Is Scalix a contender or pretender for Microsoft Exchange?

Is Scalix a contender or pretender for Microsoft Exchange?

Summary: David Berlind posted this interesting blog on an Exchange server and Outlook client alternative from the company Scalix. Since Microsoft avoided going to aSQLdatabase backend with their soon to be released Exchange 2005, this leaves the door open for a more scalable challenger.

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TOPICS: Microsoft
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David Berlind posted this interesting blog on an Exchange server and Outlook client alternative from the company Scalix. Since Microsoft avoided going to aSQLdatabase backend with their soon to be released Exchange 2005, this leaves the door open for a more scalable challenger. I have yet to see one yet, butyou can't rule anything out.Will Scalix be the one to replace Microsoft Exchange 5.5, 2000, or even 2003?

I would need to have some of these fundamental questions answered before I can judge.

  • Can it natively integrate in to an Active Directory or just a Windows NT domain? LDAP would be second preference but it wouldn't be as smooth when it comes to seamless integration and administration.
  • Can it support RPC tunneling over SSL for Outlook 2003 clients? This allows an Outlook 2003 client to connect to an Exchange server securely without a VPN client or where VPN is blocked and only Web access allowed.
  • Does the Scalix web based client meet or exceed the functionality and richness of the ActiveX based Exchange 2003 Web Client? From the looks of some of the screen shots, it comes close but not quite as good as OWA 2003.Is theScalix web client as lean and fast asthe OWA 2003 client?I would have to see the real thing to judge. Too bad Scalix doesn't provide a real live demo of the Web based interface.
  • Canthe Scalixservermove beyond the current MS Access style jet database technologyused inExchange 5.5, 2000, 2003, 2005? CanScalixuse an ODBC backend instead like Microsoft SQL server, Oracle, IBM DB2, or even a MySQL backend? This is one of the few weak spots of Microsoft Exchange and I really wish they had not canceled their plan to have Exchange 2005 use Microsoft SQL Server 2005 for a backend.It may havemeantthatthe next Exchange server wouldneed towaituntil 2006, but it's well worth it.
  • Isthe Scalix solutiona stable and manageable platform?This isn'ttrivial, andI'd have to see the execution first hand to judge.
  • SinceScalix wants to move in on Exchange server,is theirsolution easyto implement for a Windows and Exchange administrator?
  • I'm a little nervous when someone tells me that they have a lower TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) since TCO ishard to define. I would need to see some actual numbers on licensing and supportcost. Scalix would need to compare itself to both Microsoft Small Business edition server and the regular corporate pricing of Windows 2003andExchange 2003.

After I get these questions answered and verified, I'll do a follow up.

Topic: Microsoft

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12 comments
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  • Answers = information.

    Why do you ask questions on the web whereas you could get answers from info@scalix.com ? Or you could start by downloading the specification sheets (in PDF). Questions are not interesting for readers. Answers are.
    nizuse
    • Questions are important

      It is very important to know what kind of questions need to be asked when evaluating a product. Many of these questions cannot be answered by a spec sheet, they must be seen first hand.
      george_ou
  • Looking forward to useful answers

    Though your questions seem to range from very small users to large enterprises, they're all valuable. I'm looking forward to the answers.

    An essential point--growing more important every day---was addressed in David Berlind's posted Scalix interview. Backup can be done directly from a Linux directory structure.

    That feature alone can be immensely valuable, compared to the custom-programmed backup software necessary for all Exchange servers.
    ewilner
    • Will try to answer these by next week

      I'm going to try and follow up next week.
      george_ou
    • There is a thing called shadow restore in Win2003

      It's a file level snap shot technology in Windows 2003. You can copy older snapshots of an exchange database. Note that online backups usually only backup a delta which is by far more efficient. Having the offline backup method is useful but it isn't a substitute for online backups.
      george_ou
  • Here are the answers to your questions

    Good questions! Your skepticism is warranted and welcome. I would agree that there are many "pretenders" out there. I've posted your questions below with answers. Hopefully these will begin to convince you that Scalix is not one of them.

    Q: Can it natively integrate in to an Active Directory or just a Windows NT domain? LDAP would be second preference but it wouldn?t be as smooth when it comes to seamless integration and administration.

    A: Scalix works with Active Directory on several levels. 1) Basic LDAP-based directory syncronization. 2) User authentication 3) Single sign on and 4) Automated mailbox provisioning. Scalix provides the same level of support for Novell eDirectory and OpenLDAP, allowing customers to choose their directory system independently.

