Scalix scales up email

Summary:Scalix is ratcheting up its quest to move deeper into Microsoft Exchange territory as well as into the growing market for super slick Web and wireless clients. I spoke with Scalix founder and chief strategy officer Julie Hanna Farris (at right, photo taken at Demo 2006) about the latest release of Scalix’s Linux-based email platform.

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Scalix is ratcheting up its quest to move deeper into Microsoft Exchange territory as well as into the growing market for super slick Web and wireless clients. I spoke with Scalix founder and chief strategy officer Julie Hanna Farris (at right, photo taken at Demo 2006) about the latest release of Scalix’s Linux-based email platform.

The big news, according to Farris, about the latest release (version 10

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) is higher availability-- active/active and active/passive failover for up to 8 nodes for 5 nines uptime and support for Red Hat and SUSE clustering—and simplified administration, such as setting per user storage quota, managing Scalix users with Active Directory extensions and simpler installation.

The new version also supports has 64-bit operation systems and multiple instance per server.  For cross-platform calendaring, Scalix 8 supports iCal and Webcal standards, ahead of Microsoft, which won’t have it until Office 12 ship late this year.

The various clients--Web Access, Outlook, Evolution and Wireless—also have been spruced up.  For example, the Outlook version, which supports native MAPI, includes digital signatures and an “advanced” rule wizard.

A major highlight is the Web client, which accounts for about 50 percent of Scalix usage to date.  Like Zimbra and other clients, such as forthcoming updates from Microsoft, Yahoo and Google email, Scalix Web Access spreads the AJAX pixie dust and has the rich client feel of a desktop application without performance degradation (at least in the demo I saw). It keeps the entire mailbox cached so that scrolling through a message store is smooth, and maintains a lot of consistency with Outlook—such as overlapping windows --which  makes sense given Scalix’s goal to replace Exchange server installations. It also improves on Outlook, such as viewing the calendar on the main email screen and iCal support. Farris is among the chorus calling 2006 the year of the calendar. "It's like the state of email before SMTP," Farris said. "iCal has signs of promise for interoperability, but it doesn't help between clients with free/busy look ups." She noted that Scalix does look up at the client and server levels.

Scalix works on an open source stack, but is based on Open Mail, HP’s proprietary email software that was used to run enterprises with hundreds of thousands of users (HP stopped selling Open Mail in 2001).  Farris told me that she is hoping to make the server open source, but that depends on HP, which owns the source code.

Scalix customers can get access to source code, but the fact that it doesn't have an open source license and associated redistribution rights hasn't been an issue so far, she said. "There is a religious debate around pure play open source versus hybrid," Farris said. "If you talk to customers, they only care about lock-in. They want to know if the licensing is friendly. We have unlimited use for the Community Edition. They also want to know if the community can influence the direction of the product and how the developer community can extend and integrate it."

Scalix's Community Edition includes a free single user server version and unlimited Web Access, but only 25 users get free group scheduling and public folders and it lacks full MS Exchange interoperability. Users can choose to pay Scalix for per incident support. The Enterprise Edition includes multiserver support, wireless email, Exchange co-existence and Active Directory integration for a $60 one-time fee and $12 per year per mailbox for maintenance and support.

By contrast, the newly released Zimbra Collaboration Suite 3.0 Open Source Edition is free, but lacks several features--such as hot incremental backup, clustering for automating failover-- found in the commercially-supported Network Edition. The Network Edition is $28 per mailbox per year with a minimum of 500 users, which includes product support. Zimbra also has a small business edition at $1450 per year for up to 50 user groups, but no enhanced support (phone and email incident management support). Over a three year period, Zimbra looks cheaper, but it's hard to tell on the basic of list pricing given other factors, such as special features, reliability, performance and extensibility of the platform over the same period. Zimbra doesn't yet have full Outlook/MAPI or wireless synching support. However, Zimbra is ahead of Scalix in developing easy mashup integrations with its Zimlets, and has iCal support as well. 

Farris told me that Scalix has plans to "go beyond Zimlets in terms of enterprise application integration."  She has set ambitious goals for Scalix. She wants to go from basically zero to 5 percent market share of the $2 billion email/messenging market in the next few years.  The company has garnered $25 million in VC backing, inked strategic agreements with resellers, integrator and big partners like IBM, and touts the price/performance of Linux/Scalix advantage over Windows and Exchange.  

It looks like a good battle going forward as Scalix and Zimbra, as well as other smaller software players, such as Gordano and Rockliffe, and messenging appliance vendors try to chip away at MS Exchange, Note/Domino and GroupWise.  They won't go easily into the night, but nobody really expected Firefox to succeed.

Topics: Collaboration

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