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Collaboration offers Linux-based messaging alternative

Linux specialists Ximian and SuSE are putting their client-server know-how together to offer businesses an open-source alternative to messaging products from Microsoft and IBM.

Open-source pioneer Ximian Inc. this week entered a partnership with SuSE Inc. that should expand options for customers who seek an alternative to messaging products from Microsoft and IBM.

As part of the deal, Oakland, Calif.-based SuSE and Boston-based Ximian will use Ximian's Connector software to integrate Ximian's Evolution groupware with the SuSE Linux Openexchange server. This arrangement, which will provide customers with a Linux client and server package, competes directly with Microsoft Exchange and IBM's Lotus Domino.

Ximian Connector is an extension of Ximian's Evolution software, which is an e-mail and information client for Linux and Unix. The software supports a variety of mail clients, including IMAP, POP and SMTP, so it can work with just about every messaging system, company executives said. SuSE's Openexchange is a messaging and collaboration application that competes with Exchange and Domino.

Until now, customers using SuSE Openexchange were unable to take full advantage of calendaring capabilities that are common on competitors' systems. With the addition of the Connector software, Openexchange users will now be able to search on an individual's schedule and book appointments, just as users of Exchange and Domino can do, one customer said.

Dave Richards, a system administrator for the city of Largo, Fla., said his users had every benefit offered by Exhange and Domino, except the use of a centralized calendar. "We were missing the ability to search for someone's free time," he said.

With the integration of Evolution and its calendaring function, Openexchange should be on a par with Exchange and Domino, although Domino does offer many forms and applications not included in Exchange, he said.

Richards said he frequently compares costs between the major messaging and collaboration platforms, and he estimates that his municipality experiences a six-figure cost savings each year by running the open-source platform; the savings are particularly significant in the wake of last year's changes to Microsoft's licensing structure.

Ximian cut a similar deal last month with Sun Microsystems Inc., in which Ximian's Evolution software connects with the Sun e-mail and calendar application.

SuSE plans to ship Ximian Evolution and Ximian Connector with its SuSE Linux Openexchange server this summer. The license costs about $1,250 for unlimited e-mail accounts and includes 10 calendar and collaboration accounts. Additional collaboration accounts cost $50 each.


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