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Open Source Takes on Exchange

OpenOffice.org gained a sister organization and Microsoft gained another open source competitor Thursday with the coming out party for OpenGroupware.org, an open source project developing groupware server software which competes with Microsoft's Exchange Server.

Microsoft is already facing competition for its Office suite from the open source OpenOffice.org (OOo) development project and community, and the new OpenGroupware.org offering rounds out its competitive angle with a server-side attack.

OpenGroupware.org (OGo) provides server components for full office collaboration with the OpenOffice.org suite as well as other Linux and Windows groupware projects. The OGo software runs on Linux and Solaris.

"Just to be perfectly clear, this is an MS Exchange replacement," said Gary Federick, leader of the OpenOffice.org Groupware Project. "OGo is important because it's the missing link in the open source software stack. It's the end of a decade-long effort to map all the key infrastructure and standard desktop applications to free software. OGo offers users a free solution for collaboration and document management that, despite being free of charge, will far surpass the quality and level of collaboration found on Windows through integration of MS Office, Exchange Server and Sharepoint. Today marks the completion of the 'Open Stack.'"

The OGo software is based on the contribution of the SKYRiX 4.1 Groupware Server code. Developed by German ISP MDlink GmbH in 1994 as reference server software, the company later melded it with the LSOffice application server it began developing in 1996 to extend its Internet offerings with a collaboration platform useable over the Internet. The company renamed the product SKYRiX 3, and formed a new company, SKYRIX Software, a specialist in Linux groupware, in 2000 to focus on the product. Developed over the past seven years, OGo said the code is a well-established, mature product.

The product itself consists of about 600,000 lines of object oriented C code and about 100,000 lines of reusable Web components, according to OGo.

"We are extremely excited to form OpenGroupware.org and to collaborate with OpenOffice.org to serve the open source community worldwide," said Jens Enders, president and CEO of SKYRIX Software. "By configuring the OpenGroupware.org server together [after install] with the OpenOffice.org suite and other leading groupware clients, our customers will be able to implement a comprehensive and integrated collaboration environment wholly composed of free software."

The new organization said its software provides document sharing capabilities for OpenOffice.org documents that will allow users of Microsoft Outlook, Ximian Evolution, Mozilla Calendar, OpenOffice.org's Glow (its Groupware Project's client product), Apple's iCal and other standards-based groupware clients to collaborate. The software will allow users to share calendar, address book and email information, communicate through instant messaging, share folders, exchange documents, track changes, share a whiteboard, and browse the Web -- all at the same time. Most importantly, the group said, this can be done on open standards without paying or managing licensing fees.

OGo said it has broad support for XML-based APIs, including: an XML-RPC 'Web service' API, support for SunONE XML-based WCAP, support for HTTPMail/MS Exchange-based WebDAV, and support for iCalendar files in XML notation (according to the XCal drafts).

The server software uses a WebDAV-accessible relational database management system. It is licensed under the open source dual licenses: the Lesser General Public License (LGPL) and the General Public License (GPL). Its libraries and components are licensed under the GPL.

"The release of OGo means the OpenOffice.org suite is ready for the enterprise complete with full-featured and mature groupware solutions," said Stu Green, managing director of open source consultancy Open Source Professional Services. "These capabilities once and for all show how free software betters proprietary solutions that require licensing payments on both the client and server sides. Also, OGo provides multiple file format filters for creating, storing and sharing data in an open and flexible fashion. It's possible now to completely avoid proprietary file formats and non-standard XML throughout the desktop stack and infrastructure. Licensing fees and license management are gone. And with OOo and OGo, no remote activation is required."