Red Hat News | From Code to Community to Enterprise-Ready

Red Hat’s software development model relies on its active sponsorship of leading open source projects, including the Fedora Project, which produces the Fedora distribution. Fedora combines and showcases the latest in open source technologies anyone can download, use, and remix, and also serves as the technology foundation of Red Hat’s commercial products. By providing cutting-edge technology, Fedora helps advance the development of open source worldwide, and the technologies found in Fedora may be incorporated later into other Linux distributions as well.Ever wonder how great features make it from the community into enterprise-ready technology like Red Hat Enterprise Linux? Take a look at the video to learn more.

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Open Source Alternatives to Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Domino

Microsoft Exchange is a messaging and collaboration platform that has quickly gained adoption among many corporate organizations, specially those who have standardized on Microsoft Windows Server for their infrastructure. It brings in one package many enterprise features including messaging (using its own proprietary MAPI/RPC protocol or open standard protocols such as POP3/IMAP and SMTP), shared calendaring, resource management, directory services (LDAP/AD) and many others. In later releases, it has added web access, mobile sync (supports Windows mobile, Blackberry, Android devices) clustering, and high availability features making it suitable for large organizations and mission-critical deployments. If deployed and integrated with other products from Microsoft‘s suite of server solutions such as Sharepoint (for collaboration, document management and workflow) and OCS (unified communications and collaboration), Exchange can be a formidable platform for any vendor to match.

Lotus Domino on the other hand has been around earlier, and is still used in many organizations who have decided to deploy corporate groupware solutions early on with Lotus Notes. Like Exchange, it is a messaging and collaboration platform but in addition is also an application development platform commonly used for forms-based or workflow applications. In recent releases, IBM has made Domino an extensible platform with document management services, portal services, unified communications and collaboration (with Lotus Sametime), and others.

Both platforms are mature and have enjoyed wide use in many corporate deployments. Lotus Domino has the advantage of being in the market earlier, while Exchange enjoys the advantage of having an excellent and ubiquitous client in Microsoft Outlook and great integration with Microsoft’s market-leading products.

However, customers looking for an alternative from the open source community or commercial open source vendors are in luck as there is now a host of choices. On top of standard messaging and collaboration features, many of them bundle a ton of other features and functionality, such as built-in antispam and antivirus, file or document management, cross-platform support (ie can often run on both Windows and Linux) and many others. In this post, I’ll try to list down the well known enterprise-ready alternatives and rate them based on their features, extensibility and adoption. Let’s get started:

