Open-Xchange Server goes open source

Netline will join the growing list of software vendors that offer both free and paid-for versions of their software, as it open-sources its collaboration server

The engine behind Novell SuSE's groupware, collaboration, and messaging application will be released under the open-source GPL licence this month, according to Netline Internet Service, the company that makes it.

Netline's Open-Xchange, which is sold as Openexchange Server by Novell SuSE, lets users share email, calendar, tasks, threaded discussions and documents. These applications are typically accessed though a browser, but Microsoft's Outlook client is also supported. Outlook users can access calendar and contact data as well as tasks and documents stored in Open-Xchange in real time.

The interface also enables the exchange of datasets from ERP, CRM and project management applications, with Open-Xchange automatically integrating key project deadlines and tasks into appointment and task-management tools, thus removing the need to maintain multiple calendars.

Marketing director Joe Eckert said the impetus to take the engine open source came from Novell. "Novell encouraged us," he said. Novell sells Openexchange Server for small to medium-sized businesses, preferring to push its own Groupwise product for larger installations. "There were a few ways we could go with our product," said Eckert, who previously worked at SuSE: "Either Novell could throw developers at this, or we could throw developers at this, or we could open it up."

The potential to speed development through the open-source model clinched the argument, said Eckert. The ability to provide a test version of the software for companies who want to try it out was also important. "We noticed we had an increasing number of partners and customers asking for test versions, which we didn't have, and this caused some angst. This move gives them something to work with, but we feel that because of the nature of the product, companies will go to Novell SuSE to buy the software for production use because that comes with support and the connectors."

The connectors will not be released under the GPL, said Eckert, but will remain as proprietary technology.

Eckert agreed that Netline's new business model -- providing a free version of software that is also sold -- shares more than a passing similarity to that of database vendor MySQL. "Absolutely. As you look at this next generation of Linux software, which is a step beyond the operating system, there are companies such as ObjectWeb, JBoss and MySQL who have built good business models and who have excellent relationships with their customers, and who manage to challenge the incumbents in their markets."

"The GPL release of Open-Xchange is good for customers and developers," said Ed Anderson, vice president of product marketing for Novell's enterprise platform services group, in a statement. "Novell has been a leader in collaboration for many years, and we recognize the value of open source in the rapid development of software and its responsiveness to users' needs. That value is now part of SuSE Linux Openexchange Server as it brings collaboration stability and affordability to customers using Linux."

"More customers today are looking to implement both open source and proprietary software within their IT infrastructures, and Netline's Open-Xchange Server helps address this need," said Martin Fink, vice president of Linux, HP. "HP has long been the leading provider of open-source solutions on standards-based servers, allowing customers to achieve greater value, simplicity, and return on investment."

Eckert said the open-source version of the software should be available by the end of August.

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