    Q: Can it support RPC tunneling over SSL for Outlook 2003 clients? This allows an Outlook 2003 client to connect to an Exchange server securely without a VPN client or where VPN is blocked and only Web access allowed

    A: Support for tunneling over SSL for all versions of Outlook, not just 2003, will be available in an upcoming release.

    Q:Does the Scalix web based client meet or exceed the functionality and richness of the ActiveX based Exchange 2003 Web Client? From the looks of some of the screen shots, it comes close but not quite as good as OWA 2003. Is the Scalix web client as lean and fast as the OWA 2003 client? I would have to see the real thing to judge. Too bad Scalix doesn?t provide a real live demo of the Web based interface.

    A: To your point, screenshots only tell a part of the story. The interactivity of the client and the UI behaviour are more important for determining functionality and richness. Desktop-grade capabilities in Scalix Web Access(SWA) include prevasive use of drag 'n drop, drop down menus, keyboard shortcuts, type down addressing, type down search. SWA also supports many advanced email and calendaring functions, including public folders and real-time free/busy calendar lookup. A memory cacheing architecture gives users the snappy performance. SWA is developed in DHTML, XML and SOAP and all of the functionality is available through Mozilla, Firefox and Internet Explorer, which gives Mozilla and Firefox equal footing with I/E. No activeX controls, Java code or plug-ins are required, reducing the cost and complexity associated with deployment and support.

    The best way to decide what you think of Scalix Web Access (SWA) is to view the live demo at www.scalix.com. For a hands on experience, a free software download is also available.

    Q: Can the Scalix server move beyond the current MS Access style jet database technology used in Exchange 5.5, 2000, 2003, 2005? Can Scalix use an ODBC backend instead like Microsoft SQL server, Oracle, IBM DB2, or even a MySQL backend? This is one of the few weak spots of Microsoft Exchange and I really wish they had not canceled their plan to have Exchange 2005 use Microsoft SQL Server 2005 for a backend. It may have meant that the next Exchange server would need to wait until 2006, but it?s well worth it.

    A: The Scalix Server message store is based on the Linux file system, which lends many advantages over message stores based on proprietary database technologies, some of which you name above. Some of these advantages include: 1) No message store database corruptions, one of the biggest contributors to email system downtime, particularly in Exchange environments 2) No message store size limitations 3) The ability to use standard Linux tools and commands to manage the message store (i.e. real-time backup and restore, user management, etc.) 4) Granular access to the message store 3) Better scalability and performance, due to lack of overhead associated with more complex databases.

    Q: Is the Scalix solution a stable and manageable platform? This isn?t trivial, and I?d have to see the execution first hand to judge.

    A:From a manageability standpoint, Scalix offers a browser-based graphical interface for performing 70-90% of the day to day tasks performed by an email administrator, making it it easier for Exchange/Notes/Domino/Groupwise/Windows administrators to make the transitiont to Linux. In addition full access to the Linux command line and a powerful scripting environment is available, for those administrators who want to exploit the power and flexibility of the Linux. In terms of stability, the technology heritage of the Scalix platform is Hewlett-Packard OpenMail, which has been deployed in some of the world's largest and most demanding enterprises. One of the hallmarks of HP OpenMail was it's stability and reliability, where customers consistently achieved 4-5 9's of availability. Scalix has taken great care to enhance the OpenMail technology in a manner that does not de-stabilize the system.

    Q: Since Scalix wants to move in on Exchange server, is their solution easy to implement for a Windows and Exchange administrator?

    A: Scalix offers a "fool-proof" installation that allows the system to be configured and up and running in under 30 minutes. This is a graphical installation wizard that performs pre-installation diagnostics at the operating system, application and network level. As a point of clarification, Scalix's target market is organizations that have deployed Linux and looking to adopt an open systems environment. These customers are running Exchange, as well as Notes/Domino, Groupwise, etc. Scalix offers a non-disruptive migration path for all of these systems. Conversely, for customers committed to Windows server infrastructure, Scalix is not the best alternative.

    Q: I?m a little nervous when someone tells me that they have a lower TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) since TCO is hard to define. I would need to see some actual numbers on licensing and support cost. Scalix would need to compare itself to both Microsoft Small Business edition server and the regular corporate pricing of Windows 2003 and Exchange 2003.

    A: As you should be (nervous, that is). There's a great deal of variability in TCO and no two customer environments look alike. Scalix helps customers calculate TCO based on their specific environment. Pricing for Scalix is as follows: One-time license fee of $60 per user. The Scalix server itself is free. Support costs are approximately 20% of the license price.

