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Is your enterprise ready for Linux-based messaging?

Exchanging vendor lock-in for Linux and freedom of choice in messaging software sounds like a good idea. But it will flop if enterprise-strength messaging applications aren't available on Linux. Also, it will fail if your company isn't ready for Linux. Never fear! Top tools and good decision criteria are covered in this interview with messaging expert and Scalix CEO Julie Hanna Farris. Click here for part 1 of this interview.

A company that has a lot of in-house Unix expertise might be in good shape to start with messaging because the difference between Linux and Unix is so small.

Julie Hanna Farris
CEOScalix Corp.
You mentioned earlier that some companies feared the daunting task of updating their Exchange systems. Isn't any messaging migration pretty daunting?
Historically, that has been the case. In the case of Exchange, Active Directory has an added layer of complexity that is daunting above and beyond what a normal mail migration might be. With Active Directory, you have to plan your whole directory infrastructure, deal with domain controllers and your mail topology, and a lot of other pieces. If you don't get that design right and then you implement it, you are really stuck. So people spend, literally, six to 12 months on planning and design.

At Scalix, we've simplified the process. We have worked on interoperability of components, and we have a GUI-based migration tool that allows you to drag and drop users and data over to not just e-mail but to calendar, data directory, distribution lists, etc. Also, as you are migrating your users on the new system, you can still work with the users on the old system. There's no degradation of e-mail between the two environments. That really takes a ton of the pain out of it.

FEEDBACK: What is your company's favorite open-source alternative to Exchange for its messaging needs?
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What kind of enterprises are appropriate targets for alternative messaging systems?
Because messaging is a mission-critical application, the most appropriate companies have already deployed Linux somewhere in their organization. E-mail shouldn't be the first application that they move over to Linux, because messaging represents more risk and is mission-critical.

On the other hand, a company that has a lot of in-house Unix expertise might be in good shape to start with messaging because the difference between Linux and Unix is so small.

So, with Linux and/or Unix expertise as a given, any company on older generation e-mail platforms and at a decision point is a good candidate to move a messaging platform to Linux.

Also, a good candidate is a company that wants to move a part of the company to a Linux desktop and wants the ability to support multiple clients on multiple platforms with one back end. That company could then have, for example, its customer-support organization running on Linux desktops and its knowledge workers on Windows desktops and still have one e-mail back end that drives all of those. What are some of the most viable and enterprise-ready open source messaging tools and applications available today?
SpamAssassin is widely deployed, and people say it does the job. Sendmail is an obvious one, also widely deployed. Customers tell us that Sendmail is highly reliable and highly configurable.

Mail Scanner is a product that provides perimeter protection for both antivirus and antispam and integrates with many antivirus engines. We have just taken advantage of Mail Scanner in our own product to enable customers to plug and play their choice of antispam and antivirus products into Scalix using an open source product. Then they are not limited to just one or two products that we might support -- you have the whole range of products in the market.

Directory integration is a key element of messaging, too. LDAP directories, such as Open LDAP and iPlanet, are very helpful. With LDAP and PAM (pluggable authentication modules), you can authenticate against any external directory.

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