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Ordering a la Carte Off the Gordano Menu

Figuring Out a Complicated Menu

  • August 23, 2004
  • By Aaron Weiss

Messaging suites have the unenviable task of bridging together the many disparate ways groups of people communicate and interact, particularly in working groups. The de facto messaging software used by many organizations is Microsoft Outlook on the client side paired with Microsoft Exchange on the server. U.K.-based Gordano aims to be a cross-platform replacement for Microsoft Exchange and is positioning its messaging suite, Gordano Messaging Suite, or GMS, accordingly. Last week, Gordano gave GMS a functionality boost when it released a new version of its Collaboration Server (CS) module.

GMS itself is a large suite with many optional components, including, of course, a mail server. It also features a WebMail client, instant messenger, anti-virus, anti-spam, communication, calendaring, and proxy servers. Although the 19 MB download includes most components, many require separate licenses beyond the trial period. While the installation process of GMS varies by platform, the Windows version uses a standard system installer that allows the administrator to easily select add on components. The initial GMS install footprint, with all its components, is slightly more than 30 MB, but, of course, it grows depending on message traffic and add-ons in use.

While the base install of GMS supports users with stand-alone e-mail clients as well as the WebMail interface, the CS components bring Outlook users more fully into the fold. Specifically, GMS CS supports Outlook's advanced collaboration features � contacts, calendars, tasks, notes, and journals. GMS' MAPI connector enables Outlook 2002 SP2, XP, and 2003 users to access shared features as if they too were connected to an Exchange Server.

The version 3 release of GMS CS significantly broadens the user base beyond Microsoft Outlook alone. Because Gordano has implemented calendaring using both the iCal and vCard standards, applications like Apple iCal, Mozilla Calendar, and KDE Kontact (Linux), can share folders, calendars, contacts, notes, journals, and tasks with MS Outlook. In addition, with CS' new Internet Free/Busy server, which is part of the iCal standard, users can coordinate schedules with conflict resolution and avoid double-bookings.

GMS' value proposition is in its cross-platform capabilities: It is available for Unix, Linux, Solaris, and Windows. GMS is administered in a Web-based environment, using Java components. This Web- and Java-based administration is a plus, as it keeps the product completely platform neutral. However, GMS also suffers from the clunky feel endemic to Java-based applications. As a result, we found the Web-based features of GMS, including administration and WebMail, sometimes suffered from Java weirdness (such as portions of windows showing up in funky places) and required a reboot to straighten out the interface.

Behind the scenes, though, GMS wisely supports several authentication databases, including its own proprietary format and NT SAM. The entire GMS installation can also be moved between platforms if need be.

Although Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes dominate the collaboration server market, many smaller players are present. Few, though, can boast cross-platform support for a Microsoft Exchange replacement, which, despite GMS' sometimes-clunky feel, sets the product apart as a viable Microsoft alternatives.

Putting together a GMS suite is a little like ordering from a tapas menu: To create a full meal you must make a number of smaller purchases. It is also akin to buying a car and choosing which options are needed.

Gordano's pricing is confusing at best. It licenses each component separately, so an organization might, for example, purchase a 250-user license to the base mail server for $1,917 and then add an equal amount of anti-spam coverage for $1,156, and CS for $5,045. Because so many combinations are possible, GMS' pricing schemes are all customized; however, a more-straightforward price structure and more-inclusive feature set would make for a more attractive product.

Pros: Cross-platform alternative to Microsoft Exchange; Collaboration support for iCal standard clients; Web-based administration.

Cons: Must combine several module licenses to create useful suite; Reliance on clunky Java interface; Confusing pricing scheme.

[Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on the JupiterWeb site ServerWatch.]

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