Last weeks release of Open-Xchange Server 5 will allow IT administrators to migrate systems to and integrate them with an open-source environment as well as create and implement applications without having to change their existing infrastructure components such as databases, directory services, message transfer agents, e-mail servers or Web servers.
Users can retain their preferred mail and groupware client, usually Microsoft Corp.s Outlook but also open-source clients such as Kontact.
Open-Xchange Server, which is the engine behind Novell Inc.s SuSE Linux Openexchange Server, is a modular, standards-based communications tool featuring a WebDAV (Web-based Distributed Authoring and Versioning) interface that speeds information flow between workstations and the server.
Open-Xchange is a collaboration platform that integrates open-source and proprietary servers and clients.
Accessible through a common Web browser, Open-Xchange allows users to share e-mail, calendars, tasks, threaded discussions and documents originating from both proprietary and open-source systems.
"Companies are looking for a better, more cost-effective way to manage their information. 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," said Frank Hoberg, CEO of Netline Internet Service GmbH.
When the source code was released under the GNU GPL (General Public License) last August, Hoberg said 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," said Hoberg. "Making the source code available under the GPL was clearly the most logical next step in its evolution."
Last December, Novell and Netline said they were expanding their current relationship in a move that would see Novell sell, maintain and support Open-Xchange Server.
Open-Xchanges Web-based interface runs on all major browsers.
Open-Xchange Server 5 for Novells SuSE Linux Enterprise Server is available immediately. Support for Red Hat Inc.s Red Hat Enterprise Server 4 will be available at the end of next month.
The Small Business Server Edition, which includes maintenance for a year, administration interfaces, initial installation support, Microsoft Corp. Outlook and PalmSource Inc. connectors, and a five-year guarantee, costs $295 for the first five users. There is a $25 annual maintenance subscription fee for each additional user.
The Advanced Server Edition, available for both Red Hats Enterprise 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 a $25 annual maintenance subscription fee for each additional user.
Novell officials have said that the company will 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 the functionality available in the open-source Open-Xchange Server 0.8, as well as significantly enhanced Outlook and Palm connectors, including shared folders, distribution lists, documents attached to specific objects, Outlook categories compatibility, synchronization with .pst files, and online and offline functionality.
Also included are a Web interface for administrators; enhanced Web interfaces to set up user preferences; Web-based contextual online 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 SLES 9.
Some Open-Xchange users, including Gregg Rosenberg, chief technology officer at Ricis Inc., based in Tinley Park, Ill., which has installed more than 1,600 Openexchange servers and performed more than 460 migrations of Microsoft Exchange to SuSE Linux Openexchange, welcomed this latest release. Rosenberg said this release was more flexible and easier to deploy than ever.
Rene Patthey, CIO at Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois, a large teaching hospital in Lausanne, Switzerland, said CHUV needed to provide a full, Web-based collaboration solution for as many as 8,000 users.
"We chose Open-Xchange from more than 24 products [eight commercial and 16 open-source] because we believe that its performance, scalability and configurability are unmatched," Patthey said. "Open-Xchange has the maturity, rich functionality and technical architecture unavailable anywhere at its price point."
Mark Levitt, vice president for collaborative computing at research company IDC, in Framingham, Mass., said IT departments are looking for ways to reduce solution acquisition and management costs without forcing users to change the way they collaborate.
There have been more than 4,000 downloads per week since the Open-Xchange Server 5 beta was launched in February, and more than 20,000 users visited the Open-Xchange online demo in the first half of last month.
Netlines Hoberg said that several contributions from the community are included in the latest product, such as installation manuals for 14 distributions and 12 new language packs.
Among the distributions covered are Debians "Sarge," Red Hat Enterprise Linux 9, Fedora Core, SuSE Linux Professional 9.x, Slackware 10, FreeBSD and Mandrake 9.2.