Is there still a market for Exchange alternatives?

Not so very long ago, there was a lot of talk in the market about Exchange alternatives -- software products that worked in a similar way to Microsoft Exchange. I was reminded of this by some news that crossed my desk yesterday. Is this still an interesting market, or is the battle long lost? Let's see, in The Long View...

The basic promise of these products was to glue the Outlook desktop client onto an alternative email/collaboration server -- i.e., not Exchange. The idea was that users wouldn't notice the difference (mostly), but the IT folks would get the benefit of using something that wasn't Exchange. That was important for different reasons, depending on who you were; perhaps you felt that Exchange wasn't reliable enough, or didn't scale well, or simply that you preferred to run your servers on Unix or Linux.

Read on...

The pioneer of the Exchange alternative market was HP, with its Unix-based OpenMail product. Way back in 1991, HP launched its first attempt to provide an alternative server to Exchange; those days were pre-Outlook, so HP was working with the original Exchange Client. The basic idea was to write a driver or "shim" to map the client's APIs to those provided by the OpenMail server -- although that's a horrific over-simplification. I should declare an interest: I was the architect of what became known as HP's "OpenMail Clients of Choice" strategy. I had already designed and led the engineering of a similar shim for cc:Mail; I went on to manage the project to support Outlook on top of OpenMail.

It was news about Scalix that got me writing about this topic again. The company had been acquired by the Linux distributor Xandros a few years ago. Announced yesterday was the sale to Sebring Software, which describes itself as "a collaborative integration software company."


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