August 8, 2002

Samsung builds on OpenMail; claims Linux/Unix mail server much cheaper than Exchange

-By Grant Gross -

The PR departments of all kinds of companies that have some connection with Linux are gearing up for the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo in San Francisco August 12 to 15. NewsForge has received about a dozen PR pitches and requests for briefings since early last week.
One such pitch was from Samsung Contact, a mail/messaging server that works with Linux and Unix and has Hewlett-Packard's OpenMail as an ancestor. In a press release, the Samsung Contact people are suggesting that enterprises can save more than $32 million over three years by migrating from Microsoft Exchange.

No, that's not a typo, that's $32 with six zeros behind it. This is definitely a case of "your mileage may vary," because that $32 million savings is calculated for businesses with 100,000 email users. Your business may not be quite that big -- Samsung Contact chief architect Richi Jennings says several customers moving from the old HP's OpenMail really have that many email users -- but the numbers still work out to be a significant savings for smaller businesses, according to the company.

The Samsung people say a business with 1,000 email users could still save $432,000 over three years, and those with 10,000 email users would save $4.7 million by using Samsung Contact instead of Microsoft Exchange. Those numbers don't include the cost of switching to Unix or Linux if your company is not already using one of those operating systems.

"It's an enormous discrepancy," Jennings says of the TCO numbers.

It's almost a sure bet that Microsoft would dispute those numbers, but Samsung Contact has lined up an industry analyst or two who get similar TCO results.

David Ferris, president of email analyst firm Ferris Research, says Samsung's numbers hold up. According to his numbers, Exchange typically costs about $16 per user per month, with Samsung Contact costing about $9 per user per month.

Although there are plenty of other email server products that work with Linux, Jennings claims that Samsung Contact has a unique place in the market because it provides functionality similar to the popular features in Microsoft Outlook. Samsung Contact supports Outlook, plus Open Source mail software such as Mozilla or Ximian's Evolution. The Contact group is finishing its own email/collaboration client that will work with Windows, Linux, or as Web mail.

Jennings says the cost savings comes because Samsung Contact needs fewer tech people to support it, since Contact is more reliable and scalable than Exchange, and fewer servers are needed to run large email farms, Jennings claims.

"There are other vendors out there who claim they do Outlook, but the devil is always in the details," Jennings says. "The detail is always in that list of Outlook functionality that, 'well, actually we don't support that.'"

Ferris agrees. "Samsung is right, it's unique in the ability to provide a very
full-function Outlook experience against a back-end Unix box," he says.

Samsung Contact, released in March, is based on OpenMail, a software product no longer on the front burner at HP. Samsung has licensed the technology from HP, and several employees from HP, including Jennings, have moved over to Samsung to continue working on the product.

Remember that OpenMail is not an Open Source project -- HP was using that name for several years before the phrase "Open Source" was coined.

Jennings says the initial focus of the Samsung Contact team was HP's original OpenMail customer base. The company is now trying to win new users and present itself as an alternative, especially with the controversy over Microsoft's new 6.0 licensing scheme, which went into effect at the start of this month.

"It's causing enterprises all sorts of headaches as they work out how they're going to pay for Microsoft products in the future, and how much they're going to have to pay for them," Jennings says. "Even with the last-minute special, special deals that Microsoft was doing to get people to adhere to the deadline, the information I have is that roughly 50% of their larger enterprise customers have not signed up for 6.0."

Jennings and crew are also pitching Samsung Contact and the upcoming email client as an alternative to the "bloated" Outlook. "In the words of one client who shall remain nameless, 'Outlook is funky,'" Jennings says.

Asked how the future looks for Samsung Contact, Ferris says it's a bit hard to predict. "I think it has the best opportunities in the following areas: OpenMail customers who don't want the big hassle of migrating elsewhere, and service providers wanting to support customers with Outlook."


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