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Editor's Note: An Exchange Killer, For Real. No, Really. Well, Maybe Not...

Aug 29, 2008, 23:02 (3 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Carla Schroder)

by Carla Schroder
Managing Editor

Cisco's impending PostPath acquistion is potentially a bigger story than the tech press realizes, with the exception of Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, who wrote today's R.I.P. Exchange story:
"Over the years, many of Microsoft monopolies have been successfully attacked by open source: Linux on the server; Apache for Web servers; Firefox for Web browsers; and so on. The one exception, and it's a big one, is business e-mail. Exchange, with 65% of the market, owns business groupware and e-mail."
While the big Linux news revolves around the desktop wars, one of the few remaining Redmond strongholds is the unholy MS Exchange/Outlook duo. For whatever reason, despite their innumerable defects, fragility, expense, cruddy performance, and friendliness to malware, businesses are reluctant to give them up. The two reasons I used to hear were the pain of migration, and users don't want to give up their Outlook. Migrating an existing data store away from Exchange is very difficult- by design, of course. (Why aren't all these smart college-educated business types asking themselves who owns their data?) But it can be done.

Then along came PostPath, which thanks to some diligent reverse-engineering became the first drop-in replacement for Exchange that supported the super-secret proprietary Exchange protocols. Based on Postfix and other FOSS applications, it seemed the key to painless migration away from Exchange. But it didn't make much of a dent. So Cisco acquiring PostPath seemed like the final piece: someone with the clout and expertise to be a genuine "Exchange Killer."

But then SJVN reveals this:

"While Cisco is getting ready to smack Exchange around, there's another open-development that's spelling trouble for Exchange: OpenChange. This project, which is being created in partnership with Samba, is taking Exchange's protocols, which the European Union forced Microsoft to reveal, will enable any open-source groupware developer to create an Exchange/Outlook compatible server."
So PostPath's reverse-engineering achievement doesn't look like such a big deal any more. Cisco's own news on the acquisition is sparse, but it seems to point to SaaS (Software as a Service), rather than a customer-premise, standalone messaging server:
"With PostPath's software, Cisco will extend the e-mail and calendar functionality of its flexible software-as-a-service (SaaS)-based collaborative platform that includes instant messaging, voice, video, data, document management and Web 2.0 applications."

So now what? If Zimbra, Open-Xchange, PostPath, Scalix, eGroupWare, phpGroupWare, and Citadel BBS aren't good enough, then what will it take? IBM is trying to recycle Lotus Notes as new and cool. Ha! We do not forget that easily, Big Blue- Notes is neither.

Maybe the real message here isn't that a better messaging server is what's needed, because there are plenty of those. Maybe the real message is that anyone trying to make sense out of procurement decisions is doomed to frustration.

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