Exchange Functionality for Linux

Bynari InsightServer is here already, and Kroupware is coming up.
Functionality Report

At this stage you should have a functional client. My little tests show that you can do now all that you could do with Outlook and Exchange--send mail, make notes, use the to-do list and so on. But you also can plan a meeting, send an invitation about it to users, find users by clicking the To button when making a new mail, and clicking on Add to select users and groups. You can see whether people are available by checking the Attendee Availability tab. The attendees receive your invitation and can accept or decline it, and their replies are incorporated into your calendar. Better still, you can give your secretary the rights to do all this for you.

Price

Not unimportant here is the price. Let us compare what one might spend on software for 50 users.

To use Microsoft Exchange 2000:

Microsoft Exchange, including 5 client access licenses (CALs): $1,29945 additional Microsoft Exchange CALs: $3,915Total: $5,214

Windows 2000 server with 25 CALs: $1,79920 additional Windows 2000 CALs: $739Final five CALs: $189Total: $2,727

The grand total is $7,941 for the combination of Microsoft Exchange and Windows 2000 server. A Microsoft Small Business Server plus CALs is $4,000, but then you cannot grow over 50 users.

The Bynari solution will cost you for 50 users:

50-person InsightServer family is: $1,095LDAP client for 50 users is about: $350SuSE 8.1: $80Total: $1,525

So, in the best case Exchange costs about three times as much as InsightServer.

Overall, I think the Bynari InsightServer with Client has done what no other company had done yet: they built a server/client combination for Linux with full Exchange/Outlook functionality that enables administrators to keep Outlook as the client and get rid of a Windows server with Exchange. I did not test how many clients Bynari InsightServer can run on specific hardware, but I expect that the mainly open-source parts--Cyrus, Apache and Exim--perform quite well on top of an efficient OS like Linux. A good *nix administrator should be able to tweak all kinds of things, of course.

Because InsightServer runs on Linux, you can use a number of journaling filesystems and all kinds of RAID tools, which you will need if you are building a serious mail server. Already, InsightServer version 3.xx offers all kinds of new goodies. Furthermore, it is fit to run in a big enterprise; the underlying Cyrus LDAP server that holds the post-boxes is scalable. The InsightServer enterprise version can run on big IBM servers, if you need that. You also can integrate it with solutions for anti-virus, anti-spam and so on. It has a basic Squirrel plugin for web mail.

The near future has more in store, as version 4 is scheduled for release later this month, if not by the time this article publishes. A distributed setup with different parts of the organization on different places will be described in that documentation. A beta release of a web mail server that talks to Outlook is scheduled for March as well. In the second half of 2003, an email-client is planned that can use all of Outlook's functionality but runs on Windows as well as on Linux and other *nixes and Mac. This last information is quite relevant, as this will enable administrators to plan a migration path from Windows to Linux. The money saved by moving part of an organization to Linux is substantial, because money is saved on both the OS and on using Outlook (Windows XP plus Outlook costs you $408 per PC).

And these days using Linux for non-specialized workers, those that need only Web, e-mail and text-processing capabilities, is quite easy. It also opens up the groupware market for businesses that use only Linux/BSD. Using shared calendars, where you can see if others are available, is something you do not want to go without once you have experienced using it. Of course, this client will not be free, but it certainly will be cheaper than the Microsoft solutions. The InsightServer product currently on the market and its near-future versions give administrators a choice to move away from Microsoft Exchange, where this was a difficult process previously. Although the Bynari InsightServer will have to prove itself in the server-room, it certainly is welcome there as far as I am concerned.

Looking Ahead: Kroupware

While InsightServer is available now, it is not open-source and it certainly isn't for free. Many things are on my Linux wishlist, but an all-free (open-source and free as in free beer) Exchange replacement is certainly one of them, one where Linux clients also can join the groupware functionality. It seems such a replacement is in the making in Germany.

