Messaging and groupware is at the heart of business, and applications most people use everyday. While the big names like Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Notes and Google Apps are increasing their influence, enterprises have a number of viable options for open source alternatives.
Of course, there plenty of complaints about the quirks and complications of the big name groupware suites so perhaps it's time to give the lesser-known options a try.
In this installment of 5 open source things to watch, we take a look at open source groupware suites which can communicate without costing the farm.
The Bongo Project originally started as a fork of the defunct Hulu groupware suite, which itself was derived from Novell's NetMail.
Bongo includes a server-side email and calendaring app, and a web interface for email and calendar. The developers do not claim Bongo is a replacement for a full enterprise groupware suite, but say it is ideal for SMEs and third party app developers.
Developed in C and Python, Bongo has been active for nearly four years but has not yet released a production version.
Incidentally, the Bongo project leader announced this month that the project needs to be renamed for the 1.0 release. So don't be surprised if Bongo is no longer 'Bongo' when you read this.
Citadel is a full-featured groupware suite that integrates several applications. In addition to email and calendar applications, there is a mailing list server, search engine, wiki and bulletin board system.
Other features include instant messaging (Jabber), server-side mail filtering and server replication so users across multiple domains can be spread out across any number of Citadel servers for "infinite horizontal scalability".
With support for IMAP and GroupDav, Citadel integrates with the popular third party front ends and anti-spam software.
Version 7.84 was released in August this year.
Like Citadel, Horde is a groupware suite with many additional applications. Its namesake application framework has given rise to the Horde groupware suite which can be installed as individual components or as one integrated package.
There are apps for email, calendar, contact and task management and notes which use the same framework for ticket and time tracking, source code management and collaboration. All the software is web-based.
Features include public and shared resources, import and export of groupware data and support for multiple databases. Horde integrates with Windows desktop and mobile clients via SyncML and ActiveSync respectively.
In 2008, Techworld Australia profiled Horde lead developer Jan Schneider. Horde 4 is the next major platform release due in the coming months.
A mobile application is under development for the 2.0 release of the Groupware bundle.
Sogo is an open source groupware suite developed with the intention of being a drop-in replacement for an enterprise suite like Exchange or Lotus Notes.
Sogo has the basic email, calendar address book applications expected of a groupware suite, but its developers have done a lot of work integrating it with third party clients and servers.
Recently, Sogo announced it had successfully used the open source Openchange server to integrate with Microsoft Outlook clients. Other supported clients are Mozilla, iCal and mobile devices with the Funambol connector.
As its name indicates, phpGroupWare is a PHP-based package that, like Horde, consists of a suite of applications in addition to the usual suspects.
phpGroupWare includes email, calendar and an address book app, but also adds web content, document management, project management and ticket tracking.
The application is database agnostic and can run on MySQL, PostgreSQL, Oracle, Sybase and Microsoft SQL. Modules are available for communication, development, education and multimedia, among others.
phpGroupWare counts the Transport Workers' Union of Australia among its users with about 100 people using it in the federal office.