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Scalix founder: New e-mail release MS-friendly and MS rival

Scalix 10 is both Microsoft-friendly and bad news for Microsoft, says Scalix's founder in this interview. Scalix 10, a new Linux-based e-mail release, was unveiled today at the Open Source Business Conference in San Francisco.

Webmail, 64-bit computing, high availability and cross-platform capabilities have been enhanced in Scalix 10, the new Linux-based e-mail release introduced at the Open Source Business Conference in San Francisco today.

Just prior to the announcement, Scalix founder Julie Hanna Farris talked with me about the customer-relevance of these new capabilities and why businesses choose Linux-based e-mail instead of Microsoft Exchange or Outlook.

Are people using Scalix, a Linux-based application, in Windows environments?

Julie Hanna Farris: Of the thousands of companies and organizations that are deploying Scalix, the majority are operating in a mixed Linux/Windows environment.

Cross-platform interoperability has always been a focus because that is the reality that customers must deal with as they introduce Linux and open source into their environment.

I'm fond of saying that Scalix is the most 'Microsoft-friendly' Linux application in the market, because we have made such a big investment in interoperability with the Microsoft ecosystem. Customers can deploy Scalix alongside Microsoft Outlook, Exchange and Active Directory and fully leverage their investment in both worlds.

This release focuses a lot on cross-platform capabilities. What do e-mail users gain from cross-platform capabilities?

Farris: Scalix 10 [provides] cross-platform interoperability in e-mail, calendaring and scheduling, as well as the ability to share documents, calendars and contacts among desktops and servers running in mixed Windows and Linux environments.

The calendaring enhancements in Scalix 10 give customers the ability to schedule meetings with users on different platforms, like Microsoft Exchange, Notes Domino, Novell GroupWise and even Hotmail. This means people can now schedule meetings with each other across organizational boundaries.

Scalix 10 also enables a wide variety of e-mail and calendaring clients like Microsoft Outlook, Scalix Web Access and Novell Evolution, Entourage, Sunbird to work together in a transparent and seamless manner. Permissioned sharing of documents and calendars is the same regardless of which client or desktop platform is in use.

What have customers been saying to Scalix about their need for and usage of Webmail?

Farris: We are continuing to see a move toward Webmail as part of the broader, thin-client computing trend. When we began developing Scalix Web Access (SWA), we set out to build the world's best companion client to Outlook by leveraging Web services and what is now referred to as AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML).

The response we've gotten from customers is that SWA so closely resembles a rich desktop e-mail application in it's appearance, behavior and functionality, that they are opting to replace their fat e-mail clients altogether. The big advantages customers see with this approach is the ability to reduce the software and support costs associated with fat clients like Outlook along with the added benefit of anytime, anywhere access.

Do you see a widespread move to Webmail as a replacement for server- and client-based e-mail?

Farris:I don't believe that all roads lead to Webmail. Power users and mobile warriors, for example, still require desktop clients to meet their needs.

Advanced Webmail clients like SWA have enabled customers to realize that they don't have to take a one-size-fits-all approach for their end users. There's no doubt that as Webmail clients get more powerful, they will become even more attractive to a much broader audience.

What does 64-bit computing bring to e-mail functionality?

Farris: With respect to email infrastructure, 64-bit computing enables greater server consolidation (more users per server) and is better equipped to handle increasing system requirements brought on by new technologies such as VoIP (voice-over-Internet protocol).

Could you compare Scalix's new high availability features with similar features in Exchange?

Farris: Exchange has the reputation of being a high-maintenance and costly application. The Exchange high-availability solutions available today make it an even more complex and costly, requiring the purchase of expensive and proprietary third-party software, spare hardware and comprehension of thousands of pages of documentation.

In contrast, Scalix's high-availability solution is lower in cost and complexity by an order of magnitude. The software is free (included with the Scalix Enterprise Edition), doesn't require purchase of spare hardware and takes hours, not days and/or weeks to deploy. Also, our solution is based on Red Hat and SuSE Linux clustering, which lets customers use an open, standard-based approach that they are already familiar with.

What reasons do people give when they decide to replace Exchange or Outlook with Scalix?

Farris: A key driver for customers replacing Exchange is the desire to get away from technology and licensing lock-in. Other drivers include lower cost and complexity and increased security, reliability and scalability.

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