When searching the web for information on groupware for Linux, I stumbled across the Kroupware project. Kroupware is the project undertaken by three companies contracted by the Federal Agency of IT- Security for Germany "to provide a Free Software groupware solution accessible with Windows running Outlook and GNU/Linux running KDE clients". The project is by no means finished but currently is in beta; a working version must be delivered as part of the contract. The project is intertwined with KDE and uses Cyrus for the LDAP core and Postfix as the MTA. It can be used with Outlook when a Bynari connector for Exchange is installed. For me, what puts this project beyond the Bynari solution is the fact that it is set up with new standards. Bynari InsightServer, on the other hand, is meant to be used with Outlook and its closed-source Windows legacy and, later, with its own, probably closed-source e-mail client.

Kroupware contains an e-mail/groupware server and a Linux-based client. Outlook clients also can join if they use a Bynari connector, but they will not have total functionality. Other clients might be developed as well, but they are not included in the contract for version 1. The important difference is that open standards are used for exchanging meeting requests and information and also for exchanging contact information. Contacts are send between e-mail clients as attachments, vCards, using MIME. Calendars are stored in LDAP as vCal, a format for calendaring and scheduling information, now managed by the IMC (Internet Mail Consortium).

Kroupware has a clear set of specifications that can be found here. It includes calendaring, sending meeting requests, checking the availability of other attendees, and creating personal contact lists, tasks lists and so on. The big issue at the moment is the project is not yet finished. Another issue is the project's future after the completion of version 1 is uncertain. But anyone following the growth of Linux and open source can see the potential. An open-source project, providing a much wanted solution, based on open standards can be a big success. For small companies and low-budget organizations it may be the only legal option. Because the standards of Kroupware are open, it will not be difficult to develop plugins for existing e-mail clients. Imagen Pegasus Mail already offers a calendaring and tasklist plugin for Kroupware. Pegasus is free, has IMAP and LDAP on board and is not plagued by all kinds of Outlook viruses. Many other e-mail clients can and will add plugins if the server becomes popular. Linux as a desktop system also will become much more attractive when full-featured, Outlook-like functions are on board with the Kroupware Kolab server as the backend.

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Zimbra is an Exchange killer

Shane's picture

Check out Zimbra. It's an Exchange replacement with an Open Source version available, or an Enterprise (pay for) version. It supports Microsoft Outlook, AND Linux clients natively. It's a pretty slick setup. My only problem was I wanted to install Zimbra to only use on IP Alias entry on my box, which is already running mail, web, etc. services. It wasn't able to install and only bind to a single IP address on the box, at install time...at least through the automated installer (which was pretty darned slick...).

I like zimbra a lot...

http://www.zimbra.com/

The Zimbra webclient is

Anonymous's picture

The Zimbra webclient is really great, but the specific Exchange features in Outlook with the Zimbra connector are still quit basic and in beta.

Also the price of the Zimbra enterprise edition is almost as high as the MS Exchange price.

PostPath

TC's picture

Has anyone seen postpath ? www.postpath.com

Exchange replacements

Anonymous's picture

Scalix - http://scalix.com - Runs on linux.
Like Samsung Connect, Scalix is an HP Openmail variant, with some additions. Compatible with MS Outlook clients. Can integrate with Exchange. IE+Mozilla webmail app with access to all groupware content, including calendar, contacts, and public folders. They do have a demo version.

Re: Exchange Functionality for Linux

Anonymous's picture

Excellent article, and it answers an important question when one is trying to bring Linux into the Office space.

The one thing which wasn't called out, and should've been, is that there really isn't any solution for mixing Windows and Linux clients with the the look-alike servers.

Bynari's Connector only works with Windows clients. Linux users are stuck. The most popular Linux replacement for Outlook, Ximian, doesn't work at all with Bynari - only Outlook.

So the Bynari solution is only for the all-Windows shops looking to save a few bucks. It's not a Groupware solution for both Linux and Windows clients. As far as I can tell, there is no such beast which supports the full groupware tools (calandering, address books as well as email).

So, don't go looking to Bynari thinking it's your full solution. The Kroupware effort seems to be the best bet; but that's a year off.

Re: Exchange Functionality for Linux

Anonymous's picture

On the Cebit a month ago I saw an Exchange replacement called Zarafa.

Zarafa has a really nice webaccess. There also a Outlook plugin and the guys are currently working on Evolution integration.

There packages are only available for RPM based distributions, but also for Debian.

There is an online demo on demo.zarafa.com.

