Exchange Functionality for Linux

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

Roughly a year ago I reviewed a mail server for Linux that features integration with Microsoft's Outlook and offers calendaring/scheduling options with shared busy/free information. However, it did not have many features that Outlook offers in corporate mode, including sending meeting requests to groups of users who can then reply and delegating rights so secretaries can manage their bosses agendas on-line. This current review shows a year's time was enough for Linux solutions to arise that can compete with Microsoft Exchange and Outlook and offer a lower price, with all the important features included.

Two important issues should be discussed by administrators who want to get rid of Microsoft Exchange as their groupware solution, but who also need to offer a equally functional alternative. Right now, we have Bynari's InsightServer, which can be used as an Exchange replacement while still using Outlook on workstations. Still in development, the Kroupware project is moving fast to produce an equally functional solution that is fully open-source and free (as in free beer). For the time being, the Kroupware project works only with Linux (*nix) clients. The Kroupware project is the product of the German government going open-source.

Bynari InsightServer

In the February 2003 issue of Linux Journal, Tom Adelstein of Bynari explained how his company wrote code to replace Exchange, "that troublesome closed mail and calendar server". I immediately wondered how all this knowledge works in the real world, where administrators indeed have to work with what developers think up. So I downloaded all its binaries and documents and started up VMware. Below, I explain what to expect when installing Bynari and what is gained when that job is done.

Installing Bynari InsightServer

The first thing you need is a Linux distribution on which to install the InsightServer. I downloaded the SuSE 8.1 boot.iso as an install-floppy replacement on CD-ROM. As I use VMware, I connected the ISO directly to my VM, then started up at IP address 192.168.0.163. Using FTP, I installed SuSE as a minimal sever system with KDE. From an internal FRP server I downloaded the InsightServer I downloaded from www.bynari.net after subscribing. From the available PDF files, I learned that a number of ports need to be free before installing the server. So I disabled Apache and some other stuff to free up several ports: 25(SMTP), 80(HTTP), 110(POP), 143(IMAP), 389(LDAP), 443(HTPS), 636(LDAP over SSL), 993(IMAP/SSL) and 995 (POP/SSL). In SuSE you can go to YaST-->Modules-->Start/Stop services-->inetd and enable inetd with no services. That did it for my setup. Then I unpacked the tar file with

 tar -xvf insightserver-3.5.5.4.tar 
 cd insight* 
./install

A window opens to tell you what ports should be freed, which it installs in /opt/insight, and how to start and stop the server: /usr/sbin/insightserver start|stop|restart. You have to fill in the name of your country you, select a password for the server manager of the server and enter the domain name of the server (hanscees.nl in my case). Then you can choose to start the server and direct the startup to happen automatically when you restart the computer. How much simpler can it get?

Setting Up the Server

At http://192.168.0.163/insightserver (use your IP address of course) you can find the administration site. Enter your license key, and then you can administer the MTA (Exim), add users and set up your organization in LDAP. You can administer Exim with the a web-based GUI but also from the command line, with ASCII files. From here, you can set options regarding mail size, relaying and so forth.

Administering LDAP is the part where you add users and shared folders. You can import users with LDIF files, and the PDF files explain how to migrate from an Exchange user group to the InsightServer. I made a new organization (hanscees.nl), group (managers) and put myself in place as users Hans-Cees and Hans. As most of the server consists of open-source components--Apache, Exim and Cyrus--you can tweak many items with the knowledge from these projects. The Bynari site has some user forums to give you a hand with a trial version, if needed.

Setting Up Outlook

Now for the most important part: setting up Outlook and discovering what features are available to the users. Can InsightServer really deliver what my title suggests, a functional replacement for Exchange? When setting up Outlook I decided not to follow the easy road and use Windows XP and Outlook for XP; these are described in the user guides. Instead, I used Windows 98 SE with Outlook 2000. I chose this because it is a situation many companies are still in, and a situation I have worked with as a real-life administrator. I figured if my setup works, the well-described setup with Windows XP will certainly work fine. So I began by installing Outlook 2000 and its service packs. Then I installed the Bynari InsightConnector and the Bynari LDAP client. The installation was no problem, but the configuration was a bit difficult to understand. Even though I did not install the recommended version of Windows and Outlook, I think Bynari could improve their documentation here. It took me a while to see what belongs where, mainly because their documentation describes how to migrate from Exchange, while I was installing from scratch.

It turns out that you need to do three things for each client or profile you use. Before anything else, you need to start up Outlook and configure it to use workgroup mode. This is important because Outlook working in internet-mail mode only is not half the client it can be. As the first task, you must configure an internet account: use the InsightServer as an SMTP server and fill in None for the POP server. This SMTP link is your way to send e-mail from the InsightServer. Second, you need to connect to the InsightServer with IMAP. To do so, a window opens after you save the POP account to a .pst folder. Fill in the Insight IP address or name, along with your account and password. You might use SSL, but it might cost some serious processor power. If you ever plan to let people use Outlook over the Internet, it might as well be encrypted. You can ping the server to see if it works from the configuration window.

Outlook now opens up with all the folders you expect: Inbox, Calendaring, Tasks, Outbox and so on. If you click on Calendaring, you need to click on Yes a couple of times so the folder becomes a sub-folder of the Inbox. The Bynari server has given you rights to make folders only inside the Inbox folder. The next step is to configure LDAP. Go to Tool-->Services-->Add, and add a Bynari LDAP address book. Configure that by filling in the IP address of the server, a vink by Send messages in RTF text format, your user name and password, and then click search. In the search window, fill in your country code, and vink the organization found and all its sub-containers.

Restart Outlook after altering the Services-->Addressing tab, so your search for users starts in the right container for your part of the organization. You also might want to give users their personal contact lists. After restarting Outlook (the client is still Windows-based, after all), you can tweak some minor details. On the Bynari tab, consisting of IMAP boxes, Mailbox, Folders and Synchronize, you can use the folders tab to grant rights to other users to see, use and/or manage your folders as you see fit. You can publish your free/busy information for other users to consult when planning meetings by going to Tools-->Options-->Calendar-->Options-->Free/Busy options and filling in information at ftp://192.168.0.163/freebusy/%NAME%.vcf. You then can find this information at http://192.168.0.163/freebusy/%NAME%.vcf.

______________________

Comments

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

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...

White Paper
Linux Management with Red Hat Satellite: Measuring Business Impact and ROI

Linux has become a key foundation for supporting today's rapidly growing IT environments. Linux is being used to deploy business applications and databases, trading on its reputation as a low-cost operating environment. For many IT organizations, Linux is a mainstay for deploying Web servers and has evolved from handling basic file, print, and utility workloads to running mission-critical applications and databases, physically, virtually, and in the cloud. As Linux grows in importance in terms of value to the business, managing Linux environments to high standards of service quality — availability, security, and performance — becomes an essential requirement for business success.

Learn More

Sponsored by Red Hat

White Paper
Private PaaS for the Agile Enterprise

If you already use virtualized infrastructure, you are well on your way to leveraging the power of the cloud. Virtualization offers the promise of limitless resources, but how do you manage that scalability when your DevOps team doesn’t scale? In today’s hypercompetitive markets, fast results can make a difference between leading the pack vs. obsolescence. Organizations need more benefits from cloud computing than just raw resources. They need agility, flexibility, convenience, ROI, and control.

Stackato private Platform-as-a-Service technology from ActiveState extends your private cloud infrastructure by creating a private PaaS to provide on-demand availability, flexibility, control, and ultimately, faster time-to-market for your enterprise.

Learn More

Sponsored by ActiveState