web mail server.

  • www.caldera.com/support/docs/volution/msg--the administration guide, updates and so on.

Now, I was ready to install the clients to see what the server could do. I installed Outlook 2000 on Windows 98 and inside VMware 2.0 on Windows 2000. I also used Outlook Express and Pegasus (www.pmail.com), my favorite e-mail client on Windows--it's free, no Outlook-like virus catching and very complete.

If you are a user, using VMS with Outlook is easy. These are the steps:

  • Install Outlook (I used Outlook 2000).

  • Go to exchangekiller/msg.

  • Log in with username:password, e.g., ernie@hc.net:evil.

  • Click the link Client setup.

  • Click Run the Program (not Save).

  • Choose Internet-only when Outlook asks you how you want to configure it.

  • Start up Outlook. You will see a map called Volution Messager server, where the messages from the server are kept.

Isn't that cool? No filling in details. Caldera did that all for you with one click. This also works with Outlook Express, by the way.

The idea of one-button configuration is brilliant, and here it actually works flawlessly. Nothing is perfect, however, and if you want to share your calendaring information with others, you still have to fill in some details.

  • In Outlook, go to Tools-->Options-->Calendar-->Free/Busy options.

  • Put a check in the box about sharing your calendaring data.

  • Fill in ftp://ernie:evil@exchangekiller.hc.net/pub/calendar/%NAME%.vfb.

And everyone using this same server as a share server for their calendaring can see if you are busy at a time when they want to schedule a meeting with you.

______________________

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Re: Caldera Volution Messaging Server: A Product Review

Anonymous's picture

I have been running Lotus Domino/Notes on a SuSE server since September 2000 without incident. Lotus/IBM has not released a Linux client, but I was able to avoid Exchange/Outlook in an otherwise NT environment. By using Linux I saved on another NT server license with an expensive server as well.

Re: Caldera Volution Messaging Server: A Product Review

Anonymous's picture

Well we're happy with Joydesk 2.6 - maybe you had one of the early versions?

On scale - it's available in two versions, one for SMBs (10 users on a very small server, up to 1000 users or so a large server) the other is for ISPs (I see Qwest, Bell South International and ABS-CBN are listed as ISP customers) with many many more users. So most SMBs have lots of room to grow.

On support - it's a commercial product so there isn't endless free support. But there aren't any fully integrated open source alternatives that go even close to Exchange Server for a typical SMB yet. (But one day there will be :).

Overhead - the latest version isn't xbase - it has integrated into it the SQL open source database from Borland called Interbase (http://www.interbase.com) and it seems very quick. eg. at doing searches on a few thousand messages, etc.

Migration - we can use an IMAP mail client to move mail folders to or from Joydesk. Also I understand we should be able to suck any valuable data out of the SQL database ... if we ever need to!

Re: Caldera Volution Messaging Server: A Product Review

Anonymous's picture

Just stay away from joydesk!!!

I still have nightmares about it... in few words:

* doesn't scale at all

* bad...really bad support unless you show them money!

* if you grow with it... you will live a true nightmare trying to migrate to anything after that.

closed source!.... you cannot change anything!

* a lot of file overhead: 1 dir/user * 1 dir/year * 1 dir/month * 3 dirs (html,eml,tmp) * 1 file/msg

* it uses xBase (.dbf) files for data storage... imagine the corruption/reindexing nightmare as you grow!! specially when each cgi (a lot of them) access them simultaneously and the users hits STOP on their browsers a lot.

...and they even have the nerve to sell an *ISP* version!

Re: Caldera Volution Messaging Server: A Product Review

Anonymous's picture

I fully agree with this writers comments regarding JoyDesk. We have had nothing but problems with their 2.6 product. Our company paid for 2 years phone and web support and have been very disapointed. They do not return calls, they do not even respond to the web based help desk tickets we have entered into their system. We currently have a half dozen tickets they have not responded to.

We have also had to rebuild the backend database nearly a dozen times in just a years time due to corruption problems.

Their syncronization product to sync with a Palm device or to Outlook is nothing but a headache. If you have anything other than a Palm device forget it. If you have a newer version of the Palm os, too bad. Shall I go on?

My recomendation, look elsewhere for your groupware needs.

Re: Caldera Volution Messaging Server: A Product Review

Anonymous's picture

Caldera has a nice product. Put but Hans-Cees fails to mention another great Linux alternative to Exchange - Joydesk (http://www.joydesk.com). Joydesk is also less expensive, easy to install on either the more common **Red Hat** or Caldera and supports Outlook Calendar and Address book synchronization. It will also sync with the Palm and supports WAP!!!! Yahoo!

Re: Caldera Volution Messaging Server: A Product Review

Anonymous's picture

Just stay away from joydesk!!!

I still have nightmares about it... in few words:

* doesn't scale at all

* bad...really bad support unless you show them money!

* if you grow with it... you will live a true nightmare trying to migrate to anything after that.

closed source!.... you cannot change anything!

* a lot of file overhead: 1 dir/user * 1 dir/year * 1 dir/month * 3 dirs (html,eml,tmp) * 1 file/msg

* it uses xBase (.dbf) files for data storage... imagine the corruption/reindexing nightmare as you grow!! specially when each cgi (a lot of them) access them simultaneously and the users hits STOP on their browsers a lot.

...and they even have the nerve to sell an *ISP* version!

Re: Caldera Volution Messaging Server: A Product Review

Anonymous's picture

I setup an email/calendar/filestore for a small company using phpgroupware, cyrus imap and postgresql. It rocks! and is totally free. What is nice about it is that being web based, it doesn't matter what system or software you have as long as you can browse the web. I hope that products such as VMS and phpgroupware contiue to improve. The stranglehold that microsoft enjoys at our expense can choke the life out of small to medium sized businesses.

Re: Caldera Volution Messaging Server: A Product Review

Anonymous's picture

This is hilarious. I set up an email/calendaring system for a dot bomb company where I used to work. It happened that I used most of the same stuff including LDAP. Interesting how many companies are moving into this direction and hopefully someone will combine this approach to groupware with a decent OSS virus scanner.

Kudos to Caldera or anyone else that moves in this direction!

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