Re: Exchange Functionality for Linux

Anonymous's picture

hey you don't talk about linuxchange!!!
www.LinuXchangE

Here's some pricing info

Anonymous's picture

I just got back some pricing info from Samsung. Contrary to what was posted earlier, for 50 users (server AND client licenses), the cost of Samsung Contact is about half of the price of MS Exchange 2000. Support for Samsung

adds another $1000.

This is in line with what ferris.com found on the TCO.

Re: Exchange Functionality for Linux

Anonymous's picture

I hate to follow up my own posting, but here's one article on the Total Cost of Ownership for the main solutions.

The article is at:

http://www.ferris.com/rep/200208/default.asp

Typical MS Exchange TCO: $13 per user per month.

Typical Notes TCO: $13 per user per month

Typical Samsung Contact Costs: $7 per user per month.

So Samsung Contact is about half the TCO of MS Exchange. This is yet one more reason to dump Exchange.

Re: Exchange Functionality for Linux

Anonymous's picture

I believe that Samsung contact is working both with outlook and Ximian evolution.

I wonder why this solution was left out.

Re: Exchange Functionality for Linux

Anonymous's picture

Yes, I just downloaded Samsung Contact, and it looks promising. Note that this is the old HP Openmail that HP dropped for political reasons from Microsoft - Samsung has picked it up.

In a nutshell, there are only two real solutions in the business place. MS Exchange, and Samsung Contact. All the others (including Bynari and Bill), don't allow Linux users to use groupware.

In a year from now, we should have the Bynari stuff, as well as the Kroupware solution. But for now, this is what we have.

Re: Exchange Functionality for Linux

Anonymous's picture

My quick tests of Bynari showed their products to be pretty shaky. I am in the middle of rolling out oracle collaboration suite here http://www.oracle.com/ip/deploy/cs/ . I was initially very skeptical of a product from oracle but was surprised to find that it gave me an outlook MAPI connector that would talk to their calendar server and the IMAP and LDAP servers of our choice (I'm using cyrus and openldap). I am told the list price of OCS is $65/user which covers the license for the database server.

Martin

OCS ? No way.

Anonymous's picture

Except that the hardware requirements for OCS are so big that the hardware cost would skyrocket. Besides as far as I remember OCS installs about 2 database instances, each eating a few hundred megs and 2 or 3 application servers (for oracle infrastructure, not for ocs itself) which is absolutely plain stupid. Oracle recommends deployment of OCS on multiple machines. Further that OCS is a real pain in the the a ss to maintain and keep up with patches/security updates. If you are not an organization with more than a few hundred users and a very strong IT department OCS is just crap value. Even Exchange runs better, faster and requires less resources than OCS.Oracle advertises it's product as a drop in exchange replacement but the reality is not quite that.

Re: Exchange Functionality for Linux

Anonymous's picture

I'd also like to point out phpgroupware at:

http://www.phpgroupware.org/

This is an extensible web-based OA package providing features similar to Outlook and exchange server, but does not require separate client software. It is not plug-compatible with an Exchange server, but provides a number of its capabilities via the web.

Re: Exchange Functionality for Linux

mra_dk's picture

HEy All ..
Instead of promoting each our preferred Opensource "outlook" functionality, ....
Who have made a list of those available ?,
and then this could be coupled with the BIG question when serving mail : How does it scale ? 10 , 50 , 200 , 500 users
I think an article in LJ on that matter, could let everyone pick their preferred "outlook" funktionality from technical requirements.
Best regards , Martin Roende Andersen, Denmark

Re: Exchange Functionality for Linux

Anonymous's picture

Good Article! I have been looking at opening an office for a new startup business that will be using Linux on our desktops. Groupware solutions are an ABSOLUTE must. We have looked at Suse OpenExchanged and SquirrelMail. Unfortunately I (and most ppl I know) really dislike web-based groupware as a sole option (although it is nice to have as an alternative.) Kroupware looks VERY exciting... thanks for the heads up!

Bob

Re: Exchange Functionality for Linux

Anonymous's picture

The link for Squirrelmail in the Resources section is incorrect. It should point to:

http://www.squirrelmail.org/

The key question from me is how to replace calendaring and a shared address book in Microsoft Outlook 2000+. An equivalent to Exchange Shared folders would also be nice, but not essential. Replacing the mail side of it is easy, its the other features that make the job difficult.