    With regards to TCO, this is based on upfront and ongoing costs of software license & mtce, hardware acquisition & mtce and services/labor. This would include costs associated with the broader email eco-system, such as anti-spam, anti-virus software, desktop software and support, directory and security infrastructure, etc. Scalix's goal is that a migration to the Scalix platform is lower cost than an upgrade of a company's existing mail system.

    Thank you for your interest in this subject. Look forward to a continued dialogue.
    julie3
    • Very interesting

      If everything you say pans out, this would be a fairly serious broad side to Microsoft. I'll contact your people.

      On the RPC over SSL support for all versions of Outlook, that would be most impressive if you can pull it off since Microsoft only supports Outlook 2003 for this functionality.

      I'll look for the live SWA demo on your website. I didn't see it last time I looked.

      I'll need to look in to your Linux file system based database backend. Like I said, this is one of the weaknesses of Exchange right now. As some who has been up at 3:00 AM in the morning manually compacting and repairing jet databases, I'm always open potentially better methods.
      george_ou
    • cluster use

      does scalix run on a linux cluster?
      does the database get distributed to all the nodes or is it centralized?
      what kind of failover is offered?
      does scalix performance suffer when run on a cluster?

      thanks,
      joe
      wessonjoe
  • scalix

    I actually run a scalix server and I can confirm that the software is very effective and so much better to use and run then exchange. Being a system admin, ease of use and stabilty are very important to me and scalix is a clear winner compared to any version of exchange and my users have no idea we have switched other then the webmail looking different. I have also been very pleased with scalix sales and tech support. My only warning is that scalix is not for everyone. The scalix admin must have some quality linux experience. The average window's admin is going to be lost moving to linux and having to use a cli to make adjustments to scalix. The new web interface does make adjusting scalix much easier but some things still need to be done using the cli. A good linux admin will have no trouble making the adjustment.
    ebail
  • Quake in their boots

    IBM and it's lotus notes product should also be trembling. The e-mail part of Notes and it's complete reliance on Internet explorer and it's web performance reek.
    CTS_z
    • Lotus Notes Threatened?

      Lotus Notes is serious overkill for organizations using only its e-mail functionality unless, of course, you consider a secure, encrypted e-mail client (which is virtually impervious to virus attack) something important for your business. On the other hand, if you take advantage of the added functionality inherent in Lotus Notes, not the least of which is an application development platform, you're highly unlikely to be considering alternatives.

      Further, there are indications the proprietary Notes database is going to be replaced with IBM's DB2 DB in future, and this should allow for enhanced integration with other applications, not the least of which is Web access.

      I seriously doubt many organizations currently using Lotus Notes are going to jump ship now and replace it en masse with Scalix - though they may look at using Notes for some personnel, and Scalix (or some other client) for those personnel needing less functionality.
      IT Makes Sense
  • While the Product May Be Great, the Marketing Needs Work

    I've seen the screen shots and read up on the Scalix product and have to say that it looks to be quite impressive. As a small business owner who has a standardized LINUX desktop/server infrastructure I started looking into using Sclaix as our messaging platform.

    Unfortunately, when I went to their web site to view the Demo, they route you to a recorded WebEx session which is not viewable to those running LINUX clients.

    From the WebEx Knowledge base article entitled "How to: View a Recorded Event":

    "To view a recorded event, you must use the WebEx Player, which is available for the Windows operating system. Your Event Center website automatically downloads WebEx Player to your computer the first time you view a recorded training session. If you have a user account, you can also download WebEx Player for Windows from the Support page on your training service Web site."

    While I was a little surprised to encounter this when trying to view the products from the maker of LINUX messaging product, I've been using Gentoo LINUX as my desktop client for the past year and a half and this isn't the first time I've encountered such a predicament.

    The really quirky thing is that every week since I tried to go and view the WebEx, presentaiton I get a message from Russ Wampler that says:

    Hello Derek,

    Thank you for watching Scalix online Demo. What brought you to our site? Is there anything that I can do to help you in regards to Linux-based messaging solutions? Please let me know if you have any questions.

    I responded to the first message thanking Russ for contacting me, but I indicated that I couldn't actually view the presentation due to the lack of a native LINUX viewer. When I got the second message, I forwarded my previous reply. Now, I get a third.

    I don't mind getting an automated e-mail message once from a salesperson when I attempt to get product information. But getting the same message over and over again is frustrating. And the capper is when you go through the effort to compose a response and send it off ... it appears to be ignored.

    Julie Farris, your product looks great ... but your marketing needs work.
    derek.berube9