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April 11, 2005

Netline launches commercial Open-Xchange

Open source collaboration server software vendor Netline Internet Service will today launch the first commercial version of its Open-Xchange Server product, targeted at small and medium enterprises.

By CBR Staff Writer

The Olpe, Germany-based company’s Open-Xchange technology was originally used as the collaboration engine behind Novell’s SUSE Linux Openexchange Server (SLOX) product, and was released under an open source license in August 2004.

Novell will be discontinuing SLOX in favor of the commercial version of Netline’s Open-Xchange, which provides server-based email, calendar, document management functionality and integration with Microsoft Outlook clients and Palm devices.

Branded as version 5, the first commercial release of the technology is backed by support and services offerings from Netline, and is available in two versions aimed at small and medium enterprises.

Open-Xchange 5 Small Business Server Edition is for companies with between five and 25 users and priced at $295 for the first five users, while Advanced Server Edition is aimed at companies with more than 25 users and is priced at $850.

Both products come with one-year maintenance, administration interfaces, installation support, connectors for Outlook and Pal, and a five-year guarantee. For both there is a maintenance fee of $25 per additional user.

According to Frank Hoberg, Netline’s chief executive, the focus on SMEs is a matter of targeting, rather than lack of scalability. Taking a look at our target market with this, it’s SMBs with up to 250 users. Services for those companies are often from smaller IT companies, and for them it’s important to have open standards and open interfaces, he said.

The company sees opportunities in the SME space where businesses are looking to save money via a move to Linux and open source technologies. There’s clearly a demand for an open source alternative to Exchange and Lotus Notes, he said. You’ve seen what’s happened with Firefox, and we think email will be the next to go.

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Hoberg added that the company has a customer in Switzerland that is using the Open-Xchange technology to serve between 8,000 and 9,000 users. That [the SME focus] does not mean we have any restrictions there, he added.

The next version of the Open-Xchange technology will also be aimed at larger businesses, he added, with the additional of enterprise functionality, such as support for the replication of servers across distributed environments.

Open-Xchange 5 is available now for Novell’s SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, with support for Red Hat’s Enterprise Linux due in April. With a community building around the open source version, new options are also expected for other operating systems.

We would have had absolutely no chance to provide this version without the community, said Hoberg. Most of the things we are doing [through the community] are testing. This process is much more effective than doing it all on your own.

We will have a Debian port in the second half of the year, and we are discussing other markets like Asia, he added. It’s clear we will have more than Red Hat and SUSE. Hoberg said that the company has partners working on ports to Mac OS X and OpenSolaris, and that the company is in talks with IBM Corp.

At this stage there are no plans to port the technology to Microsoft Corp’s Windows operating system, but according to Hoberg that is a matter of demand, rather than technical difficulty. Technically it’s not a problem at all, he said. The question is, does it make sense in the positioning of the market. If the market is responding to us and they request it, we will do that, of course.

Microsoft’s Exchange and IBM’s Lotus Notes are not the only alternatives Open-Xchange will be up against. As well as Novell GroupWise it will also eventually be in the same market as with the results of Project Hula, Novell’s project to open source its NetMail web-based email and calendaring product.

Hoberg maintained that Hula will complement, rather than compete with, Open-Xchange, and added that Open-Xchange is working with the Hula engineers to make Hula a mail transfer agent for Open-Xchange. Hula is focused on mail and web-based collaboration, and very much the low-end of the market.

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