Re: Exchange Functionality for Linux

Anonymous's picture

why does everyone forget about BILL? it has been in development for a while and seems to have a nice community but no one else (even the kroupware guys) mentions it... anyone knows why?

soup++

Re: Exchange Functionality for Linux

Anonymous's picture

Sounds good, and free is always easier to justify on a budgetary level than the prices quoted above ... has anyone tested this software package?

Re: Exchange Functionality for Linux

hanscees's picture

Well, I have just never heard of it. Looking into it now. Can it do all that Bynary server can?

Re: Exchange Functionality for Linux

Anonymous's picture

its CMU Cyrus IMAPd not Cyrus LDAP

Re: Exchange Functionality for Linux

Anonymous's picture

Hello,

I think "exchange server functionality", or more general, email and calendar groupware functionality is one of the most important steps in the line of replacing Microsoft's solutions for small and medium business, at least.

I have downloaded Amphora Light some time ago, but I haven't installed yet, so this article attracts my attention because I agree that what people like me wants is a full open source solution.

ArturX

Re: Exchange Functionality for Linux

Anonymous's picture

Good article. This product is very interesting. We did an extended evaluation of Bynari (and Openmail) at my company about nine months ago. We found the Outlook functionality to appear basically correct at first, but the server suffered from frequent problems with numerous duplicated messages appearing at random and periodic mailbox corruptions which would require a complete server rebuild to correct.

We rebuilt the server several times on two different platforms, but the problems persisted. Bynari support seemed unable to resolve the problem. Hopefully they have it fixed now.

It would be interesting to see a review of the OL 2002 connector. That requires a completely different type of hook into OL than for 2000.

I would also like to see a review of Oracle Collaboration Suite for Linux. It also uses an OL connector. It's priced very comptetively but takes a lot of hardware on the server.

Re: Exchange Functionality for Linux

Anonymous's picture

HP Openmail (now Samsung Contact) has been available on Linux since 1999 and provides full functionality for Outlook clients. Non-Outlook clients can connect via web interface, IMAP or pop.

Re: Exchange Functionality for Linux

Anonymous's picture

Well, I tested it a couple of weeks ago and found it to be insufficient.

1) Openmail is a monster suite, which is hard to configure with lots of

daemons running, writing logs to you don't know where.

2) Using Outlook 2000 I was not able to create any subfolder for Emails using their connector.

3) You may either use OL, the Webinterface or the Java Client (both of which are rather nice), but you may not exchange information regarding calendar information or addresses between these clients as the formats are incompatible.

4) It's almost as pricey as Exchange.

Re: Exchange Functionality for Linux

hanscees's picture

Hi, it might be good if someone would do a review of that certainly. However, I think a good solution needs full groupware functionality inside the mail client, which should preferable be more than only Outlook.

Hans-Cees

Re: Exchange Functionality for Linux

Anonymous's picture

Half assed article.

First, there are other projects out there, like OpenExchange by Suse, that the author completely ignored.

Second, the links at the bottom are fine, but at least one is wrong. The squirrelmail webmail system is not available at the link provided, but rather http://www.squirrelmail.org. That, in itself, is a complete webmail system, and it's been integrated into things like PHPGroupWare - a package which seems much more worthwhile than Kroupware will ever be.

Re: Exchange Functionality for Linux

hanscees's picture

The Suse solution would not answer my emails to let me test their mailserver. So I could not test their solution. I certainly would have liked to. Thanks for pointing out the url mistake. PHPGroupwWare might be a good solution but it has a different design: all groupware is web-based. Most people with laptops and so on do not like that at all. It might work fine for you though.

Hans-Cees

Re: Exchange Functionality for Linux

Anonymous's picture

Hi I am the author:-) Yes there is the Suse mailserver. I wanted to review it but they did not even answer my multiple requests to review their product. So there is no way I can make a comparison although I very much would like to. Hans-Cees

Re: Exchange Functionality for Linux

Anonymous's picture

Another excellent article. Now if I could only afford a subscription to the dead trees periodicals...

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