Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Microsoft Businesses Open Source Software IT

Open-source Challenge To Exchange Gains Steam 164

jbrodkin writes "An open-source, cloud-based e-mail alternative to Microsoft Exchange called Open-Xchange has signed up two new service providers and predicts it will have 40 million users by the end of 2011. Based in Germany, Open-Xchange has tripled its user base from 8 million to 24 million paid seats since 2008, with the help of three dozen service providers including 1&1 Internet, among the world's largest Web hosting companies. Microsoft is still the 800-pound gorilla, with a worldwide install base of 301 million mailboxes in 2010, expected to reach 470 million by 2014. But Open-Xchange is luring numerous service providers who are wary of Microsoft's attempts to compete against its own partners by selling hosted e-mail services directly to its customers."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Open-source Challenge To Exchange Gains Steam

Comments Filter:
  • Why is this better than MS? And can someone still remote wipe all my iStuff remotely? (with/out my permission)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 30, 2011 @03:52AM (#35047496)

    Don't worry about Open-Xchange, OpenChange + SOGo is the real open source alternative:


    - OpenChange Server is a transparent and native Exchange replacement for Microsoft Outlook users working on top of Samba 4. With OpenChange, you don't need costly MAPI connectors anymore.

    - SOGo is a reliable groupware server with a focus on scalability and open standards. Let your Mozilla Thunderbird/Lightning, Apple iCal/iPhone, BlackBerry and now Microsoft Outlook users collaborate using a modern platform.

    No per-seat CALS or license fees whatsovever.

    • by stiller ( 451878 ) on Sunday January 30, 2011 @05:50AM (#35047794) Homepage Journal

      OpenChange is very promising, but hardly production ready.
      SOGo is not a feature per feature match for OX, Scalix, Zimbra or Zarafa. These are all mature projects with a large installed user base. If you are worried about license fees (which usually include paid support), you can always use the free editions of these projects and not use Outlook.

      • by Bert64 ( 520050 )

        OpenChange seems to be a layer for implementing the proprietary exchange protocols used by outlook, so how difficult would it be to make openchange talk to the free versions of these other projects instead of having a plugin on the client?

        • SOGo already uses open protocols (e.g. CalDAV, CardDAV, GroupDAV, IMAP) for integrating with clients that support open protocols. For example, it works with Apple's iCal or Mozilla Sunbird for calendaring by using this protocol. You only need the OpenChange when using Microsoft's client - anything else should work directly.
          • by stiller ( 451878 )

            This is also the case for many of the commercial open source offerings. I know at least Zimbra supports the four protocols you mentioned. These protocols are really great and completely open, but their biggest drawback is increased configuration on the client side - not very user friendly.

            • Inverse, the company behind SOGo, has also released extensions to Lightning and Thunderbird, that provide a better groupware solution if you want a fat client. User configuration is pretty simple with this installed, but it seems like a red herring - anyone using Exchange is likely to have an IT department pushing out preconfigured client installs.
        • by stiller ( 451878 )

          It should be possible. I know it has been done for z-push (open activesync, originally from Zarafa) and Zimbra, an unrelated product. Implementing OpenChange for these projects might not be in the best interest of the involved companies, since most of their revenue comes from charging for their specific Outlook plug-in.

    • It is true that OpenChange and SOGo look very promising and I am following the news with quite a bit of interest. One day it will be production ready. That said, Open Xchange is open source to a point. I think Open-Xchange is more crippleware because you have to buy the product in order to get Outlook integration, or at least the last time I looked into it.
  • by skrowl ( 100307 ) on Sunday January 30, 2011 @04:06AM (#35047532) Homepage

    Here's the direct link to go read about it if you don't want to go through the networkworld blogspam article: http://www.open-xchange.com/ [open-xchange.com]

    The "Server edition" is $1300, and they make you open a blind link to a PDF to figure that out.

    Here's a handy feature matrix but noticeably absent is the free "community edition": http://oxpedia.org/index.php?title=OX_Product_Matrix [oxpedia.org]

    Also, the activesync thing (oxtender) is completely non-free and only available in the licensed versions.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      As opposed to:


      Which only has the free/freedom community edition.

    • by mysidia ( 191772 )

      This is why all the Exchange "alternatives" are doomed to failure. The free/inexpensive options all lack the critical functionality of Activesync or Outlook interoperability.

      When software makers add these worthy functionality, they immediately try to start pricing their product at the same level as Exchange.

      This is obviously some sort of shared greed complex. "We have the same functionality as this really expensive (overpriced) software, so we can charge a lot for it too...."