  • Citadel. I got to know of Citadel from mailing lists and recommendations of some uses from message boards, forums and social networking sites. I haven’t tried Citadel but from what I was able to gather from their website, it seems Citadel has been around for a long time, making it a mature product in terms of features. It supports messaging (support for POP3/IMAP/SMTP), group calendars and address books, but in addition offers instant messaging, mailing list management, and bulletin board-style forums. It also bundles open source antispam and antivirus solutions SpamAssassin and ClamAV respectively. Notable is its support for the GroupDAV protocol (a subset of WebDAV), which makes it a great choice if you will be using open source clients as well such as Thunderbird, KDE Kontact, Evolution and others. A notable disadvantage is lack of support for syncing calendar and task information in Outlook. Lack of built-in clustering and high availability features may be a  problem for some organizations, although a knowledgeable Linux admin can compensate for this. With its support for GroupDAV and light hardware requirements, Citadel makes a great choice for organizations comfortable with open source or companies who want to extend the life of old server hardware. I would be hard pressed to recommend this for large enterprise deployments however where support, ease of use, and ease of maintenance and management are more important considerations than features.
  • Horde Groupware Webmail Edition. Horde is really a web application framework with Horde Groupware as a project showcase of what is possible with the framework. It is actually a mail client, with the mail and identity management pieces being handled by Postfix, Dovecot, Sendmail and OpenLDAP. Horde Groupware is widely used by many web hosting providers as a hosted groupware solution for customers and is bundled by some Linux distribution vendors (such as ClarkConnect) as their collaboration solution. Because of its roots as an application development framework, Horde can easily be extended and is really a collection of different integrated modules. Besides messaging, different modules handle calendaring, task management, mailing list management, antivirus and antispam (via SpamAssassin and ClamAV), along with file management, photo gallery, forums, memos, wikis and many others. Syncing data with Outlook is possible via 3rd party plugins, and it readily supports other open source clients as well such as Thunderbird, Evolution and others. My criticism against Horde is its dated User Interface versus the other choices here with their slick and snappy AJAX-powered front-ends. Another is the complicated and time consuming set up the various components (ie Postfix and others) Horde modules–admins might be better served getting a pre-packaged solution in place. Overall Horde, like Citadel, is a great choice for organizations with experienced Linux admins, who want to extend the life of old server hardware and want a feature-rich and mature solution. I would be hard pressed to recommend this for large enterprise deployments however where support, ease of use, and ease of maintenance and management are more important considerations than features.
  • OpenGroupware/InstantOGO. OpenGroupware also has a rich and long past. It was originally a commercial project which was later spun off to open source project was later spun off and called OpenGroupware. Like many here it supports messaging, group calendars and address books, scheduling and task management, support for GroupDAV, CalDAV, and LDAP out of the box, file and document management and many others. Its a pre-packaged solution and is relatively easy to set up and configure. The commercial version offers support for Outlook sync, as well as commercial support. Definitely a mature, feature-rich solution that is in many ways a good choice for midsized to large organizations.
  • Open-Xchange. Open-Xchange is a messaging and collaboration server that is OEMed by many service providers because of its rich features, slick webmail client and ease of setup and use. It supports many open standards protocols and supports Outlook sync via a commercial extension. Originally a commercial product that was bundled with Novell’s Linux Messaging product (SuSE Linux Open-Xchange or SLOX), it features messaging, group calendars/addressbook and scheduling, identity management (support for LDAP and AD), document management, portals,  and more. Recent releases highlight its social networking capabilities with the ability to share information with Social Networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. It will also soon feature support for mobile clients via Exchange’s Active Sync technology. The software is available as a community-supported product, a commercially-supported product, a turnkey appliance or as a hosted instance. Definitely a mature, feature-rich solution that is in many ways a good choice for midsized to large organizations.
  • Scalix. Scalix is also a relatively new player that from the get-go targetted the entreprise market early on. It was originally developed on top of HP OpenMail, and was licensed from HP. On top of standard messaging and groupware features it supports a lot of enterprise-grade functionality such as LDAP and AD support, high availability, multi-tenant management, support for Outlook sync and mobile devices, and many others. It features a nice, slick webmail client, but supports Outlook and mobile devices, on top of other open source clients such as Evolution, Thunderbird and many others. It was recently bought by Xandros and is now offered as a hosted instance, commercial turn-key product or a community-supported downloadable product. Because of its rich features, it should be considered as a contender in any enterprise deployment.
  • Zarafa. Zarafa is a relatively new player that is being marketed as a drop-in replacement for Microsoft Exchange. That means you can replace your existing Exchange installation with Zarafa and your existing Outlook clients and mobile devices wouldn’t know the difference. It supports Outlook’s MAPI protocol as well as the ActiveSync protocol for mobile devices. It has a slick webmail which mimics the look and feel of Outlook Web Access, and makes available a nice set of APIs so third party developers can integrate and sync data with the platform. Some popular open source applications that can sync data with Zarafa include SugarCRM (CRM) and Alfresco (document management). It is available in community as well as commercial versions, with some of the more advanced features only available in the commercial editions. The nice thing though is that the Outlook sync, unlike many here, is available as well in the community supported (ie FREE) version. Its rich feature set, compatibility with Outlook, ease of use and management ensures that this solution should be on the short list looking for a lower cost alternative to Microsoft Exchange.
  • Zimbra Collaboration Suite. Zimbra’s entry is the most interesting in that they really rethought the architecture and design of a groupware product. Zimbra is positioned as messaging and collaboration 2.0 with its mashup platform (via Zimlets which allow the product to share and sync data with third-party data sources and service providers) and its slick AJAX-powered webmail and offline client. On top of this, they still offer standard messaging and collaboration features, along with many high-end, enterprise-grade features (only available in their commercial product) such as LDAP and AD support, high availability, archiving, support for Outlook sync and mobile devices, and many others. Like Scalix, the company was recently bought by Yahoo and is now offered as a hosted instance, commercial turn-key product or a community-supported downloadable product. Like Zarafa, integration with other open source products exist like SugarCRM, Alfresco, Asterisk (IP-based PBX) and XMPP (instant messaging). Like Open-Xchange and Scalix, definitely should be on the short list for any midsized to large company looking at deploying a collaboration platform. Its extensibility and rich UI make it a good choice for companies looking for a platform to integrate with form-based and workflow applications making it my choice for companies wishing to look for an alternative to Lotus Domino.

Anything I missed? Let me know by posting a comment. Comments and suggestions are welcome!

