GuidesOpening the Flood Gates of Communication With CommuniGate Pro

Opening the Flood Gates of Communication With CommuniGate Pro

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CommuniGate Pro: Powerful, standards-based, highly scalable Internet messaging server

With a wide variety of platform support, robust features, complex configurations, and licensing options, CommuniGate Pro is a serious messaging server for serious applications. What truly sets CommuniGate Pro apart, however, is its scalability to support more than 5 million user accounts.

Internet messaging is complicated. There’s no two ways about it. Actually, there are a lot more than two ways about it, and a flood of messaging products have hit the market, each with its “own way” of setting up a messaging server. Many recent offerings, particularly those aimed at Windows-based servers, take the sugar-and-cream approach, sweetening the configuration process. In general, these are fine designs for many administrators.

But power users are a different breed. They take their coffee black and their servers, well, kind of like CommuniGate Pro.

CommuniGate Pro by Stalker Software is a messaging server that includes e-mail, Web publishing, calendaring and scheduling capabilities, and groupware connectivity. Its architecture is extremely flexible, allowing the CommuniGate Pro engine to 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 hundreds of thousands of user accounts. Unlike many messaging servers, CommuniGate Pro supports almost every operating system in current use — from Windows to Linux to the many other obscure varieties of Unix-like operating systems, and even IBM’s ill-fated OS/2 and the short-lived much-loved BeOS. This is a server that could run on nearly every machine in the world.

Yet the CommuniGate Pro download is less than 4 MB and occupies less than 7 MB in installed form. Of course, plug-in modules, such as virus scanners, add to its footprint, but not significantly. CommuniGate Pro asks the administrator to specify two folders for installation: The application folder contains the server engine and does not grow in size over time. The “base” folder contains data files that grow with time, and thus should be located on a partition with room to breathe. Obviously, the size of this folder will vary with the level of activity and number of users supported by the server. Installation on the Windows platform is somewhat non-standard in comparison to the usual InstallShield routine.

To its credit, Stalker Software provides concise installation instructions for each supported platform, which do contain some important details of note.

CommuniGate Pro is administered with a Web browser via its built-in Web server. The Web-based GUI is not a thing of a beauty, but rather a thing of functionality. 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 server product likely to intimidate point-and-click administrators but happily curl every tech monkey’s tail.

Based on open standards, CommuniGate Pro’s feature list is aligned with the RFC’s for each supported messaging protocol. The server’s primary features support ESMTP mail exchange, POP3 and IMAP4 mail delivery, MAPI, iCalendar and vCard, Directory and LDAP service, secure mail, listserv management, and Web publishing via HTTP and FTP.

Anti-Virus scanners are available as plug-in modules, and basic spam blocking and filtering controls are included. User accounts can be configured to partake in any or all of these features (e.g., e-mail users can also have their own Web space). Consistent with its design theme, the product doesn’t sugarcoat any of these features: They are practically laid bare for the administrator to configure and tweak. Stalker’s documentation is thorough but concise — it explains configuration options clearly but does not aim to educate the administrator about the supported technologies.

CommuniGate Pro has been designed with scalability in mind — extreme scalability. The product can be configured to run in multiserver clusters and even “clusters of clusters,” which can support more than 5 million user accounts. Between its wide platform support and clustering muscle, CommuniGate Pro aims to cover the bases from the smallest organizations to the very largest.

As a result, CommuniGate Pro’s licensing scheme is, like the product itself, somewhat complex. The software can be used in free trial mode with unlimited restrictions for an unlimited period of time — with the catch that it adds a trial notice to every message served. Single-server pricing is the most straightforward, beginning at $499 for a Professional license that includes 50 user accounts and five mailing lists. Educational discounts are available. Single-server pricing ranges up to the Large ISP level, with unlimited accounts and lists for nearly $60,000. Additional mailing lists can be added to any of these licenses for an extra charge. Cluster pricing is broken down into 20 or more categories that range from $15,000 all the way up to $1 million. For both single-server and cluster arrangements there are additional charges for add-ons such as MAPI Groupware (from $1,200 to $20,000), Anti-Virus scanners (from less than $400 to $20,000, based on scanning speed), and the SpamCatcher (from less than $300 to $20,000, based on traffic).

Between its platform support, robust features, complex configuration, and wide range of licensing options, CommuniGate Pro is a serious messaging server for serious applications.

Pros: Ubiquitous platform support; bulletproof standards implementation; massive enterprise scalability
Cons: High learning curve; complex to support and maintain, potentially high licensing costs

Reviewed by: Aaron Weiss
Original Review Date: 8/22/2003
Original Review Version: 4.1

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