October 24, 2002

SuSE targets MS Exchange users with new groupware package

- By Robin "Roblimo" Miller -
It's called Openexchange, and it's aimed squarely at companies that currently use Microsoft Exchange v. 5.5, which Microsoft is about to stop supporting. "I see a lot of interest, with the Exchange 5.5 updates running out," says Holger Dyroff, SuSE's general manager for the Americas. And yes, before you ask, it runs on (SuSE) Linux.

Holger says they use the "normal SuSE Enterprise Server as the base" and that that they "added new features to our SuSE email server. We found a new company to provide the the groupware part."

The groupware portion is made by the people who make the .comFire "collaboration appliance."

Release date for the package is supposed to be November 10.

The base license costs $1,249. That includes unlimited email and 10 concurrent user licenses for the groupware. Holger says additional groupware licenses are $30 each until the end of the year. Then they're going to cost $50 per seat up to five seats, with a sliding scale down to $30 per seat as the number you buy increases.

"We're thinking about offering special prices for schools and non-profits," Holger says.

He also says, "The initial cost [of Openexchange] is 50 to 60 percent cheaper than Microsoft Exchange," and adds, "You can run more users per hardware than Exchange, but the exact numbers aren't in yet."

On the sales front, he says, "We've seen big interest from our existing email server customer base ... we're getting 40 to 50 inquiries per week. Now IBM and HP -- especially HP -- are talking about bundles using this new product.

Holger continues, "Our channel partners are very excited. Our value-added distributors ae very interested, plus lots of partners (resellers) from IBM and HP are interested."

SuSE plans to go after current Microsoft Exchange 5.5 users hard and heavy. "That's the market we will basically target," Holger says.

Holger also notes that SuSE's Openexchange server has nothing to do with SuSE's UnitedLinux partners. He says, "Some of our partners have competing products. SCO has Volution, for example."

According to Holger, SuSE looked hard at similar products on the market and thought about making deals with one of them, but in the end decided to go with .comFire and the email server SuSE already had. Of the products they tested, he says, "We were happiest with CommuniGate Pro."

When asked how SuSE plans to compete with CommuniGate, Holger says SuSE is "not really going against them. We are more flexible on pricing than they are."

SuSE also evaluated several Free/Open groupware packages for potential inclusion in the SuSE product. Regarding the combination OpenOffice/Mozilla groupware project now under way, Holger says, "We'll see." He points out that the whole email part of SuSE Openexchange is Open Source -- LDAP. He also admits that their new product is not unique. "It's possible for someone to put it all together themselves, but it may be cheaper for them to buy it from us as a package."

Holger says KDE's groupware is "not ready yet. When it is, we'll look at it ... we may incorporate some of its features."

The main reason SuSE chose to go with a proprietary groupware package instead of waiting for an Open Source package to mature, Holger says, is Microsoft dropping support for Exchange 5.5.

"The Exchange 5.5 customers need a solution now!" he says.

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