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February 11, 2010
Here’s the short story: Open-Xchange, providers of the namesake line of open source-based collaboration tools, now offers a dedicated e-mail appliance. The long story is that it’s a major play by a company that’s proving that open-source doesn’t have to mean unprofitable. Here’s the story.
The Germany-based Open-Xchange has been offering a free version of their code under GPL since 2005, and had their first deployment of their proprietary, paid software a year after that, according to their founder and Director of Sales Frank Hoberg. In December 2009, they boasted that they had 15 million users across all versions and 500 resellers (mostly on their home turf of Central Europe, though Hoberg says they’re looking for additional North American distribution).
As far as the new product line, Open-Xchange has merely packaged their solution onto hardware provided in partnership with Pyramid. Of course, in this case, “merely” means that it’s a solution that can replace existing Exchange installations while still supporting applications that require Active Directory. The new appliances come in two flavors: one for businesses with up to 50 seats, and one for up to 300 seats.
While this new move is obviously aimed at the on-premise solution market, Hoberg says that Open-Xchange is looking to really dig into the cloud. Since all their products use the same code-base, he says, a VAR can transition a customer from an on-premises deployment to SaaS and back completely transparently.
And of course, no mention of open source would be complete without a mention of rabid fans, and if Hoberg is to be believed, there’s no shortage of Open-Xchange zealot developers. While the company itself offers several application plug-ins like Outlook or even iPhone integration with their paid version, their fans have been developing support for additional languages and even streamlined administration tools themselves with nary a paycheck in sight.
Open-Xchange is one of the most interesting companies coming out of the cloud arms race, and expect to hear more about them soon. It’s going to be companies like Open-Xchange that really validate what observers like our sister site WorksWithU have been saying all along: open source doesn’t just mean “free” anymore. It means “alternative business model,” if you’re savvy enough to make it work.
“[Open source] is not a religion anymore,” Hoberg says.
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