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Adopts Linux For Its Enterprise Mailing Needs
customers are looking for economic ways to take advantage
the power and stability of Linux as an enterprise OS. It
is rapidly being accepted in the enterprise, as the server
platform of choice for economic implementation of business
systems. Mid-Day Publications, publisher of India's largest
circulated afternoon daily newspaper in English and other
regional Indian languages goes Linux, a bold move as no
company would deploy a solution with out a support agreement.
Network Magazine takes a look at why the company migrated
from a Microsoft platform to Linux based open source system
and the resulting benefits
Multimedia Ltd is the publisher of Mid-Day, India's largest
circulated afternoon daily newspaper in English and other
regional Indian languages. Apart from the well-known newspaper,
the company runs a Mumbai-centric website called Chalomumbai.com
and recently made forays into FM Radio and CD ROM businesses.
A 500 strong workforce with multiple offices in major Indian
cities and growing by leaps and bounds the publishing company
needed an enterprise email solution that would be both cost
effective and able to handle its growing requirements. Mid-Day
had deployed MS Exchange server as their mail server and
MS Outlook as their mail client. They needed to upgrade
their mail solution and were looking for more cost effective,
robust and scalable alternative to MS Exchange.
Mid-Day approached FreeOS.com's professional services division
to explore possibilities of using an open source platform
like Linux to implement their mail solution. Freeos.com
professional services division has in the past deployed
turnkey Linux-based projects that include Mail servers,
Firewalls, Proxy server, Web server, and Database server.
The mail solution needed to be scalable, cost effective
and should retain widely used features of their existing
mail client MS Outlook such as calendar and enterprise wide
address lists. The mail solution also needed to be accessible
from any browser such as IE or Netscape thereby eliminating
the need for an email client like MS Outlook or Eudora.
Need To Change
It's no longer a secret that Unix, long the standard for
corporate computing is slowly giving way to a relatively
newer OS called Linux. Linux has seemingly appeared out
of nowhere and captured 24% of the server market--a growth
rate of 212% over the past year. And this was before commercial
vendors got onto it in a big way. IDC now estimates that
over the next 4 years, Linux will grow faster than all other
operating systems combined, including Windows. New technologies
are risky and implementing them often draws ire from the
management since it raises serious issues like 'When it
fails, who do we sue? 'It's not a proved product.' The technology
team at Mid Day along with the team at Freeos.com studied
the feasibility of an open source solution looking into
the following issues
Economics of free source: Using commercially licensed
software carries with it the responsibility of ensuring
that you stay compliant with the license at all times.
Exceeding the licensed number of installations is unlawful.
Linux is often touted as being "free", though
in practice, no organization will install software without
a support agreement in place. But this condition was
waived after the cost of licensing MS Exchange worked
out to a phenomenally large amount.
Low support costs: When Mid-Day looked at licensing
costs, especially over multiple users, it found that
Linux delivers significant cost advantage. Linux support
is now available for as low as Rs. 1000 for a day visit.
Scalable: Many benchmarks have been conducted by independent
organizations, pitting Linux against Windows NT and
against the various flavors of Unix. Some studies even
suggest that Linux quite consistently beats NT not only
on single-processor machines, but also on multi-processor
machines on which NT is expected to scale better on
account of its multi-threaded architecture.
Standards compliance: By definition, open source Linux
cannot have proprietary features. Under the terms of
the GNU General Public License, it is illegal for any
entity to make modifications to Linux without making
the corresponding source code publicly available. Linux
today is a POSIX-compliant OS and its constituent subsystems
support all relevant ANSI, ISO, IETF and W3C standards.
Virus free design: Boot-sector and file viruses have
historically been known only in the PC world. Higher-end
systems like Unix have two clearly demarcated privilege
Strong cryptography worldwide: Microsoft's Internet
Information Server can only give 40-bit SSL, which,
can be broken through a brute-force attack. SSLeay and
OpenSSL give a strong 128 bit encryption standard.
Using a combination of Open source components and custom
scripting, FreeOS.com delivered a highly cost effective,
feature rich, robust and secure email system customized
to Mid-Day's need. Among the Open source components used
Web based mail - IMP: By using this Mid-Day was able to
provide email access to its newspersons and other staff
through a simple browser.
Calendar - PHP Groupware: Since earlier version of the mail
was based on Microsoft products like Outlook which had features
like Calendar, PHP Groupware was used to bring about the
same functionality with additional customized features such
as reminder services.
Administration - Web min
SSL - OpenSSL: For secure transfer of emails
Database - MySQL: This was used in the backend to store
mails, etc. MySQL is very fast and small database. Postgres
SQL would have been considered for a bigger solution
LDAP - OpenLDAP: Enterprise wide address book is achieved
using OpenLDAP. LDAP is an open standard for directory
Custom scripting in PERL, PHP and Linux shell: This
is to add any functionality, which may be user specific.
Custom scripts specific to the customer's requirements
were written such as if the mail administrator set a
mail quota of 10 MB, a script was written that will
send a mail when the quota reaches 9 MB.
Installation and configuration of Q mail: This is fully
compliant SMPT based mail server and also the most secure
one. Support for per user mail quotas. Mail administrator
was able to restrict the amount of disk space that is
allocated to a mail account.
The final enterprise email solution consisted of the following:
LDAP based global address book. Search for email addresses
based on names.
Web based front end in PHP. IMAP support built in. Emails
can be accessed from any browser anywhere in the world.
SSL support for secured mail transfers.
Customized functionality like mail blocking, anti-spam
Additional calendaring module integrated with customized
features such as reminder services.
Web-based interface for administration of users.
IMAP/POP based mail server can be used with all the
popular mail clients such as Netscape Messenger, Outlook
Express, Eudora or any other POP/IMAP compliant email
Agility In The Future
Businesses must have the agility to quickly adapt to changing
market conditions. It can be very costly to invest in a
solution today that will not grow with business needs. Mid-Day
reaped the benefits of adopting Linux and open source technologies
for a complete email solution that is customized to their
needs, reliable, robust, secure and scalable. All this,
at a fraction of the cost of upgrading to MS Exchange, and
MS Outlook deployment. Apart from the savings in cost they
were able to retain all the features of MS Exchange as well
as MS Outlook. Mid-Day's solution is scalable and when the
time comes it can move to Postgres database and deploy clustering
services, which are now available for Linux. Adds Prakash
Advani CEO of FreeOS.com, "The decision to build on
Linux and other open source technologies is now being accepted
by corporates as they no longer have issues of support agreements".
The scenario few months back was very different and there
was a lot of uncertainty around Linux. A lot of companies
were holding back, just waiting and watching from the sidelines
to see how Linux develops. For example, how will Linux handle
future connectivity among multiple devices? How will Linux
handle integration with other systems? How will Linux scale
across the enterprise? Will end-to-end software solutions
for the whole enterprise be developed for Linux? Although
some of these questions still remain unanswered one thing
is for sure that Linux is fast gaining acceptance. The proof:
this implementation. NM
Bhavish Sood can be reached at email@example.com