      Well, they're not Micro

      • by Bert64 ( 520050 )

        Zarafa has free activesync support...
        Support for outlook is usually non free because they have to pay a per seat license fee to microsoft in order to write a plugin to outlook...

    • Wow, I thought this was a Slashvertisement for OpenXchange and your specs detail that for me. Those specs. seems to match the business model of Zimbra, another Exchange competitor, right down to the community edition being available for free unsupported. Yet I see no mention of Zimbra in TFA. And I think Zimbra has a lot of users too.

    • A) They hide/don't have a comparison matrix.
      B) They hide the fact that there is a Community edition.
      C) Even with those facts, the site looks completely unprofessional. Just compare it to OpenERP's site.
      D) They get too much OSS publicity for the charade they are running.

      Congrats to them as a company. No benefit to OSS world out of it I sense.
  • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Sunday January 30, 2011 @04:43AM (#35047628)

    For example, I think Slashdot needs to come up with an alternative logo for Microsoft stories. Sure, the old one was really stale - but at least it looked like a Borg. With the new one, it just looks like Gates is wearing a really poorly-designed Bluetooth phone headset.

    • Actually, it is a Bluetooth headset, with a poorly designed version of Bill Gates....
    • For example, I think Slashdot needs to come up with an alternative logo for Microsoft stories.

      Just use the legit corporate logos, anything else is nothing more than flamebait.

      • Just use the legit corporate logos, anything else is nothing more than flamebait.

        I actually agree with you - but, this being Slashdot, it's unlikely to happen. So at a minimum I'd prefer to see a logo that visually represents what it's supposed to represent. This new Microsoft "Borg" icon only works for those of us who were here in the days of the old icon - for anyone new coming in, it's unlikely they'll be able to figure out what it's supposed to be. From a branding perspective, that's a fundamental failure.

    • All the new topic icons suck. They look like they were lifted from one of those DOS shell/menuing shareware apps from the mid nineties...
  • How are they better? (Score:3, Informative)

    by NiteRiderXP ( 750309 ) on Sunday January 30, 2011 @05:16AM (#35047704)

    First of all, it is technically open source, but the license the community edition uses means it cannot legally be used by businesses.
    It is definitely not a free alternative to M$ Exchange.
    Each user license costs $52 for this product, an M$ Exchange CAL costs about as much, maybe a few bucks more.

    Whoever designed the web access GUI went icon crazy and they are not very meaningful either.
    Outlook Web Access is simple, this contraption had me guessing at what buttons do.

    I manage an Exchange 2007 environment with roughly 700 users depending on it.
    Originally having no experience, I got a test server up and running within a day.
    The administrator tools are simple, powerful, and reliable; overall we have not had any serious issues in the past three years.
    I also know that if something goes wrong, there is M$ support, service packs, backup software, DB repair tools, forums, etc.

    Here is what happens with an open source product:
    You install the product and spend the next couple of hours wading through text config files.
    When you do manage to get the product to work, the thing does not work as expected.
    You spend the next couple of hours cranking up debugging output and wading through source code.
    If you are really masochistic you end up compiling your own build after you have found a bug.

    Now in some cases going open source is worth the pain, especially when it brings additional functionality and cost savings.
    Unfortunately, this open source product has the goal of duplicating functionality at a similar price point.
    An additional thing to consider is that most open source products need more maintenance and labor.
    This additional labor is highly in demand and is not at all cheap, which might make this an even more expensive solution than the original.

    • by ADRA ( 37398 ) on Sunday January 30, 2011 @06:03AM (#35047826)

      I can't say for the functionality, benefits, complexity, etc.. of the article's software, but I can think of many better things to spend 36K on than licensing Exchange. Don't even mention the server side licensing (Unless they've subsequently dropped server CAL requirements for exchange boxes), server first time costs, and yearly subscription fees to keep up to date with all the latest updates and support features that you list so highly. Throwing money at a problem may be -a- solution for -some- companies, but that can't be said for everyone. Of course that all assumes that Exchange is the better maintenance system, but as I see nobody doing empirical analysis, or even anecdotes, its hard for you, me, or the rest of the mob to come up with any sort of rational discourse.

      "Here is what happens with an open source product:"

      I really like how you pulled the old bait and switch here. Instead of listing the behavior of quoted product, you instead drill into why open source software is bad. Well, if you just took the software and didn't pay a dime for it, then maybe a few of those points apply. Maybe if you paid for the software, you could get paid support and the assurance that when a problem is found that it can actually be addressed without waiting quarters before a company decides to release an update to fix a bug. For real money, you can (for a lot cheaper seemingly) get a system that does more or less what Exchange does. As said earlier, I'd like someone who's actually used both systems in a real world scenario to talk about pros and cons, but since that isn't happening yet, lets keep the rhetoric to ourselves.

