March 27, 2003

Gordano - an "Exchange Replacement" that predates Exchange

- By Robin 'Roblimo' Miller -
The company Web site says, "Gordano has provided robust and secure messaging for over eight years and continues to innovate and lead the market. Since 1994, the Gordano Messaging Suite has been deployed in over 20,000 organizations in 120+ countries and supports over 54 million Email accounts. These companies and users have enjoyed the benefits of low cost of ownership of our solution allowing them to reduce their costs and increase system reliability." And yes, it runs on Linux or Unix.

Now and then we like to write about alternatives to Microsoft Exchange because we hear, over and over, from readers who say their Exchange Server is the only unit in their server room that they can't possibly migrate to Linux, and if they take Outlook away from their office people there will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

But there are a number of other messaging server products out there that do everything Exchange can -- and run on Linux. Many of them are sold and maintained by stable companies, and have plenty of enterprise-level clients.

Gordano started out as NTMail, and the company claims theirs was the first email/messaging server product for Windows NT. Since then it has been ported to Linux and several Unix flavors. Now, as spokesperson Ray Warren puts it, "Gordano is not getting into operating system battles. We're agnostic."

Perhaps. A look through Gordano's price lists (you need to click on individual products to get the numbers) shows that they sell their Windows licenses for substantially less than they sell Linux or Unix licenses. The differences more than make up for any saving a corporate user is likely to realize in license savings on the operating system itself.

Warren says the reason for the differential is that " from the development and maintenance and testing side, we carry higher costs on the Unix side, and we have a smaller user base."

While unable to provide a direct comparison to Exchange pricing -- "Exchange pricing is too confusing," Warren notes (a statement with which we heartily agree) -- Gordano is almost always less expensive measured on a case-by-case basis. It also offer an optional instant messaging facility so employees can use IM securely, behind the corporate firewall, anti-virus logic, and -- most of all -- famous scalability: Single Gordano servers have been known to handle 50,000+ clients (according to this case study), and may be able to scale up to 100,000, possibly more.

Five readers have reviewed Gordano. Three did not like it, while two found it acceptable.

Perhaps Gordano will bring their Linux/Unix prices in line with their Windows prices before long. And perhaps not. This is their decision to make, not ours.

Meanwhile, Stalker Software's CommuniGate Pro and SuSE's Openexchange Server are both adding new features like mad (look for stories about both products on NewsForge soon) and reliable old "more compatible with Outlook than Exchange itself" Samsung Contact keeps chugging along and getting a little better with each release, and all three of these options carry price tags that seem at least as reasonable as Gordano's, especially on Linux.

At this point there are no mature, enterprise-ready free or open source "Exchange replacement" email/messaging software packages available, at least as far as we know. It is certainly possible to self-assemble a number of free software packages to obtain most Exchange functionality, but in a corporate environment it may not be worth the time, considering the number of proprietry products available, unless your company takes a dogmatic "If it's not free software we don't need it" approach to software acquistion.

Author's note: If you have a fully-functional, enterprise-level "Exchange replacement" email and messaging server system actually up and running with nothing but open source or free software, we would like to write about it. Please contact me by email and we'll schedule a phone, IRC or IM interview.

Click Here!