Open Source

Zarafa: And how Linux can finally conquer the world

Who would have thought a groupware server like Zarafa would inspire an idea that could help the Linux/open source community to finally conquer the world. Jack Wallen did. Read on to find out just what he thinks needs to happen now.

During this last week I was writing about an amazing Fedora-based "Exchange Killer" called Zarafa. During the "working phase" of this project something hit me like a ton of bricks. That something? How the Linux community could finally take over the world. And I want to share that with you.

But first - I want to make mention of the inspiration of that idea. The inspiration was Zarafa. As I mentioned, this tool is intended to be an open source Exchange Killer. Is it? From what I can see, yes. Basically Zarafa sits on top of your working mail server (such as Postfix) and offers connection either via web access, standard email clients, mobile clients, and yes Outlook! It looks like Exchange, it acts like Exchange...no one would know the difference. No one but the administrators. As well you all know, Exchange is one of the most fragile mail servers available. It must be cared for constantly. Imagine an "Exchange server" residing on a Linux machine.

Zarafa is a tool for Fedora. It installs on Fedora and runs on Fedora. If you have a Fedora 13 installation up and running, Zarafa is a cinch to install. Follow these steps:

  1. Install with the command yum install zarafa zarafa-webaccess.
  2. Create a database for Zarafa to use.
  3. Configure the MySQL connection in /etc/zarafa/server.cfg
  4. Start the Zarafa server with service zarafa-server start.
  5. Start the gateway with service zarafa-gateway start.
  6. Start the spooler with service zarafa-spooler start.
  7. Create a public store with zarafa-admin -s.
  8. Create a test user with zarafa-admin -c USER -e USER@localhost -f "Zarafa Tester" -p PASSWORD (where everything in ALL CAPS is user-defined).
  9. Start your Apache server with service httpd restart.
  10. Go to http://localhost/webaccess and login with USERNAME and PASSWORD that you set up.

That's it! Of course, you do have to already have the mail server up and running, but if you've ever set up Postfix you know how easy that is. One other issue is that, as of now, you have to create all users in Zarafa that exist in your mail server database. There is no tool at this time to migrate those users over.

During my time working with Zarafa, I have to say I am SERIOUSLY impressed. The open source community (and Fedora) has a real knock-out here. And that is what has inspired (in a way) the next section of this piece.

How the Linux community can finally conquer the world

For the last, oh, five or ten years the Linux community has been doing everything it can to make inroads into the business world and onto the desks of users. Much of this effort has been used to try to interact with and fit in with Windows products...and to what end? Every time Linux overcomes a hurdle, Microsoft puts up another one.

It's time Linux stops trying to play well with Microsoft. Instead, what the Linux community needs to do is focus on creating solid applications to replace every tool needed in the business and home PC realm. Don't worry about making these tools interact with Windows. Just focus on making them work well.

Why would this work? Because the world would embrace these tools if they worked well and were free. So if the Linux community focused on solid replacements for the following, retained the free cost, and the spirit of open source, things would be very different (NOTE: some of these tools we already have).

  • Professional grade CAD application
  • Point of sale
  • Office suite
  • Photoshop-like graphics tool
  • Tax tools
  • HIPPA-complient medical applications
  • Suite for the Law industry
  • Email server
  • Groupware client
  • Web tools

Of course there are more - especially when you get into niche businesses or businesses that have one-off type software. But you get the idea. If the Linux community focuses its efforts on creating outstanding solutions for these needs, the world will embrace it.

But don't worry about making them interact with Windows products. At least not at first. This is the game that all other platforms play. They make their software work on their platform and let the others work out the details of interoperability. It's time Linux played the same game.

Look, we all know the Linux and open source community is perfectly capable of creating incredible solutions. You can't deny the power of tools like Apache, Drupal, MySQL, GNOME, KDE, Evolution, Firefox, OpenOffice - the list goes on and on. So the idea that they could create just about any type of software necessary is not beyond possibility. In fact, the Linux and open source community is all about possibility. They can create anything they want. And they should.

Of course, I understand this wouldn't happen over night. If all of these tools were magically created tonight, the adoption wouldn't be instant. What would most likely happen is the tools in place would have to end their current life cycles. Once that was done, when the world realizes there was a free tool, that did the job just as well (and just as easily) the market would shift. Wrap your mind around the idea of having a free Quickbooks-like tool. You think companies would jump at the chance for that? (And don't give me that spiel about support. I've worked with Intuit support enough to know how helpful it isn't.)

This is possible. It's very possible. It would take a lot of work, but the outcome would be revolutionary. The Linux and open source community could earn itself a serious victory that would lead to world-wide adoption. The dream of world domination could finally be realized.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

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