Netline Internet Service GmbH, of Olpe, Germany, will announce at LinuxWorld this week that it is open-sourcing its Open-Xchange Server, the core technology behind its Linux-based groupware, collaboration and messaging application, under the GNU General Public License.
That move will let customers and partners download the code for free and contribute to the project.
Open-Xchange Server, which is also the engine behind Novell Inc.s SuSE Linux Openexchange Server, is a modular, standards-based communications tool featuring a Web-based Distributed Authoring and Versioning interface that speeds information flow between workstations and the server.
CEO Frank Hoberg said in an interview from Germany that Netlines customers have 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," Hoberg said. "We own all the intellectual property for the server and have until now had a traditional per-seat licensing and revenue model."
Some in the open-source community are indifferent about the move. Matthew Rice, a partner at Starnix Inc., of Thornhill, Ontario, said the open-sourcing of Open-Xchange Server "makes little difference.
"I will probably have to look at it someday, but it looks like they want to copy the Skyrix [Software AG] play [Skyrix open-sourced its Groupware Server and formed the OpenGroupware.org project], which seems to have worked out very well for them. I guess that theyre hoping that lightning will strike twice in Germany," Rice said.
"Netline runs the risk of becoming an also-ran in the open-source-software mind space. They are going to have to do something big to reach people," Rice said.
Linux vendors such as Novell and Hewlett-Packard Co. disagree.
Officials in Novells Nterprise platform services group, in Provo, Utah, said the GPL release of Open-Xchange is good for both customers and developers. Novell recognized the value of open source in the rapid development of software and its responsiveness to users needs, the officials said.
Martin Fink, vice president of Linux at HP, in Palo Alto, Calif., said that an increasing number of customers are looking to implement both open-source and proprietary software within their IT infrastructures. "Netlines Open-Xchange Server helps address this need," Fink said.
The open-source version of Open-Xchange Server will be available free at Open-Xchange.org and openexchange.com by the end of the month. It will feature most of the code for the commercial product, which runs on major Linux operating systems, including those from Novells SuSE Linux, Red Hat Inc., Red Flag Software Co. Ltd. and Debian.