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Exchange's soft underbelly is the low end

The open-source community lacked a groupware component until several weeks ago, when Skyrix Software AG, a German vendor, donated its software to the cause. The newly formed will use the platform, Skyrix 4.1, to create a groupware server that integrates with open-source products and any other groupware clients, providing access via XML interfaces and APIs. Prominent open-source developer Nat Friedman, who is also a co-founder and vice president at Ximian Inc., Boston, recently discussed what it will take for to succeed.

Why hasn't there been an open-source effort for groupware thus far?
There's no open protocol for calendaring. There are free IMAP servers, free POP servers, free centralized address book servers. Calendaring is the only missing piece.

There is an open-source project called CAP [the Calendaring Access Protocol], and all the industry put its eggs in that basket. For the past five years, everyone's been working on CAP, and they've yet to come up with a standard specification that can be implemented. Every year, it looks like it's another year off.

The initial users of the Internet had no need for calendaring. They needed mail, and that's why there are standards. At the recent unveiling of, the project lead billed the effort as an Exchange killer. What really are the chances of it stealing much from Microsoft Exchange's audience?
Stealing from Exchange is different from providing a viable midrange or low-end groupware server solution. The problem with stealing from Exchange is there is neither a need nor a desire to migrate away from Exchange.

Exchange doesn't scale very well, and it's otherwise expensive, so there is an opportunity. But Exchange does a lot and is heavily deployed. Enterprises have business logic and investments in Exchange. Any open-source alternative that comes out won't be scalable and enterprise-ready enough.

The opportunity is for a low-end groupware server, though it's not just an open-source opportunity. No one is marketing something to fill the low end. What's been the response from the community?
People are excited. And if there is an open-source groupware out there that is getting adopted and has long-term viability, we will build support into Evolution [Ximian workgroup software]. Is there any feature or function that customers will get from this that they can't get from commercial software?
They will get a really nice webmail interface. The new Outlook Web Access is only nice if you use Internet Explorer.


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How much do you know about Skyrix Software, the German software company that donated its groupware to the open-source community?
I know a little. I saw a demo and they have a great Web interface.

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