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In this blog post, I would like to give you a preview of a feature that was just released in our latest beta (7.1.10): 'Automatic patching of the Zarafa client for Outlook'. This new mechanism should solve one of the biggest annoyances that customers have: the need for new clients when Outlook is updated.
The Zarafa client: Compatibility to Outlook powered by MAPI
Zarafa offers a client to connect Outlook to a ZCP server. The best thing is that the connection uses the native MAPI protocol for this, as you may know. The job of the Zarafa client is to enable advanced collaboration features. Some examples of these features are: "Opening shared calendars from Outlook menu ribbon" and "Private items support (hides private items)". A complete overview can be found on our wiki. The advanced collaboration features make the Outlook experience complete.
So, what's the problem in the current situation?
Like I have explained in the previous paragraph, we have chosen to make Zarafa compatible to OL by using a native solution. And while this ensures the user of a great OL experience, there's also one catch. Every time when Microsoft pushes updates for Outlook, we also need to update the client. These update also cause some side effects: 1. Users cannot make use of the advance collaboration features and 2. Outlook will show one or more pop-ups to the users. We are eager to improve this situation.
The current ‘fix’ and why we think it can be done better
The present solution is quite simple: Microsoft pushes out updates, we create our patches for the Zarafa client, test and release them. However, as you will notice, lots of manual steps are involved. In the meantime, users will experience problems and IT departments need to step in to support users and roll-out the patched Zarafa clients when they are available.
How ZCP 7.1.10 will eliminate these Outlook update issues
In the last months, we have been researching various solutions that could make manual labour unnecessary in the future. We believe that the 'Automatic patching of the Zarafa client' is the smartest way to accomplish our goal. Let me explain - from a 10.000 feet view - how it will work: A user will connect to Outlook with the Zarafa client. The Zarafa client will notice that the Outlook version is updated and thus not yet supported. A patch (for the Zarafa client) is necessary to re-enable the advanced collaboration features. The new mechanism will take care on the patch 'on-the-fly'. Everything is done at the client's side; no server is involved.
The first real-life tests at partners look promising. We are very excited with this next step in our compatibility to enterprise software like MS Outlook. We are looking forward to hear feedback from you. Questions or sign-ups for a beta; all is more than welcome! Just leave a comment below.