      • by JamesP ( 688957 )

        "Here is what happens with an open source product:"

        I really like how you pulled the old bait and switch here. Instead of listing the behavior of quoted product, you instead drill into why open source software is bad. Well, if you just took the software and didn't pay a dime for it, then maybe a few of those points apply.

        Too bad he's more right than not.

        Not that a similar thing doesn't happen with closed source products, and be more or equally frustrating.

        I've seen this with Apache, with several other softwares, where 1) doesn't work 2) can't figure out why 3) the darn software DOESN'T SAY WHAT'S WRONG

        And that's really frustrating.

        Back on topic, Exchange may be crap, but the alternatives suck more. At least I've heard nothing good about Zimbra, for example.

        I really wish I could recommend Mozilla Thunderbird for example, but

    • by flyingfsck ( 986395 ) on Sunday January 30, 2011 @06:26AM (#35047912)
      Really? The CItadel Easy Install script runs in about 20 minutes. Citadel is easier to set up and administer than Exchange and it costs nothing.
      • The thing about Exchange competitors is unfortunately playing nice with Microsoft's monopoly which means outlook is *everywhere*. Microsoft never makes efforts to support open standards, therefore Outlook will never work well with something like citadel (sure, imap is there, but doing anything more than that requires, surprise, a commercial add-on).

        The problem for groupware is not that Exchange is so fundamentally awesome beyond hope of competing on a level playing field, it's that it rides on the success

        • (sure, imap is there, but doing anything more than that requires, surprise, a commercial add-on).

          It's Exchange!. I'm surprised being able to send more than one mail per day doesn't require you to buy an additional add-on.

      • Citadel is ancient, and it looks that way. I wouldn't feel comfortable showing the web interface to my boss. Look at Roundcube for comparison.

    • Here is what happens with an open source product:

      Here is what happens with an closed source product:

      you install it with 1 click, but then spend the next few days going through GUI config screens./
      When you do manage to get the product to work, the thing does not work as expected.
      You spend the next week persuading your boss to send you on a week's training course, for only ten thousand dollars.
      You come back with a couple of thick binders full of documentation that you already can't remember.
      You spend a few mo

      • Exactly right. Wish I had mod points for this. One of the numerous advantages of many open source solutions is that they are designed by hackers and when things go wrong, usually there are very distinct error messages and good logging capabilities. Coupled with some googling and/or IRC rooms, things usually get resolved very quickly. If you're a hacker yourself, you can usually resolve issues pretty quickly.

        A common experience for me with closed source has been more along the lines of a message-box-

    • by Junta ( 36770 )

      I think your point is accurate on some open source projects on their own, but a lot of projects work quite well. The same applies to commercial products, sometimes they are solid, sometimes they are hard to use/counterintuitive, and when you have a bug, you don't even have the 'masocist' option of fix it yourself. I have had commercial vendors want to charge me a $200 incident support fee to let me send them a stack trace from their poroduct crashing without an error message. Similarly with support, we h

    • by butlerm ( 3112 )

      First of all, it is technically open source, but the license the community edition uses means it cannot legally be used by businesses.

      That is not technically "open source" by any common definition, most particularly not that of the Open Source Initiative [opensource.org], which prohibits discrimination against fields of endeavor.

    • I agree that OpenXchange is a joke, in all possible scenarios. OpenXchange, because it's backed by a company should already be easy to start with.
      Want to see witch OSS projects are easy to start with? MySQL, Tomcat, OpenERP and a lot of others.
  • It's not that impressive, really. Zimbra has gone from six million paid mailboxes in 2007, to 40 million in 2009, to 65 million in 2010.
    I do believe all these commercial open source projects should work together on the OpenChange project to finally get rid of those Outlook connectors.

  • by flyingfsck ( 986395 ) on Sunday January 30, 2011 @06:02AM (#35047824)
    http://citadel.org/ [citadel.org] Citadel uses a proper database back-end and can handle terabytes of mail for thousands of users.
  • It's nice that the source on these hosted applications is open - no sarcasm intended. But since they're hosted, the source is open "read only": as a user, if I change the source to do something different, I can't commit it to the source of the hosted app to change it. Only the hosts can. Unless some host is running instances of the server per hosting customer that can be revised, which I've never heard of.

