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A Web Based Solution to Replace Exchange? 75

Posted by Cliff
from the a-break-from-the-redmond-mold dept.
benthemeek asks: "A friend of mine works for a company that has more than 6k users connecting to a Outlook exchange server instance through VPN from various homes all across the country. The executives at his company would like to move to Active Directory and a web based solution for these users. When Outlook Web Access was priced out, it was judged very expensive and they opened the floor to other options. They want a LDAP enabled, web based email and calendar that could hopefully plug in or replace Exchange, and if the solution can be load balanced between more than one server to ensure reliability and uptime, that would be even better. Slashdot readers come from many walks of life and I am sure some of you have gone through a similar experience and could give some insight to this problem. The fan boy in me would like to see a complete Open Source to meet this need, but that may not be possible. Have any of you done similar migrations, and to what solution did you go to?"
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A Web Based Solution to Replace Exchange?

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  • Rather than 'migrate' the system, why not replace and then 'migrate' the data, this will give you many more options available, including possibly developing your own.
  • by lurker4hire (449306) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @06:02PM (#15021201) Homepage
    Google will probably offer an appliance to do this, like their search appliance, within a year*.

    *All dates are pure speculation pulled right out of my arse, can I get a job as an analyst?
  • Ummm... Easy... (Score:5, Informative)

    by eno2001 (527078) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @06:02PM (#15021202) Homepage Journal
    Zimbra.com [zimbra.com] Look at the demo. It can be made to integrate with AD's LDAP. It has calendaring, e-mail and contacts. And there are Outlook/Exchange migration tools. Also check out the forums on Zimbra.com. This should really be a Slashback...
    • Ug - pricing on this is much worse than Exchange. From their pricing page:

      The Zimbra Collaboration Suite Network - Standard Edition is available for $28/user/year, with a minimum of 500 users. Additional users are $28 per user per year and can be purchased in 50 user blocks. The Standard Edition includes upgrades and the following Premium Support plan: * Access to the Network Edition-only knowledge base * Access to Zimbra support services portal, e-mail, phone and 7x24 crisis support

      $28 x min

      • That only applies if you don't plan to provide support yourself for Zimbra. In my case we do plan to provide support. We have 2000 users (which frankly is a very small installation by most standards) currently on an iPlanet server. That costs us about $15,000 a year for shitty support rom Sun. Zimbra will be a LOT cheaper provided that we provide our own support and make our own customizations to it. Pretty much just hardware costs. Not to mention that you also have the option to purchase one time su
      • by kbielefe (606566) * <karl@bielefeldt+slashdot.gmail@com> on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @09:46PM (#15022759)
        You forgot to post the link to the Microsoft pricing and information about needed upgrade frequency. Does that include operating system licenses? Do you really go for 5 years without upgrading? 3 years seems like a more realistic upgrade cycle based on the release frequency.

        I'm no IT expert so maybe it's just me, but I'm thinking that perhaps since it has the same features, a small business would want the small business edition for $2900 per year for 100 users, for a total 3 year cost of $8700 with upgrades and OS licenses included.

        However, since we are talking about a business with 6000 users, let's look at that cost:

        Zimbra
        6000 x $28 x 3 years = $504,000 with upgrades and full support included
        Exchange
        $1100 + (5995 / 5 x $500) = $600,600 with no upgrades

        See, you can twist the numbers either way. I'll leave it to the mods to decide who was more realistic. Microsoft may have some volume licensing that I'm not aware of, but why should I track down the exact price when you wouldn't?

        Of course, if I was the CFO, I would go with secret option number 3: spend $150,000 to hire a full-time developer for a year to make an ultra-customized version of the zimbra open source edition that will meet my company's exact needs.

      • Zimbra $70000 > Exchange $10600 -- Now as a CEO/CFO or company controller, which would you go with?

        $10,000?

        $70,000??

        For email?!?

        Please, pretty please, tell me you're just kidding. There are many FS/OSS alternatives. email is not supposed to cost $10,000 a year, and anyone who chokes $70,000 a year for email is... well...

        • This is what people just don't seem to get. Email's a part of the whole thing, of course, but it's not what's important.
          I know you can run a business on POP3 mail, but for big organisations you want more: you want shared mailboxes, you want shared calendars with meeting requests, you want tasks. You might want single instance storage, and you might want to be able to ensure you can archive mail for x years for SOX compliance. Exchange is very, very good at this. It's not the only solution out there, bu
  • You're apparently not looking to replace exchange, just outlook. Or did I read that wrong?

