Mail Server Options Abound

By Amy Newman (Send Email)
Posted Feb 5, 2008


Exchange may be the most widespread mail server in the world, but it's far from the only option. On Tuesday, mail server vendors on both sides of the Atlantic announced significant enhancements to their respective offerings. They join CommuniGate Systems, which two weeks ago also revved its offering.

Who says Exchange is the only enterprise-worthy mail solution? Zimbra, Gordano and CommuniGate Systems unveiled offerings to appeal to both enterprises and SMBs.

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Zimbra Collaboration Suite (ZCS) 5.0 is particularly significant, as much for the technology it introduces as for the fact that it is Zimbra's first product release since Yahoo acquired it.

Yahoo and and Zimbra are both in the business of bringing mail to end users. With this release, the Zimbra end-user interface is decoupled from the backend, and the server is no longer a requirement to use the client. The offerings couldn't be more different in their approaches, however, Scott Dietzen, CTO of Zimbra business unit, told Server Watch.

Sure, like with Yahoo, any user logged into Zimbra can use an integrated instant messaging client, but Zimbra uses XMPP, which is tightly welded into its back end, different technology from what is powering Yahoo Mail, Dietzen said.

Dietzen said that for all intents and purposes, the acquisitions has had little impact on how Zimbra operates. Zimbra remains a cohesive business unit, part of Yahoo's larger mail unit, and it has its own floor. "Yahoo," he noted, "is investing in Zimbra for Zimbra's sake." And there's perhaps no bigger endorsement than the fact that, "the technology will be used in Yahoo's data center,"

Whether that would be the case in a Microsoft-owned Yahoo is unclear, however.

ZCS 5 adds IM capabilities and tasks to the Web client. Although technically in beta, IM has been built directly into ZCS, enabling end users to have multiple conversations as well as group chats. Because the IM client is XMPP-based, it is interoperable with the major providers.

Support for Apple's iPhone as well as rich J2ME client for the Motorola Razr have been added for mobile Zimbra users. Native support for Blackberry is available, thought it is consider beta. Tasks can now be synched with Windows Mobile 5 devices.

Voice integration has also been added. Dietzen said the customers "quickest to jump on voice integrators have been large service providers and SMBs using asterisk."

Briefcase is another new feature. This is an alternative to e-mail attachments: Users can save files in a Briefcase folder and e-mail or share them with other end-users.

With this release, Zimbra Documents is out of beta. Zimbra Documents enables users to create and edit wiki-style documents online with tables, images or spreadsheets. A document history allows users to roll back unwanted changes.

The AJAX-based Zimbra Advanced Web Client also received a host of feature bumps, including e-mail folder sharing, calendar scheduling options, task management, and a host of e-mail productivity enhancements (e.g., e-mail signatures and the ability to set message priority and add images to contacts).

The slightly less feature-rich Zimbra Standard Web Client also received a bump. It now supports IMAP and POP aggregation, advanced custom themes and multiple users identities, and offers various task management capabilities.

Offline capabilities have been souped up a bit as well. Although in in beta, Dietzen said users can now synch with IMAP or POP to external providers and CalDAV, alike.

Finally, last but not least, on the administrative side, Veritas Cluster Service has been added.

Gordano Adds Gizmos

Gordano meanwhile, in advance of the next major release of its Gordano Messaging Suite (GMS) offering, announced Gizmos on Tuesday.

Gordano is pushing Gizmos out to its AJAX-like Webmail interface, Gordano Managing Director John Stanners told ServerWatch. The mashup technology will be bundled into the next release of GMS.

Like Zimbra's Zimlets, Gizmos are integrated into the main Webmail interface. Unlike Zimlets, however, Gizmos are JavaScript files containing code to create an object with a set of predefined prototypes.

Some Gizmos will appear in the top of menu bar of the mail client, while others will work in the background to seem invisible. Popular tasks for Gizmos include dictionary lookups, translations and playing of video and sound files.

The code required to produce a Gizmo is closely related to Greasemonkey scripts, which are the basis for Gizmos, Stanners explained. As a result, Gizmo users have access to more than 13,000 Greasemeonkey scripts, which can serve a be basis for Gizmos.

Although GMS is not an open source project, Gizmos follow an open source model. Stanners said Gordano "wants to encourage people to share them and build a user community around them." To encourage contributions, Gordano intends to share all of the Gizmos it creates, he said.

In addition to Gizmos, this release of GMS (version 14.01) will feature a new API to allow complete control over GMS message stores and enable message stores to be populated on-the-fly from external applications. Gordano believes this feature will especially appeal to enterprises looking to integrate GMS with other systems (e.g., telcos, VoIP switches or document management).

The new fully skinnable interface no doubt helps in this regard as well.

To achieve an AJAX-like look information resides in a client side cache, displaying messages as soon as it is loaded. The new version, which is required to run the Gizmos, will be available starting next week.

CommuniGate Adds CalDAV Support

Last month, CommuniGate Systems, added CalDAV support to its Unified Communications platform. With CalDAV, users can share scheduling resources and calendar events.

CalDAV is a key enhancement in version 5.2 of CommuniGate Pro, which it stamped gold last week. The addition of the the technology is especially significant for Mac users, as it means they can communicate directly with those using Microsoft Outlook or other client products without additional tools.

Other key additions in 5.2 are an XML parser that supports complex DOCTYPEs, non-UTF-8 charsets, and processes ENTITY data; the SHA256 digest algorithm is implemented; Lawful Intercept is processed for impersonating and Signal operations; and Linux /sbin/chkconfig is used to create symlinks for startup scripts.

In addition to CalDAV support, Pronto version 1.5 and MAPI Connector version 1.51.15 are included. All of the enhancements are noted in the Release Notes.

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