Petreley's column: Down to the Wire

A few weeks ago I set forth my hopes for the August LinuxWorld Expo. The top three items I hoped to hear more about were enterprise directory services based on Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP), fail-over clustering and Lotus Notes. I also expected to witness a friendlier attitude toward using Linux on the desktop.

It turns out I was disappointed only with regard to enterprise directory services. I don't want to dismiss the importance of Novell Directory Services for Linux. But so far I've heard nothing but rumours regarding what I'm really hoping will emerge -- LDAP-based Linux directory services. They are good rumours from reliable sources. But anyone who runs his or her business on rumours or press releases is asking for trouble, so I won't elaborate on what I've heard just yet.

As far as clustering is concerned, it turns out there are several credible projects to bring both fail-over clustering and, better still, high-availability clustering services to Linux. For example, TurboLinux is closer to delivering an impressive high-availability clustering solution, called TurboCluster Server. So I'll have to retract my statement that TurboLinux needs a company like IBM to bolster its project. TurboLinux seems to be doing just fine on its own.

Meanwhile, IBM is busy working on a Linux port of its own high-availability clustering solution -- WebSphere. And there's even more work being done in this area. Visit http://www.henge.com/~alanr/ha to read about all the cluster developments going on in the Linux world.

Regarding Lotus Notes, once again, the company was ahead of where I thought it was. Sort of. It turns out Lotus made a preview copy of Domino R5 for Linux available just as the LinuxWorld show began. You can get a copy at http://www.notes.net/linux.

The reason I couch this information with the term "sort of" is that Lotus has only released a preview of the Domino server, not the client.

Now I admit that Lotus is more likely to sell Domino Linux servers than clients. So I understand why Lotus is dragging its feet on the client.

But we live in a world where perception is often more important than reality. To show that it is truly serious about Linux as a platform, Lotus needs to port the client to Linux.

Exchanging Exchange

But the news from LinuxWorld that will most likely have a significant impact is the imminent release of Hewlett-Packard's OpenMail for Linux. HP OpenMail supports several key protocols, including IMAP4 e-mail, POP3 e-mail, group scheduling and more. It even includes an impressive-looking Web-based e-mail interface that lets you access mail from any browser.

But the killer "feature", if you will, is that you can use HP OpenMail as a drop-in replacement for Microsoft Exchange. I've received numerous letters from readers who want to migrate their NT servers to Linux in order to enjoy the stability benefits, but can't because their company has standardised on Exchange.

HP OpenMail will set these captives free. This development will be even more exciting to the many people who have written to tell me how unreliable Exchange has been.

Better yet, according to HP, once you add a drop-in module at the client, Microsoft Outlook can't tell the difference between OpenMail and Exchange. Users can stay with the Outlook client and still use OpenMail.

OpenMail not only provides every feature found in Exchange, but HP claims it also does some things better than Exchange. For example, when you use Exchange to look for free time on a co-worker's schedule, you may be viewing outdated information. How outdated depends on how often you set your servers to replicate each other. HP OpenMail suffers no such limitation.

I personally believe HP OpenMail is going to give a boost to much more than Linux. Right now Linux offers limited scalability benefits over Windows NT. But imagine what you get if you replace even your fastest NT server running Exchange with a 64-processor Solaris box running HP OpenMail.

Would you make the switch? Or are you an NT shop tried and true?

Nicholas Petreley is editorial director of LinuxWorld (http://www.linuxworld.com). Reach him at nicholas_petreley@infoworld.com, and visit his forum at http://www.infoworld.com.

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