    Or is the problem the cost of the interface, but you are going to replace the whole server anyway?

    The executives at his company would like to move to Active Directory
    Seems like you really just need a web based interface?
    • I wondered about this too.. if they have 6k users and are currently using Exchange then unless they are using 5.5 or older any server they have that can support that many users comes with OWA.

      the only expensive thing i can see for OWA if they are already on exchange is if they want to run front and back end servers. But then again if they have 6k users and are running Exchange then they more than likely have paid this cost already, or they have a botched setup.

      and some one will have to remind me because i d
      • The Idea is to move many of those 6000 users (im guessing 60 $ a inbox for) to a much cheeper solution that has many of the features of outlook.
        • i understand that if they are looking to move to Outlook and exchagne the price tag for 6000 users is huge but if they are already there then they should already have what they are looking for and might not know it.

          all i am saing is that if they already have outlook/exchange and it isn't a boched setup then they might be looking the wrong direction..

          you also have to look at the man hour cost of migration to a completely new system vs fixing what they have.
  • Try CommuniGate Pro (Score:2, Interesting)

    by k.ellsworth (692902)
    I have been using communigate Pro [communigate.com] since some years and with the mapi plugin you even get the outlook features running. also communigate includes a PBX and SIP support with no extra licenses

    It does have LDAP services included/external support

    It is paid, but is lot cheaper than exchange. and runs over whatever platform you like even QNX, BeOS, etc...
    • And as an added bonus with Communigate Pro, your mail server will just stop working sometimes. For no reason. Because the code is filled with timebombs. Google Communigate and timebomb, or check out this entry [goolsbee.org] about playing Russian roulette with your mail server if you use Communigate.

      Not a company I would ever do business with.

  • Zimbra (Score:2, Interesting)

    by PineHall (206441)
    I think Zimbra [zimbra.com] would meet your needs.
  • ExchangeIt (Score:3, Informative)

    by Guspaz (556486) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @06:07PM (#15021251)
    I can't help but plug the software from the company I've worked for:

    http://www.nitix.com/products/os/exchangeit.php [nitix.com]

    Linux-based MS Exchange replacement. Due to the whole autonomic computing paradigm, it is much easier to set up than any competitors.

    The downside is that it comes with its own OS, which could be an obstacle to some people. From my experience, though, companies don't care about the OS, they are just as happy to throw an entire box at the problem.
    • Could I run it on, say, a Xen instance?
      • I suppose it would be possible, if you applied the proper patches to the kernel. I'm not an expert in that category, however. I can put you in touch with somebody who is in the know about such things, if you'd like.

        It should be noted that NITIX has it's own virtualization solution :P
    • Exchange/Outlook seems to be one of the recurrent bugaboos of Linux adoption. Maybe /. ought to have annual roundup of Exchange replacements, kind of a virtual trade show where folks like you could display your wares.
  • Horde (Score:4, Informative)

    by Phroggy (441) * <slashdot3@[ ]oggy.com ['phr' in gap]> on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @06:12PM (#15021296) Homepage
    I've been deploying Horde [horde.org] for some of a couple of my clients lately, and they seem happy with it. It can be a pain to get set up correctly, but once you've done it a few times you begin to get the hang of it and it's not so bad. It's poorly documented, but very configurable.
    • by weave (48069)
      Horde is also working on an AJAX rev of the mail client, called DIMP [janschneider.de]. Should be very nice whenever it's released.
    • by nmos (25822)
      I've always liked IMP for email but last time I checked (about a year ago) the rest of Horde was either non-existant or alpha quality. Are the other features such as shared calendars, address books etc ready for production use now?

      For now I've been using PhpGroupware instead which basically has the opposite problem. Overall it works great but the email module seems pretty clunky, especially for higher volume mail users.
  • Zimbra? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Zocalo (252965) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @06:16PM (#15021330) Homepage
    I've not looked at it in any great depth recently, but Zimbra [zimbra.com] is aiming to be what you are looking for and is now up to v3.0 so should be fairly mature. Zimbra's webclient is AJAX based rather than ActiveX, so unlike Exchange's Outlook Web Access even non-Microsoft browsers get all the pretty bells and whistles in the interface. You also have a much broader range of stand-alone clients to choose from without loosing much, if any, of Exchange's level of functionality.

    If you stick with Exchange on the backend and just want to replace Outlook then Evolution [gnome.org] is probably your best (if not only) choice as it implements most of Outlook's functionality. It also support other mail client standards like IMAP and POP3 of course, so will seamlessly integrate with any almost other backend mail server too. Packages for UNIX are readily available and the Windows port is also stable, and although there isn't a pre-rolled installation package just yet, that can't be too far off.

