Is Open Source Ready To Get The Message? - InformationWeek

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3/6/2009
12:50 PM
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Is Open Source Ready To Get The Message?

Exchange may be the last true gem in Microsoft's proprietary software crown. Is that finally about to change for good?

Exchange may be the last true gem in Microsoft's proprietary software crown. Is that finally about to change for good?Last year, Cisco made waves with its acquisition of PostPath, a hosted, Linux-based groupware solution. At the time, quite a few pundits declared that PostPath could evolve into a truly compelling alternative to Exchange, thanks to PostPath's success reverse-engineering Microsoft's proprietary Exchange protocols.

Those Exchange protocols are a huge barrier to companies trying to offer drop-in groupware alternatives that don't involve a massive data-migration headache. Remove that barrier, and in theory, competitors could crack the groupware market wide open without even forcing end-users to give up their familiar Microsoft Outlook desktops.

Since last summer, however, we haven't heard much from Cisco about its plans for PostPath. That may soon change.

Earlier this week, Cisco announced that it will offer an email-security offering as both a fully hosted and a hybrid service. While the announcement focuses mostly on Cisco's IronPort business unit, Cisco also acknowledged that its email security offering will dovetail with its plans to build a hosted email offering based on technology acquired from PostPath.

No matter how Cisco uses PostPath, however, there is now another player in this space. Since the European Union forced Microsoft to publish its Exchange protocols, the OpenChange project has been working with the Samba development team to create a completely new platform for open-source developers aiming to build Exchange-compatible groupware.

Microsoft isn't losing a grip on its groupware business just yet, but the writing seems to be on the wall. This market is simply too lucrative not to attack -- and with Exchange stripped of its secret sauce, it is just a matter of time before companies see some practical, cost-effective alternatives.

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