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SuSE Businesses

SuSE's OpenExchange and Windows Integration? 24

Posted by Cliff
from the some-interoperability-would-be-nice dept.
enrico_suave asks: "I work for a small-ish Non Profit Organization (less than 20 users) who would like to utilize 'groupware' (calendaring/contacts/etc) sharing software but aren't in a position to spend large amounts of cash on Microsoft Exchange Server. We currently use Outlook 2000's kludgey Net Folders which is often more trouble than it's worth. I've been looking at SuSE Linux's OpenExchange Server as a low cost groupware alternative, and wanted to know if anybody has used this package in a similar setting. A previous Slashdot article was more of an announcement, than a hands on review, and most of the reviews I've seen don't seem very objective or don't delve deep enough into details/practical usage. Has anyone used SuSE's OpenExchange in a primarily Windows shop with Outlook as the desktop mail/groupware client? How is the Outlook integration?"
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SuSE's OpenExchange and Windows Integration?

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  • I'm looking for the same thing. Not for profit company with under 10 employees that won't settle for some hacked together email/calendaring program. They'll pay a little money for a full featured suite but the 2 main people are against MS Exchange because they really aren't even happy with the Win2k server that they are using. They want to go opensource and are looking to me to make it happen. I just don't have the confidence to put something together for them that I can't guarantee will work. That is
    • Holy Cow! I got first post. It's a good thing all the ACs are off cracking AlJazeera or this would never have happened to me.

      I'd like to thank my family, especially my wife for leaving me alone long enough to read /., my son for going to bed early, my parents for never letting me own a computer until college, my teachers in HS for not knowing anything about computers, and my current job for showing me that the IT dept is not necessarily the smartest people to have set up the network.
  • sounds like the answer to your question is no.

    Sure you can try a piecemeal approach.
    But it is probably more effective to go the whole
    9 yards. for twenty people, switch the clients over
    to linux as well. Otherwise, you're going to be spending plenty on MS-Office & Virus software per year. There will be an initial pain of transition, but after the hump you will be way better off.

    • For a smaller company this might fly but for a bigger company the person asking this question has to be someone who has some power. Such change won't happen from the backoffice outward. Only forward thinking CEOs who embrace low cost replacements for windows licenses will adopt a "whole 9 yards" approach to open source.

      This of course doesn't contradict anything you've said in your post--I'm just thinking about the medium-largish companies.
      • I work in a large organization. The people with the biggest investment in MS are the techies themselves, and they (being basically self-taught) are loathe to consider the unknown. There is a pocket of technical people who use linux, but the vast majority on the business side of things are fully endroned. Unless the whole technical support organization is on side, it will not happen. So some sort of gradual introduction and familiarization is needed.

        In this guy's case, I assume he is IT, so I figured it
  • Does anyone know more about where the project came from? I'm guessing internally from Suse as there aren't any links to external sites where development and source is available as far as I can see. The price and question page mentions the package includes 4 source CDs but is the only way to get the code to buy the package?
  • We've used it (Score:5, Informative)

    by cotcomsol (7395) on Friday March 28, 2003 @01:29AM (#5613080) Homepage
    We've had OpenExchange for a couple months, and have been pretty happy with it. The web interface works great. There are a few things that need work, and every once in a while we run into something that hasn't been translated from German, but for the most part it works.

    The outlook integration is handled via a system tray program that runs and sync's your outlook on a schedule (every 30 minutes I think by default), so it's not really "live" integration with outlook, but it seems to work ok. SuSE just released a new version of the sync program today.

    The palm sync works ok too. It's implemented in Java/soap. Has a few bugs, mainly in all-day events (palm lists it as an all day event, OE shows it as an event that starts at 00:00:00. Every time I sync it pops up a change dialog for any all day events I have, and I have to click through each of them each time).

    Backup is kinda kludgy... there is no built in way to back up all the groupware functionality, other than doing a full system backup, or backing up the PostgreSQL databases, the LDAP directory, etc separately.

    Overall, it works well for what it does, but it could be cleaned up a bit. I'd really like to see an updated palm conduit.
  • I know this is somewhat redundant, but I am faced with a similiar problem. Although my company is privately held and for profit, I am faced with the project of weening my users from exchange. I would love to replace it with a linux alternative, but the need for a proven exchange 5.5 migration tool is yet to rear its head. How is OpenExchange? If anyone knows of a good exchange migration tool, please, let me know - I have googled it to death and have yet to find something viable.
  • What about the Qmail-Toaster [clikka.com] with the horde calendar feature added in? I mean I know this isn't a full MS Outlook solution, but it seems to handle the needs, plus it's very good about handling many things graphically like e-mail robots and is nicely packaged for most distro's.
  • by dfranks (180507) on Friday March 28, 2003 @04:16AM (#5613769) Homepage
    You might want to check into not-for-profit pricing for Microsoft. It's a lot cheaper than OpenExchange and while exchange administration can be a pain, once you know the ropes it's not so bad.

    I provide IT services for two charities (30-40 users) and Exchange or SBS with Exchange works out pretty well.

  • Initial impression (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 28, 2003 @05:56AM (#5614109)
    We're only just starting to roll it out, but it has failed to impress me so far.