    And then who's going to be the newly featured server admin? That's the really expensive and hard part o

    • by Bert64 ( 520050 )

      The common argument against open source is the requirement to have someone who knows how to run it (but this applies to anything), using a hosted service solves that at the expense of flexibility.
      If you have staff on hand who are capable of modifying sourcecode than chances are you already have people capable of running the server, and so a hosted service isn't your best choice.

      OSS is a no brainer for a decent hosting provider, it scales financially (no extra software costs as you get more customers), and y

      • If you have staff on hand who are capable of modifying sourcecode than chances are you already have people capable of running the server, and so a hosted service isn't your best choice.

        That statement is quite incorrect. Development and operations are two very different things. I have a development department, but I don't want to spend any of their time on the time sink that is operating a server, even if we've developed some of its code. Developer time costs more than operations time, and losing it to opera

  • With these hosted servers, is the administrator they provide any good (skilled, responsive)? Does their customer service quickly resolve issues that can't be immediately processed by the GUI?

  • Do any of these hosted Exchange replacements allow custom app development to the server's API? Or are they just another black box that just replaces Exchange with some other magic box?`

    • it would be hard to call them open if they didn't.

      i for one know that i'm much more interested in Sogo than OX.

      • If you publish the source code, it's open source. Which doesn't mean that you get to write to the source from which the executable is compiled. Or, for that matter, execute the binary at the hosting service, which can require payment or other requirements to do so.

  • If I switch my 50 user office from Exchange to Zimbra, what will I lose in functions? Will I be able to point Zimbra at a database whose schema I can edit and populate with other apps, whose objects I can CRUD from other apps, including ones I write?

  • Anyone offering hosted Exchange or an alternative "Outlook server" integrated with support for desktop VOIP phones (US48 unlimited minutes, or $0.02:min), at under $35 per month, that has 99.999% annual uptime and good customer service? With an API for integrating my custom apps to its features?

  • by jav1231 ( 539129 ) on Sunday January 30, 2011 @10:11AM (#35048596)
    That's one way to get it gaining steam. Call it "cloud based." Because the "Internet" isn't cool anymore. It's got to be "the cloud!" Marketing...
  • While it makes sense to have outlook support without requiring a plugin, they don't have native activesync support so you now need a plugin on many types of phone handsets... Last i checked, the funambol plugin was quite sucky...
    And sure an iphone will sync using caldav/carddav/imap but it won't do push email and you can't remote wipe the device this way...

  • Every time groupware/Exchange related topics appear on Slashdot (often as not an "open" replacement solution that isn't quite open, or not quite there, or both), I see a couple of references to the Citadel project:

    http://www.citadel.org/ [citadel.org]

    This appears to be a very interesting offering, and I've never understood why it doesn't generate more buzz. Can anyone knowledgeable in this subject explain what is lacking in Citadel to make it a serious contender in this domain? It is compatibility with Outlook/Exchange

    • by Junta ( 36770 )

      At a glance, they have no commercial entity trying to spam it all over the news for one. For another, they too require some commercial add-on to be 100% outlook compatible. Lastly, they make no effort to use buzzowrds like 'SaaS' or 'cloud', which I suppose ties into the first point.

      It might also suck, I have no idea, I don't do groupware stuff anymore so I have no reason to try it out.

    • Citadel requires the purchase of a third-party, MAPI connector to be fully integrated with Outlook. I believe the product is called Bynari Connector [bynari.net]
    • I used Citadel a few years back. It was fairly easy to install and easy to manage, although there were definitely some quirks in their terminology which made figuring it all out a little challenging. However, the reason I stopped using it was the web interface for all of the functions (mail, calendaring, etc.). It was very strange to say the least. Just didn't feel like a normal mail server like Exchange or Zimbra. I think it was based on the old BBS model or something. I also seem to remember some od
  • This is an area I have been following with interest, as a number of clients have asked me about ditching their Exchange servers. There are several "open source" alternatives to Exchange, all with their own drawbacks. The main ones I know of are Scalix, Zimbra, Zarafa, OpenXchange, Citadel, and OpenChange/SOGo, although there are others.

    OpenChange looks the most promising in the long term, as I believe it's the only one that promises 100% open source compatibility with Outlook. All the others require some ki

  • by Ostracus ( 1354233 ) on Monday January 31, 2011 @12:13AM (#35053332) Journal

    Open-source Challenge To Exchange Gains Steam

    Wonderful. When did Valve get into Groupware?

Q: How many IBM CPU's does it take to execute a job? A: Four; three to hold it down, and one to rip its head off.