    • What windows port?
    • Although efforts are underway [sourceforge.net] to port Evolution to Windows, it doesn't run yet. IIRC, it can be compiled, but it's far from usable...

      Stay tuned though; Tor Lillqvist's pretty unstoppable.
    • Outlook Web Access is not ActiveX based. It's AJAX based, but was created long before the AJAX acronym was created.
      • If it's AJAX based, why is it different in IE vs other browsers?
        Isn't ActiveX about controls for objects which is what the features have in IE that is missing in other browsers?
        • Ever hear of browser detection?

          if (Browser == IE) {
          ShowUltraCoolRendering
          } else {
          ShowCrappyRendering
          }

          We're talking Exchange here. Corporate world. Where 99.9% of the browsers are IE, and the corporations have the ability to disallow anything but IE.

          Other then the AntiTrust isssues :-) (which are iffy here since Exchange is a non-OS application), what's wrong with MS making their product look better on their own browser and worse on the competitors.

          And remember, this is Exchan
  • by PFactor (135319) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @06:16PM (#15021333) Journal
    I'm a big proponent of using Citrix's Presentation Server as a means of providing secure access, any time, anywhere.

    The basic idea is you build a Windows terminal server (more likely several - fault tolerance and all that), install Outlook on it, and use Citrix's web interface to provide a launch point. Outlook runs on the server, and any user with an ICA client (Citrix's client) can run it - even your Mac, *nix, and (gasp) DOS users.

    That takes care of users inside the firewall. Outside, you have to have a VPN solution. Or, you can use the Citrix Access Gateway to provide access. By itself, it acts just like an SSL VPN, only cheaper (the box is $2500 and concurrent user licenses are $200 or so at retail). When used in conjunction with something called Advanced Access Control (AAC), you can provide secure access to any Citrix-delivered or web-delivered applications WITHOUT a VPN client. AAC turns the CAG into an HTTP/HTTPS/ICA proxy. It features RSA integration and all that jazz. As a side-bonus, AAC + CAG support smartphones, PDA's, and Crackberry's (though that last has an ugly UI).

    Not the cheapest solution and it is certainly not as easy as I describe, but it is definitely capable of doing what you need - without having to retrain your users on a mail application. It is easier to say "go to this URL, log in, and click the Outlook icon" than it is to say, "here's PINE - Hope you remember how to use telnet" :)

    To provide robust access anytime, anywhere
    • LOL If they think Exchange is expensive...wait until they get a load of Citrix.
      • I'm glad I wasn't the only one with that thought running through his head.

        It's amazing the amount of money companies will ask for, when it comes to these type of solutions. I will admit that Citrix is a great product, but considering how much more it costs over Terminal Services, and RRAS (both only costing CALs that you have to pay for anyways with a Citrix solution) I could never justify the costs for the added features, no matter how integrated and seamless it is.

    • Nice post Mark Templeton.
      But why pay for your solution twice when M$ already gives you all the session level support you'll need.

      Bill G.
  • by sconeu (64226)
    You might want to look at Scalix. They had a nice presentation at SCALE last month.
    • Just curious. Did you stop by there boot at SCALE? Did you stop by my booth? If so would you relate the experience?
  • by CXI (46706) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @06:33PM (#15021458) Homepage
    Is the purpose just to get rid of the VPN? Outlook can be setup to connect via HTTPS to an Exchange server with fully functionality, using NTLM authentication, so no VPN required. Also, Exchange can be configured to serve email via IMAP if you don't want to get everyone Outlook (except they already have it according to your question).

    Have you considered the fact that web based services are not necessarily going to provide the event notifications or other features users are used to getting? Guess who will be blamed when everyone starts missing meetings or showing up late? As an example, in Exchange's web based Outlook you can't set your delegation settings through it or view multiple calendars at the same time or do a lot of other things. You really need to know the feature set that's required by the users before you could even consider any kind of a move. Have you thought about archive files? If you go web based you'll have to keep all that data on the server and you'll probably have to migrate it there from each user's PC one at a time.

    Saying you want to move from Exchange to something Active Directory integrated with the ability to load balance is also a little weird given that Exchange already does all this.

