Open-Xchange Server 5 Blends Proprietary, Open-Source Perks

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2005-04-12
Netline Internet Service, of Olpe, Germany, has released Open-Xchange Server 5, which lets IT administrators create and implement applications without having to changing their existing infrastructure components such as databases, directory services, message transfer agents, e-mail servers or Web servers.

End users also can keep their preferred mail and groupware client, usually Microsofts Outlook but also open-source clients such as Kontact, Frank Hoberg, CEO of Netline Internet Service GmbH, said Tuesday.

Open-Xchange is a collaboration platform that integrates open-source and proprietary servers and clients. Accessible through a common Web browser, Open-Xchange lets users share e-mail, calendar, tasks, threaded discussions and documents originating from both proprietary and open-source systems.

The Web-based interface of Open-Xchange runs on all major browsers, letting employees use its services regardless of the client operating system. Employees also can use it with any computer connected to the Internet and with any common platform, including Windows, Linux, Unix, Mac OS, and Palm OS.

Open-Xchange Server 5 for Novells SuSE Linux Enterprise Server is available immediately here and through select partners. Support for Red Hat Enterprise Server 4 will be available at the end of May.

The Small Business Server Edition, which includes maintenance for a year, administration interfaces, initial installation support, Outlook and Palm connectors, and a five-year guarantee, costs $295 for the first five users. There is an annual maintenance subscription fee of $25 for each additional user.

The Advanced Server Edition, for both Red Hat and Novells SuSE Linux, costs $850 for 25 users, which includes one year of maintenance, administration interfaces, initial installation support, Outlook and Palm connectors, and a five-year guarantee. There is also an annual maintenance subscription fee of $25 for each additional user.

"Companies are looking for a better, more cost-effective way to manage their information," Hoberg said. "Open-Xchange 5 combines the advantages of commercial software—support, maintenance and predictability—with the rapid innovation and cost savings found only in the open-source world. And best of all, Open-Xchange allows business to take advantage of all these benefits without disrupting the end-user experience."

Hoberg told eWEEK last August, when the source code was released under the GPL (GNU General Public License), that Netlines customers had been calling for an alternative to Microsoft Corp.s Exchange since 2000, when development on Open-Xchange began.

"It was then launched in 2002 with SuSE Linux. Making the source code available under the GPL was clearly the most logical next step in its evolution," he said at that time.

Last December, Novell Inc. and Netline Internet Service said they were expanding their relationship in a move that would see Novell sell, maintain and support Open-Xchange Server.

Novell said at that time that it would integrate Netlines Open-Xchange Server into its development, partnership and sales processes. Netlines groupware, which is based on the Netline Java Application Server, is already the core engine of Novells SuSE Linux Openexchange Server.

Open-Xchange Server 5 will include all of the functionality available in the open-source Open-Xchange Server 0.8, as well as significantly enhanced Microsoft Outlook and Palm connectors, including shared folders, distribution lists, documents attached to specific objects, Microsoft Outlook categories compatibility, synchronization with .pst files, and online and off-line functionality, Hoberg said.

Also included are a Web interface for administrators; enhanced Web interfaces to set up user preferences; Web-based, contextual help for users; administrator and user manuals; five years of guaranteed maintenance, which includes update and upgrade protection for server modules and connectors; and standard service and support offerings for installation on Novells SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 9.

Mark Levitt, vice president for collaborative computing at research company IDC, said IT departments are looking for ways to reduce both solution acquisition and management costs without forcing users to change the way they collaborate.

"Open-source products like Open-Xchange 5 expand the choices available to customers looking to replace or extend existing collaboration infrastructures," Levitt said.

There have been more than 4,000 downloads a week since the first Open-Xchange Server 5 beta was launched in February, with more than 20,000 users visiting the Open-Xchange online demonstration in the first 16 days of March, Hoberg said.

A number of contributions from the community were folded into the latest product, including installation manuals for 14 distributions (including Debian Sarge, Red Hat 9, Fedora Core, Novells SuSE Linux Professional 9.x, Slackware 10, FreeBSD and Mandrake 9.2) and 12 new language packs, he said.

A free copy of the open-source version of Open-Xchange is available for download here.

Check out eWEEK.coms for more on IM and other collaboration technologies.

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