    It makes a complete desktop install (up to and including asking if you want to install 3D drivers).
    I have also ran into some limitations in their installer WRT LVM and (software) RAID, and SW RAID and boot managers - which are really limitations in their installer and not in the actual technologies.

    I have run into a few real bugs already in their web frontend, concerning no less than configuration of the thing.
    I've reported two bugs two days ago in the morning; they are still unanswered as of now (~10AM here so that would be two full days by now[1]).

    I've also encountered at least one "bug" which was a case of inaccurate error reporting, and took a while to figure out what was really going on.

    I still have to look into that part yet, but from a superficial glance it will also take quite some work to integrate it into our existing network infrastructure (existing user accounts in LDAP, anyone? And migrating our mail configuration from our existing server.)

    The support is not bad, but it's not fast (there are support upgrade programs for that) and the fact that I needed it a few times already is concerning (take my word on that).

    When one deviates even the smallest amount from the SuSE set out configuration/environment, small things break everywhere. Which makes it a non-solution for anything beyond small upstart companies.

    In the april issue of Linux Magazine [linux-magazine.com] there was a cover story about five candidate Exchange replacements, including OpenExchange, with an initial comparison and then individual articles about each of those five (of which, incidentally, the OpenExchange one is available online).
    In their comparison, OpenExchange came out as the least fit Exhange replacement candidate. IIRC, there were two very good ones (ISTR easygate was one of them, can't remember the other and I don't have the mag at hand anymore), two still very good but not as good as the other, and then OE.

    I'd suggest to order an evaluation version first, and see how it works out.

    [1] As a matter of fact, replies to both just rolled in while I was typing this comment. So that would make up to 2 date reply time (another issue I reported about was more like one day)
  • Mozilla and an IMAP server with LDAP address lists and the calendar addon can do 90% of what most people use Outlook for. The IMAP mail client in Mozilla can access folders on an Exchange 2000 server. An LDAP distributed address book will do the same job as Exchange Global address lists. The Calendar addon still needs some work but can access distributed iCal claendars and keep a local calendar. Use Mozilla!!!
    • The Calendar is still riddled with bugs. It is extremely promising though. The LDAP address book in Mozilla is read only so another interface would need to be used to enter addresses and notes. At my previous employer they wanted a sales contacts address book that was writeable by all 4 employees. I found out about LDAP but was clueless as to how to set it up. I pretty much blew my chance to put Linux in the backend there.

      Currently where I work we use Exchange 5.5 on NT4. I use Mozilla on my Linux de
  • by jcayer (206087)
    I work for a non-profit and recently we stumbled onto http://www.techsoup.com. Assuming you qualify, standard Exchange Server is $39 and Exchange CALS are a mere $2.50.

    My manager is still open to something like Sendmail, but since we're a Microsoft shop, and it's cheap, it may be a hard battle when the time comes.

  • If you just need email, a shared directory service, and a shared calendar (and not the rest of the Exchange features) there are a number of solutions out there.

    Check out setting up qmail with sqwebmail, and OpenLDAP for directrory service. You are still missing the calendar, and there are a few packages that should support the calendar (none of which I have used). Check out Amphora (Light) [amphora.ee].

    Also, check out the free Exchange4Linux [billworkgroup.org] Bill and the not-so-free Exchange4Linux version. I believe that the

  • I would say that the SuSE OpenExchange server is a pretty good solution, overall. It is still not perfect but, it does work and it is fairly well integrated. BUt, I do have an issue with it. The price of OpenExchage server is too high. Indeed, for a shop of the size you describe, it costs almost as much as MS Exchange 2000.

    SuSE OpenExchange is a combination of open source applications that have been nicely integrated with each other, by SuSe. It is built using Postfix for the MTA, Cyrus for IMAP, OpenLDAP
  • OSS would be great of course.

    However, if you can't get what you need there, software donations are often easy to get. Research the commercial alternatives -- these will help you evaluate the OSS alternatives too. Then, once you have determined what would be the best alternative if you had the money, just ask for it.

    Software donations in my experience are relatively easy asks, because the marginal costs of the donation to the donor are nearly zero. The procedures vary from company to company, but you
  • Orcale offers hosted OCS (Oracle Collaboration Server), which functions as a complete Exchange replacement and works just peachy with Outlook-only clients. Users don't know the difference. I don't know how much the hosting is per user per month, but at just 20 mailboxes, and the economies of scale playing against you (20 users is the same work as 200 or 2000... the only difference is server size and disk space), it may be a very reasonable solution. At least, it's worth a look.
    • I haven't tried the hosted option, but I tried installing it locally...
      Granted that its not certified on the platform I was trying (redhat 8.0), I find it hard to believe that AS2.1 is SO different that it wouldn't go through the installation...
      Lots of fun if you have a month to spend on it
  • We are in the same boat as you. Unfortunately IMAP just doesn't cut it for users. Outlook was made to work with Exchange, and nothing but.

    You may want to check out Samsung Contact (nee HP OpenMail) which is a more cohesive solution. I'm currently in the process of deploying it right now, so I won't give any opinion yet. A 45-day trial is available.
  • recently i came across a site which looked like it will offer what you want, although it was still a wee bit patchy (aka as yet unfinished) last i looked At any rate, may be worth a look (don't waste mod points on me!)

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