Communicate Like the Pros

By ServerWatch Staff (Send Email)
Posted December 28, 2005


CommuniGate Pro: Standards-based multiplatform scalable Internet messaging server.

It used to be that instant messaging (IM) was its own niche, walled off from other kinds of "real world" communications like telephony and voice mail. At the lower end of the messaging server market this invisible wall remains. But at the upper end, where products like CommuniGate Pro from CommuniGate Systems (formerly Stalker Software) are positioned, messaging is quickly becoming a unified experience, with no barriers between e-mail, IM, collaboration, voice mail, and telephony.

Like most e-mail servers, CommuniGate Pro supports POP3 and IMAP4, SMTP, Webmail, and secure communications. But CommuniGate Pro aims much higher than these alone. Its MAPI connector supports Outlook clients' collaboration features — shared calendaring, contacts, and tasks — putting it in a position to functionally replace an MS Exchange server. New in version 5 is enhanced support for Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) a standard for creating communication sessions containing mixed media, including text and voice.

In practical terms, SIP enables CommuniGate Pro users to collaborate using Microsoft's SIP-enabled Messenger 5, which features whiteboarding, application- and file-sharing, and IM, video, and voice communications. CommuniGate Pro version 5 also adds a presence server to its SIP support, keeping collaborative contacts up to date on the user's location and availability.

And if that isn't enough, CommuniGate Pro now bundles VoIP support into this mix, routing calls over IP-based PBX technology and breaking down traditional walls in communication.

CommuniGate Pro's multiplatform, standards-based architecture supports all of this. The CommuniGate Pro engine can be deployed in a wide variety of settings, from a single-CPU Windows server supporting a small organization to a cluster of Linux machines serving millions of user accounts. Unlike most messaging servers, CommuniGate Pro supports nearly every operating system in current use, from Windows to Linux to Mac OS X to the many other obscure varieties of Unix-like operating systems. The server runs with identical functionality on nearly every machine in the world.

The CommuniGate Pro download is less than 10 megabytes and initially occupies about 20 megabytes post-installation. The CommuniGate Pro installer asks the administrator to specify two folders for installation: the application folder, about 20 megabytes, contains the server engine and does not grow in size over time. The "base" folder contains data files that will grow with time, and it should be located on a partition with lots of room to breathe. Installation on the Windows platform is somewhat nonstandard in comparison to the usual InstallShield routine. It is not, however, difficult.

One small error we encountered was that the accompanying installation instructions neglected to mention that the CommuniGate Pro server must be restarted (on Windows, at least) after changing the postmaster password, as it suggests, for the change to take effect.

Although CommuniGate Pro supports messaging defenses, such as anti-spam and anti-virus, they are provided in the form of extra-cost modules. Anti-spam defenses from Cloudmark ($1,820 for 200 users) and Mailshell ($1,600 for 1,500 messages per hour) offer different pricing models, making an apples-to-apples comparison difficult. Anti-virus scanners are available from Kaspersky, McAfee, and Sophos; again with one module priced per user (Sophos, at $800 for 100 users) and the other two by message volume (about $1,600 for 1,000 messages per hour).

CommuniGate Pro is extremely configurable. It wants to be configured. It begs for it. This is a hard-core enterprise server product likely to intimidate point-and-click administrators but happily curl every tech monkey's tail.

CommuniGate Pro is administered with a Web browser via its built-in Web server. The Web-based GUI emphasizes functionality over beauty. The left side of the page contains a series of buttons, and each button opens a configuration page that often sports approximately a gazillion options: text fields, drop-down menus, and checkboxes galore. This is an important point — CommuniGate Pro is extremely configurable. It wants to be configured. It begs for it. This is a hard-core enterprise server product likely to intimidate point-and-click administrators but happily curl every tech monkey's tail. There are no wizards or Clippy-style avatars.

Also new with version 5 is CG/PL, a Perl-like procedural language that allows developers to modify and interact with CommuniGate Pro modules. Developers can interact with the CommuniGate Pro engine through its CLI-based API, or Perl and Java interfaces.

CommuniGate Pro has been designed with scalability in mind — extreme scalability. The product can be configured to run in multiserver clusters and even hundreds of millions of "clusters of clusters," which can support more than 5 million user accounts.

Between its multiplatform support, leading-edge messaging features, developer friendly configuration, and wide range of license options, CommuniGate Pro is a serious messaging server for serious applications.

Pros: Ubiquitous platform support; Multimode messaging from voice to text; Massive enterprise scalability.
Cons: High learning curve; Complex to support and maintain; Potentially high licensing costs.

Reviewed by: Aaron Weiss
Original Review Date: 12/28/2005
Original Review Version: 5.0.2

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