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IDC: Linux spending set to boom by 21 percent in 2009

Matt Asay posts in his blog his analysis of IDC’s latest study on the corporate adoption of Linux. According to the report, the growth in the adoption of Linux and Linux-related software is set to outpace the growth in UNIX and UNIX-related software as well as Windows and Windows-related software in the coming years:

Matt’s other insights from the report:

  • Most of the deployments for Linux is for the free or non-paid/community-supported Linux OS distributions
  • Linux is set to outpace the larger market, with customer spending on Linux expected to grow year over year by 21 percent in 2009. The larger software market, meanwhile, will struggle to deliver 2 percent growth in 2009. And from 2008 to 2013, the Linux market is set to grow $12.3 billion to $35.5 billion, representing a 23.6 percent compound annual growth rate.
  • Even so, it is important to note that the size of Linux versus, for example, Windows, is telling: the Microsoft software ecosystem was $149 billion in 2008. IDC rightly points out that “even with a sub-10 percent growth rate through 2013, (the Microsoft ecosystem) will add $56 billion in spending.
  • Virtualization is expected to be a big driver of Linux. While cloud computing is also expected to drive Linux and open-source adoption, the real money is coming from increases in Linux adoption–from 13 percent to 18.6 percent–for more traditional workloads like ERP, database, etc. Most of this growth in traditional workloads is coming at Unix’s expense.
  • IDC finds that 53 percent of enterprises it has surveyed are planning to increase adoption of Linux on the server and 48 percent expect to increase adoption of Linux on the client (desktop, laptop, etc.) “as a direct result of the economic climate.”
  • Perhaps not surprisingly, while Microsoft has been attempting to make Windows an inviting platform for open-source vendors, IDC expects no movement from Microsoft to make its software available on Linux. This is war, and Microsoft for all its talk about interoperability, apparently sees interoperability as a one-way street on which other vendors interoperate with it, on its terms, to its advantage.

Its a good time for companies to start thinking about moving to Linux, and applications on Linux such as messaging, virtualization, security and enterprise business software. The economic conditions today certainly provide an incentive for many to do so.

While Linux already has some headway in the server market, it remains to be seen if this growing interest in Linux will result in greater share in other markets such as client devices. While the desktop PC and laptop market is already largely dominated by Microsoft and contested really only by Apple, the really interesting thing to look out for in my opinion is the brewing battle for Linux to have a place in new devices such as Netbooks and Mobile phones.

Enterprise Web Content Management Smack Down

{{de|Pankratiasten im Bodenkampf. Verkleinerte...
Image via Wikipedia

This week it seems Im finding a lot of links related to head to head vendor competitions, tournaments, and now in your face smackdowns:

It all started when CMS Watch’s Kas Thomas posted his “reality checklist” for CMS vendors. Each vendor should ask themselves 15 tough questions about their product. Now one particular vendor Day has put down the challenge to all other CMS vendors, the CMS Vendor meme, to answer the questions from the check list. Surprisingly, this challenge elicited a wave of responses from Day’s competitors; among them Alfresco,  Jahia, Nuxeo, Knowledgetree, and even the incumbents such as Vignette, Autonomy Interwoven and others. Most of them were done tongue-in-cheek, with some good natured competitive trash talking thrown in for good measure. They are interesting in that they provides a nice peek into the cultures and attitudes of the vendors and how they assess their own product.

Blogger Julian Wraith posts a scoreboard in his blog. As of the time of this posting, the results are (remember most of the vendors rated themselves on the vendor evaluation checklist posed by Kaz Thomas):

  1. 43/45 – Jahia
  2. 43/45 – Hippo CMS
  3. 42/45 – Magnolia
  4. 42/45 – EPiServer
  5. 42/45 – GX *
  6. 42/45 – Midgard
  7. 42/45 – Nuxeo **
  8. 41/45 – infopark
  9. 41/45 – KnowledgeTree
  10. 40.5/45 – Enano
  11. 40/45 – Day
  12. 40/45 – Alfresco
  13. 40/45 – GX
  14. 40/45 – CoreMedia
  15. 40/45 – Sitecore
  16. 40/45 – Alterian
  17. 40/45 – OpenText
  18. 40/45 – Ez Systems
  19. 38/45 – dotCMS
  20. 37/45 – Vignette
  21. 37/45 – Autonomy Interwoven
  22. 36/45 – Escenic
  • bold scores are where the vendor did not score themselves but it was subsequentally worked out by Jon Marks
  • * Score adjusted to reflect original scoring system
  • ** Vendor does not seem to be able to add up

Here is the full text of the checklist:

Trends: A reality checklist for vendors

Web CMS vendors live at an interesting intersection between the new and the old: They live with one foot firmly planted in the enterprise-software world (a world of servers and routers and black console screens with flashing cursors), and the other foot planted on the Flashy, fast-shifting ground of the Internet.The two worlds are diverging rapidly. Traditional enterprise software development (the kind associated with “programming in the large”) tends to be slow, costly, inflexible. Solution sales, marketing, and support tend to be correspondingly process-heavy and inertia-laden. The Web, on the other hand, is agile, fun, and friction-free. It has changed the way people look at computing. It has changed expectations (and conversations) around marketing, pricing, maintenance, support, and just about every other aspect of the enterprise-software experience.

