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Journal eno2001's Journal: EXPERIENCE: Zimbra Collaboration Suite 3

I rarely spend much time waxing poetic about software (OK. I did for VirtualIron but it's just too damn good) but I think I need to do this for Zimbra Collaboration Suite (ZCS). I first suggested we migrate away from Sun's horrid iPlanet system to Zimbra about two years ago. Due to various budget issues, we couldn't do it until this year. And for the past few months I've spent a lot of time learning various systems to get this up and running the way I want. There is, of course, the VirtualIron system hosting the VM that Zimbra is running on. I took a few wrong turns before settling on VirtualIron. All the VMs are sitting on a SAN (Hewlett-Packard EVA). And finally Zimbra (version 4.5.9) was installed on both TEST and PRODUCTION VMs.

My first domain migration happened at the beginning of November and it went amazingly smoothly. Of course there were only 64 users, so that was to be expected. The next domain was this past weekend. That took a bit longer to complete with 774 users and a good number of distribution lists. All of the account and mail distribution list data was extracted from the iPlanet server using a custom script wrapped around 'ldapsearch'. That data was converted live to the ZMP format to be used on the Zimbra server for provisioning accounts.

Once I got the accounts and groups in place, I needed to copy their mail. I used the ever ubiquitous 'imapsync' (I owe that guy something.... heading over to the donation page as soon as I finish this post) to copy all the mail from the iPlanet server to the new Zimbra server. it worked like a charm, but I had to wrap an 'expect' script around it because iPlanet would prompt me for the auth admin user password for every user. I'm not sitting around waiting to enter that 774 times!

I did the initial mail sync about three days before migration, and then ran the incremental sync once every day leading up to the final day of migration. Finally, on the night of migration, I made all the requisite DNS and spam filter changes for the domain, performed a final sync (took about an hour) and removed the domain from the iPlanet server. We were now live! That takes care of the general process, but why is it that I love ZCS so much? Let me explain...

First off, after having dealt with raw LDAP for the past seven years and actually getting a pretty decent understanding of it (not enough to create my own schema yet), I'm happy to see that Zimbra found a better interface to LDAP. They are using their SOAP application 'zmprov' to handle everything about LDAP. However, they STILL allow you to deal directly with LDAP by giving you a parameter you can pass to 'zmprov' to turn off SOAP mode! So you can have your cake and eat it to, as it were.

The next big deal for me is that 'zmprov' really is THE tool for doing bulk administration. As nice as their admin web interface is, we all know that GUI and web interfaces are not the medium to use when you want to make a lot of changes to a lot of objects very quickly. One of the nicest things about ZCS as a whole is actually the Wiki that Zimbra provides which explains almost anything you'd need to know about Zimbra. They have a nice reference for all LDAP attributes that you can affect with 'zmprov'. That's how I was able to bulk provision my users with a default password, then force them to change it on first login and restrict them from re-using it as their new password.

Another aspect is that their web admin interface really isn't that bad at all. It gives you a lot of info that is actually... useful! Big surprise there. I'm used to web interfaces that are designed by anyone but the admins themselves. Unlike iPlanet, you can actually see what groups a user is a member of! Not only that, but you can actually add/delete their membership in a group from the user account info instead of having to switch over to the group portion of the admin interface.

My users ( least initially. More on their issues later) are really happy with the new interface. iPlanet was long in the tooth. In 2001. Zimbra, thanks to the magick of AJAX feels like an application. They are loving the Exchange killer features of Zimbra. (Admittedly I really wanted to do this two years ago but, oh well)

The main "con" right now is that IE6 apparently has a crappy Javascript engine. It's odd that this wasn't apparent during training on the TEST system. But I'm hearing reports that Zimbra is slow. I hadn't noticed this at all, but I can't run IE since I'm a Linux user. So it turns out that IE7 is a partial solution since MS has apparently resolved some memory management issues. ZCS is awesome on Firefox, but that's not a possibility because it can't be centrally managed through AD Group Policy by our Windows admin. He's tried the templates, but they seem to hose up, so he has no willingness to go any further. The answer to the problem is that Zimbra is coming out with ZCS 5.0 on December 17th (at least that's the last date I saw on their site). This version of Zimbra will provide the user with three interfaces that they can choose at login. The full AJAX interface, an HTML low bandwidth interface, and a Mobile friendly interface. I'll have to run a QA test on it on our TEST system first though. So it's not coming soon.

I haven't yet had a chance to compare the current resource usage of the backend server with my baselines, but so far it looks like the server isn't even sneezing at the 800+ users on it. However, I can't wait to get away from the Javascript issues. Most users still assume the server is the problem and not the client PC.

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EXPERIENCE: Zimbra Collaboration Suite

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  • Sure you can - and not in a VM either. []

    What is IEs4Linux?

    IEs4Linux is the simpler way to have Microsoft Internet Explorer running on Linux (or any OS running Wine).

    No clicks needed. No boring setup processes. No Wine complications. Just one easy script and you'll get three IE versions to test your Sites. And it's free and open source.

    Who is the target public?

    WebDesigners that want to move to Linux but still need to test their sites on IE.


  • It is rather inspiring. Probably I'll try ZCS some day.
    • by eno2001 ( 527078 )
      I got a chance to run top on the VM (which is fairly accurate) and with the 800+ users, my Idle time is hovering around 90-98%. The system does see an occasional dip to 67% idle for a few seconds here or there, but it's rare. The RAM (8 gigs) is fully utilized, but the swap space is only using about 200k out of 16 gigs. I suspect this is due to MySQL. I have to say, that I'm impressed so far...

"The pyramid is opening!" "Which one?" "The one with the ever-widening hole in it!" -- The Firesign Theatre