Open-Xchange interest soars


Author: Preston St. Pierre

Earlier this month Netline Internet Service unleashed version 0.7.3 of the newly open-sourced Open-Xchange Server. The new release includes code, bug fixes, and documentation contributed by a rapidly growing developer base.

Netline originally released Open-Xchange Server under the General Public License in August. Since then, interest in the software program that is the basis of Novell’s commercial product, SUSE Linux Openexchange Server, has surged.

Open-Xchange Server is a business collaboration platform that lets users share email, calendars, task lists, discussions, and documents, much like the popular Microsoft Exchange Server. A free online demonstration of the product is available at the open source project’s Web site.

Frank Hoberg, CEO of Netline, said he has been “overwhelmed” by the interest in Open-Xchange source code, which has been downloaded over 22,000 times in the past month — mostly by developers working for enterprise-class businesses. “We’ve had a lot of response from the community in several ways,” he said.

“For example, we announced that we have the ability for Open-Xchange to run on several Linux platforms — and within five days we had six documentation manuals written by the community. And it is very high quality documentation.”

Open source community members have also been hard at work translating Open-Xchange into Norwegian, Italian, and Spanish, from German and English, and exposing bugs in the software, which is sometimes a more valuable activity than the coding of new features, according to Hoberg.

There have been no large-scale enterprise adoptions of Open-Xchange yet. Hoberg expects that will come once Netline completes development of proprietary connectors sometime this year, which will allow seamless integration with other clients, including Microsoft Outlook.

Netline will release a commercial version of Open-Xchange that includes the connectors, Hoberg said, saying it will be “easy to install, easy to maintain, easy to update,” and no specific Linux skills will be necessary. “You could do it as a Windows administrator,” he said.

Then there will be a second offering for “real Linux experts” that will include the source code and more high-power installation options. Hoberg said Netline will offer technical support packages with the expert edition. “Even with all the skills they have, they still run into several questions.”

Hoberg said the vision that inspired the release of Open-Xchange under the GPL is being realized. “We wanted to allow the community to participate in what we are doing from the technical side, and also from the market research side,” he said, adding that more than a thousand developers are working on the project; most of them are affiliated with the companies that will adopt Open-Xchange when it matures sufficiently for enterprise use. “They give us a lot of good ideas,” he said.

“That’s a tremendous thing, because we can do all the things the market really needs to have. We want to be focused on that.”