And yet somehow, software vendors who should know better (again: vendors in the Web CMS space) are sometimes failing to perceive how profoundly things have changed in the past year or so.

As a public service, then, I propose the following “reality-check checklist” for Web CMS vendors (and other enterprise software vendors) who intend to stay afloat — if not prosper — in 2009 and beyond. Violate these rules at your own risk.:

“WE GET IT” CHECKLIST FOR VENDORS

1. Our software comes with an installer program.

2. Installing or uninstalling our software does not require a reboot of your machine.

3. You can choose your locale and language at install time, and never have to see English again after that.

4. Eval versions of the latest edition(s) of our software are always available for download from the company website.

5. Our WCM software comes with a fully templated “sample web site” and sample workflows, which work out-of-the-box.

6. We ship a tutorial.

7. You can raise a support issue via a button, link, or menu command in our administrative interface.

8. All help files and documentation for the product are laid down as part of the install.

9. We run our entire company website using the latest version of our own WCM products.

10. Our salespeople understand how our products work.

11. Our software does what we say it does.

12. We don’t charge extra for our SDK.

13. Our licensing model is simple enough for a 5-year-old to understand.

14. We have one price sheet for all customers.

15. Our top executives are on Skype, Twitter, or some similar channel, and: Feel free to contact them directly at any time.

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Drupal Use Growing

Saw this interesting entry from OS Static:

Drupal 6 Content Management System To Soon Run 240,000 Sites

Dries Buytaert, founder of the Drupal content management system, and co-founder of Acquia (which offers a commercially supported version of Drupal), is out with some remarkable statistics, here, and here. If you’re unfamiliar with Drupal, it is a powerful open source content management system, and OStatic runs on it, as do many other sites, including Fast Company and The Onion. According to the latest data from Dries, based on the growth of the platform, there will be over 240,000 sites running on Drupal 6 by January of 2010, and that’s up from fewer than 5,000 in July of 2008. Here are some more milestones for Drupal.

Because many sites running Drupal are hidden behind corporate firewalls, and for other reasons, one can’t put a completely accurate number on how many Drupal sites there are. However, Dries says that sites reporting back to Drupal through their upgrade modules are showing that there are currently between 100,000 and 150,000 sites running Drupal 6. The current number is expected to double over the next nine months.

The Ultimate Showdown of Open Source Web CMS

Drupal vs Joomla on wikistat
Image by bertboerland via Flickr

Im a bit behind on my blogging but thought to post this anyway even though it happened several weeks ago:

At the recent SXSW (or South by Southwest Conference), they recently held “the ultimate open source CMS showdown.” The format of the event was patterned after “Project Runway” and “The Iron Chef” reality shows where three teams of all-star Web developers were asked to build a Web site in each of their chosen platforms using a single design concept (in this case provided by the award winning Mark Boulton Design studios) and project specification (a fictional nonprofit). Participants came from the camps of three of the best known and most widely used open source CMS projects out there: Drupal, Joomla and WordPress.

The session included walkthroughs of all three sites and the teams were given time to present how they tackled development and execution of the projetct specs. At the end of the session, judges were asked to decide the best platform and best execution of the concept.

The results? Check it out here:

What’s New | The Ultimate Showdown of Content Management System Destiny

March 17, 2009, 4:45pm – New page outlining the competition, with links to the project spec, designs, and SXSW slides added.

March 17, 2009, 4:00pm – Another great article on the Showdown from CMS Wire.

March 16, 2009, 11:59pm – Great article about the SXSW Showdown on CMS Critic.

March 16, 2009, 2:00pm – It’s been just over an hour since the conclusion of the Ultimate Showdown of Content Management System Destiny panel at SXSW Interactive, and already the Internets are abuzz speculating about who “won” the competition between Drupal, Joomla!, and WordPress. We had an overflow audience for the session, and at the end when it came to asking the audience to pick a winner, an amazing thing happened: they refused to decide, saying they wanted to learn more about all three projects before rendering a verdict.