    I'd tell your friend to go on record that any major change is probably a bad idea, and instead he should research how to make the existing system work the way they want it to. Your question really doesn't indicate WHY they want to move, which is critical to the choices to be made. Open Source isn't the proper solution to every problem, and yes, you might actually have to spend some money to get the functionality you need! (Ok, send in the slashdot shock troops to mod me into oblivion for not following the party line...)
    • This article doesn't make sense either, if they are using Exchange, OWA is no more cost then server hardware, to me it sounds like a someone isn't pricing things out correctly.
    • Also, Exchange can be configured to serve email via IMAP if you don't want to get everyone Outlook (except they already have it according to your question).

      Yeah, don't use too many IMAP clients with Exchange.

      Besides losing Contacts, Calendar and all the cool stuff^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^huseful collaboration-oriented features you get with Outlook (even using it with RPC over HTTPS) and OWA, Exchange's IMAP implementation loads-up very poorly after just a few IMAP client connections.

      It's per-seat licensin

  • OpenGroupware.org (Score:2, Informative)

    by ke4qqq (678293)
    I suggest that you look at OpenGroupware.org, in particular you may want to look at SOGo, which is Scalable OpenGroupware.org http://sogo.opengroupware.org/ [opengroupware.org]. Unfortunately the SOGo specific bits aren't yet under the GPL/LGPL as the rest of the OGo stack is. However you can license it from Skyrix is my understanding.
  • RPC Over SSL? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Plake (568139) <rlclark@gmail.com> on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @06:46PM (#15021550) Homepage
    What about RPC over HTTPS, we just set that up for a large remote office and it works great. We just needed to change 1 part of their Outlook account to use the new Exchange server. The main cost would be getting the SSL cert and say some frontend Exchange head servers (which can support clustering), I'm a fan of OSS projects but if it's for 6k+ users are you willing to deal with any support problems yourself or groups that already do support the currently infrastructure?

    If you already have Exchange it might be worth looking at. Also, if they're all already using a VPN I'm assuming they have Outlook installed? If so this would be a really simple change with supporting them from what they already use.
    • RPC over HTTPS is the best thing since sliced bread, from a fully functional decently secure remote groupware standpoint. I have used it since it came out and it has always worked great for me.

      The 'gotcha' here is that all the clients must use Outlook 2003 in addition to the server running Exchange 2003, which may require some significant upgrades. 6k users... maybe half of them need upgrades. That would be about $50 per user in volume... $150,000. That, of course, does not include the REAL cost: deploying
  • by Anonymous Coward
    As of last week: http://www.infoworld.com/article/06/03/23/76503_13 TCmessage_1.html [infoworld.com]

    Good comparison between the two leading options. We're thinking about this ourselves for our small business.
  • Although we haven't implemented it (we may still though), I was very impressed when we were using it in a testing environment. We set it up on a Fedora Core 4 system and it ran great. There is a community version for free so I recommend you give it a shot. http://www.scalix.com/ [scalix.com] http://www.scalix.com/products/compareeditions.htm l [scalix.com]
  • Novell NetMail (Score:3, Informative)

    by invisik (227250) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @07:11PM (#15021752) Homepage
    Sonuds like NetMail would fit the bill, on your choice of platform (NetWare, Windows 2000 or Linux). Scales to jillions of users. Requires eDirectory, but you can make that replicate with ActiveDirectory at no additional cost.

    http://www.novell.com/products/netmail/ [novell.com]

    Have fun!

    -m
  • by lucm (889690) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @07:40PM (#15021980)
    From your post I understand that these people are using Exchange 5.5, which is the last relase not integrated in Active Directory.

    Here are my suggestions:

    1) Since they must already have an Outlook license, they could use Exchange 2003 in RPC/SSL. This is 100% Active Directory integrated, and they don't need a web client since Outlook can connect directly. Exchange itself is not so expensive, however they must also upgrade the CALs, which can boost the bill for 6k users.

    2) A more reliable solution: Postfix and imapd. I strongly suggest Cyrus Imap as it saves each email as a separate file, which is incredibly efficient for backups and archives. For the frontend, most webmail are fine (Horde, SquirrelMail, Neomail) and includes the calendar stuff; https can be setup easily. This kind of setup can use Active Directory for the users authentication and can run on multiple servers (clustered or not). Note: in this setup the users could still use Outlook for which they paid a shitload of money.

    A few notes:
    -Users will complain if they have to move from Outlook to whatever web interface.

    -Antispam and antivirus software are much cheaper and much more efficient if they go with the Postfix scenario.

    -6k remote users is a lot, especially if they use this email as a primary business address. Therefore the IT dept must act as a small ISP. Why not calling a few ISP in the area and see what is their setup?

