Messaging and collaboration platforms for Linux have made considerable gains in terms of the range of open-source projects and commercially available products. Companies now have many options allowing them to build robust environments that tap Linux advantages, including broad server hardware support and active open-source development communities.
Market realities are driving the development of products that fit within the Windows-based desktop productivity world or leverage open-source development to create Web-based applications.
On the messaging front, the biggest trend is the growing number of servers that tap into the well-entrenched Microsoft Corp. Outlook client. On the collaboration front, the number of PHP-based collaborative work spaces for the Web is growing dramatically.
Recent introductions of messaging servers and connectors provide companies with a Microsoft Exchange-compatible groupware server. These applications allow companies to deliver messaging, group calendar and scheduling capabilities, shared folders, and discussions on Linux servers without giving up the Microsoft Outlook client.
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These servers include or support a Messaging API-compatible connector that maps MAPI functions available through the Outlook client to the messaging and groupware server. Two such recent introductions include Stalker Software Inc.s CommuniGate Pro Groupware and Scalix Corp.s Scalix Server and Scalix Connect. IBMs Lotus Software divisions Domino also offers this functionality.
Companies that need to provide a groupware client to users who run Linux on the desktop can choose between Web browser-based access to groupware and Novell Inc.s recently acquired Ximian Evolution groupware client. Evolution represents the flip side of the Microsoft Exchange compatibility equation by including a connector that maps MAPI functionality in the Exchange server to the Linux-based Evolution client.
These solutions reduce management chores and offer greater server hardware choice: Given that so many companies run Microsoft Office on the desktop, Outlook support reduces the need to install and manage another application as well as train users; on the server side, administrators can take advantage of hardware platforms that offer better scalability than x86-based systems, including IBMs iSeries (AS/400) and zSeries (S/390 mainframe).
As with messaging and groupware, companies get a wider range of server hardware options with Linux-based collaborative products than are available through Windows-based solutions. A broad range of applications, from instant messaging to document management to enterprise resource planning, can be found at sourceforge.net, a resource for open-source developers of a broad range of applications, largely using PHP.
A key benefit to the kinds of Linux-based collaboration applications found on sourceforge.net, and even through traditional commercial software developers, is that they match specific groupware functions with collaboration functions to create cost-effective solutions. For example, SuSEs SuSE Openexchange Server 4 is a groupware application that also includes document and project management capabilities for online collaboration.