You can find the contest details, the participants and mechanics here. An analysis of the results can be found here.

The respective entries of the differemt teams can be viewed online at the following URLs:

You be the judge!

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Microsoft Open Source Intitaives for Web Designers and Developers

Check out MIX Online, which is a “community for web designers and developers who build and believe in the innovative web.” It is a project that is in many ways a part of Microsoft’s embrace of online communities and even (gasp!) open source. Some of the interesting projects from MIX are the Oxite project, an open source blogging/content management system built on top of the recently released .NET MVC framework, and their Descry Project.

Project Descry aims to “demonstrates the power of data and information visualization as a communication tool.”  As a part of Descry, they released a set of open source, web-based visualizations (based on Microsoft Silverlight technologies) and articles on really cool Infographics. One particularly interesting visualization is that of the web development process which shows it in a really interesting format what goes on behind the scenes from conception to launch. Check it out here:

Open Source Vendor SugarCRM Embraces Cloud Computing in a Big Way

Open source CRM vendor SugarCRM is one of a few companies to embrace open source and cloud computing in a big way. When SugarCRM first came out, they immediately offered to provide the software as a service online–similar to Salesforce.com, with the important distinction that you can choose to download and host the software yourself if you want. Larger organizations who want to roll their own hosted software service for customers can opt to use a special package called the SugarCRM Data Center Edition.

Just recently SugarCRM launched a new way to meld Internet services and open source software by launching Cloud Services and Social Feeds. These new Cloud Connectors for SugarCRM allow for company and contact data residing in other cloud environments to be called and presented in SugarCRM. These services include such sites as LinkedIn, ZoomInfo and Crunchbase. The Sugar Feeds feature on the other hand provides a Facebook-like rolling set of notices and alerts based on activity within SugarCRM.

SugarCRM is interesting to watch because of the pace of innovation they bring to open source and how they unabashedly marry commercial interests with the altruistic motivations often-associated (rightly or wrongly)  with open source. From the looks of things they seem to be succeeding.

China Enthusiastic Users of Open Source

A blog posting from ZDNet by Peter Cheng talks about how China is planning to accelerate the local economy through science and technology. In the next coming 11 years, the Chinese government will invest US$85 billion on technology innovation, including projects around open source. He went on to post some interesting stats on open source usage in China:

Right time for China to use open source as alternative : Open Source : Blogs : ZDNet Asia

1) Desktop is the king: Desktop OS adoption is at 69.5 percent; Server OS at 68.2 percent; Database at 50.1 percent; Web browser at 47.2 percent; Programing language at 46 percent

2) Who’s using open source software? SMB (small and midsize business) adoption stands at 42.7 percent; Large enterprise at 26.4 percent; Education at 19.4 percent; Individuals at 10 percent

3) Industry adoption of open source: Internet at 78.8 percent; Enterprise at 52.5 percent; Telecom at 30 percent; e-government at 27.3 perent

4) Where do people get their open source software? Network downloads 94.6 percent; Free CDs at 35.1 percent; Purchased CDs from resellers at 12.4 percent

5) Where do people access open source information? Open source community at 87.1 percent; Search engine at 65.7 percent; Open source companies at 38.7 percent

6) Who is the best sponsor of open source? IBM at 64.7 percent; Sun Microsystems at 63.1 percent; Google at 61.2 percent; Intel at 15.3 percent

The most interesting part for me is the extent of OS adoption for the Desktop. More than 3 out of 5 users according the study (in Chinese) were using open source software on their desktops. Now with over 1.3 billion people in China, with an estimated 300 milliion of which are computer and Internet users–that equates to a lot of users who are consumers and perhaps later on, potential contributors to open source. Think about it.

Is Drupal the Linux of the Web Content Management World?

The guys over at Lullabot just posted a series of FREE videos from their Do it with Drupal conference late part of last year where they redo 37Signal’s Basecamp in Drupal. Last time they did a Flickr clone in Drupal and also did a Twitter-like microblogging website in Drupal.

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Drupal is slowly going beyond just being an open source web CMS and is becoming a web application platform in its own right. It works great as malleable, customizable, collaborative/social networking application platform for the web. Core members want Drupal to be a de facto platform for the Internet–just as Apache and Linux are now. Not bad for a completely community-supported project.

Recently Drupal project author Dries Butaert started a company called Acquia to provide commercial support for the project. A channel program for ISVs and Integrators has also been launched middle of last year. Its interesting to see what the future will bring for Drupal. Can Drupal become the next Linux and will Acquia be the next Red Hat of the web content management world?