Open source collaboration server gets a lift

The fortunes of Open-Xchange, creator of an open source collaboration server, got a boost on Thursday when it announced a distribution deal and partner agreement with two companies that are each other’s archrival: Novell and Red Hat.

The deal with Novell calls for the Open-Xchange Server to be bundled with Novell’s Suse Linux Enterprise Server, as well as Open-Xchange joining Novell’s Technology Partner Program where it will be eligible for receiving support for marketing and development.

The Red Hat deal calls for Open-Xchange Server to be available with Red Hat Enterprise Linux server. Under the agreement Red Hat will provide Open-Xchange with open source technology and services as part of the Software partner Agreement for distribution with Open-Xchange server. For its part Open-Xchange will offer bundles for its new customers and upgrades for its existing users who want to migrate from Suse Linux Openexchange Server to Red Hat’s platform.

The deal could benefit all three companies, according to some industry observers, given that those IT shops interested in deploying open source software are increasingly interested in buying stacks of server-based software from a single vendor as opposed to piecing together and testing software from a dozen different vendors.

“The more Novell and Red Hat do to create bundles of open source products that provide all the benefits of open source as well as the benefits of integration, ease of deployment, ease in licensing, and purchasing and support, the better off it is for them,” said Dana Gardner, principal analyst with InterArbor Solutions.

The deal also potentially opens the door for Open-Xchange to raise its industry profile and become a volume supplier in the fledgling open source collaboration server market where there is little competition.

“This deal could boost them up and give them a shot at moving beyond their roots and becoming part of a standard open source development stack. The business model of open source demands volume, it is not sustainable in small volumes, so they will need their channels in place to attain those volumes and become economically viable over the long term,” Gardner said.

Open-Xchange reportedly allows IT administrators to migrate and integrate to an all open source environment, making it easier for them to create and deploy new applications without the need to change existing infrastructure pieces, such as databases, e-mail servers, or Web servers, company officials said. This allows users to keep their favorite mail clients such as Microsoft’s Outlook but mix and match them with competitive open source products.

The Open-Xchange-Novell deal also serves to clarify the relationship between the two companies by now allowing Open-Xchange to offer OX for distributions other than Novell’s.

“By decoupling Open-Xchange from a single distribution, we think customers will get greater flexibility and true open-source choices, while still enabling us to support and upgrade existing Suse Linux Openexchange customers,” said Frank Hoberg, CEO of Open-Xchange.

Open-Xchange Server 5 for Red Hat Enterprise Server 4 is available now through selected partners with the Small Business Server Edition (5 to 25 users) priced at US$295 and the Advanced Server Edition (25 + users) going for $850.

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