    -If they go with the Postfix scenario, if they use x86 hardware I would suggest Linux with a recent kernel. However, if they have the opportunity to purchase hardware, I would strongly suggest Solaris 10 and a sparc machine (possibly two for a better uptime). At the present moment, I can't think of a better os/hardware match for a mail server.
  • Horde 3.0 (Score:4, Informative)

    by Jizzbug (101250) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @08:05PM (#15022176)
    You really should check out The Horde Project [horde.org]. Horde (and it's webmail client IMP) has been around for a very long time. Development is very active and open.

    Horde went through a major rewrite/restructuring for the 3.0 effort. Horde 3.0 is definitely a web-based Exchange-killer (and Sharepoint-killer).

    If you use Cyrus IMAPd as your IMAP backend, you even get shared mailboxes. Horde's other modules also have excellent sharing support. Shared calendars, mailboxes, todo lists, addressbooks, etc. Turba, the addressbook module, supports LDAP directories. Horde's other modules also have support to grab bits of info from LDAP.

    I highly recommend Horde. I used to use it a lot more than I do know. When that was the case, I was also a regularly submitter of patches to the project (I helped mostly the last year 3.0 was still unreleased).

    While Hula [hula-project.org] may look prettier, I find Horde to be much more functional.

    Of course, there are plenty of things to be done... So, start using it and start submitting patches!
  • open exchange (Score:1, Redundant)

    by josepha48 (13953)
    http://mirror.open-xchange.org/ox/EN/community/ [open-xchange.org]

    try that.. or you could try squirel mail http://www.squirrelmail.org/ [squirrelmail.org] and a phpicalendar solution

  • Sun Microsystems has just opened up their licencing on Sun Enterprise (Messaging) server.
    • It runs on Windows, Linux, Solaris (both Sparc/x86).
    • It's free to install and use.
    • Commercial Support is on a sliding scale per user per year.
    • It's security systems are based on Java... So you know it all works.
    • And best of all it's a full Exchange replacement with a full Outlook connector, and web front end.

    I've just found out about this and am beginning a pilot... Installation is non trivial, but does it ever loo

  • Sun!!! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Iaughter (723964)
    I don't know why Sun isn't more popular in the slashbot and open source crowds.

    Zimbra? Come on people, you want me to trust my user's email to a web2.0 company? what the hell?

    Horde? For a user-base of this size? That's crazy! Where are you going to find enterprise-class support for a mediocre php web app framework?

    The decent alternatives are Open Xchange [open-xchange.org], or Hula Server [hula-project.org]

    But none of these compare to Sun's Messenging Server [sun.com]. Calendaring, IM, mail, all standards-compliant (even to the backend ldap serve

  • Kerio works for me. (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Kerio mail server is nice. I do IT work for a school district and we have had a wonderfull experience with kerio. It's running on a linux box, and uses active directory. It has an active directory plugin so you can create a mailbox while creating a new user in active directory. This saved us from having to do all that dual entry. We have banned Outlook/Entorage on our network so I can't say how well it supports exchange, but so far the Apple address book has no problems using it as an exchange server.
  • I don't have experience with it myself, but a number of my customers use Groupwise and seem happy with it. It seems to be affordable, cross platform and scalable, so it should look attractive on your bottom line; you could potentially consolidate a number of Exchange servers to a Suse box. It seems reasonably feature rich and it is supported by a company whose service seems reasonably well regarded.
  • I'm not a huge Exchange fan by any means, but if you didn't factor training costs of a new and different system into the equation when you priced Outlook Web... you're missing a large piece of the picture.

    Outlook Web these days looks and acts as much like the regular Outlook client as they could make it act... there's no way a user could need ANY training to migrate from one to the other, seamlessly -- other than to give them something they can put in their pocket with the URL of the Outlook Web site on it.
  • It's an enterprise groupware mail server, it supports webmail, ldap, imap, voip, pop3, smtp, supports 35 different platforms, can handle just about all you can throw at it. According to their page, "CommuniGate Pro holds the world record for scalability and performance delivering a fully standards based carrier-grade Application Server and development environment for next generation voice and data"

    In my company we use it extensively, and if you have clients that are used to outlook, there's a webmail skin o
  • Merak Mail Server is what I use for a much smaller deployment, support SMTP, POP3, IMAPv4 and comes with built in Webmail piece and support calendaring and all that good stuff. Can get pricey but your talking about 6000 users so pricey is something you should be used to.

    http://www.merakmailserver.com/ [merakmailserver.com]

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