Questions about Zarafa’s product vision, Outlook compatibility, other technologies and more

Zarafa announced its new direction for 2015 and beyond a few weeks ago. Customers and partners have asked questions about the renewed plans and strategies. This FAQ page aims to answers these questions. Please do get in contact with us when you have other questions.

Could the mix between open source & business still be successful?

We strongly believe open source drives innovation. At the same time reliability is required for the essential day–to-day communication software of companies.

We see two important benefits for using commercial open source software. At Zarafa, we take care of testing, tuning and troubleshooting across a wide range of browsers, distributions and configurations before we allow any new code into our subscription products. And if your company uses open source software in mission critical areas, you will probably need someone to provide support when the software doesn't work as expected.

Why has the business model of Zarafa changed?

The market is moving into a direction, where email is regarded as a commodity solution. While standard business communication is shifting away from plain email, we see opportunities for combining different tools into a single ‘communication & sharing’ platform. Communication platforms based on open source software allow customers to use other applications outside a closed ecosystem.

Customers will still need frequent software updates and support. Conversations with partners and customers have confirmed this direction. They need supported and updated versions that are tested. This is a service that Zarafa has been providing for over a decade. Companies like Red Hat have shown us that a service-driven business model based on open source can be successful.

Our partners will play a role in delivering the software. As usual, they are the key contact for technical questions about upgrades and installation support.

What's the impact of your open source business model on feature development?
In the future, we intend to deliver our on-premise software solutions as open source instead of a freemium model with closed source features. Just as other Open Source driven companies like Redhat and Univention, Zarafa’s commercial customers will have access to tested binaries. On request of their customers, our partners will deliver this software, including support on maintenance updates and technical know-how.
What are the default clients to access Zarafa in the future?
The recommended clients for Zarafa are the WebApp and the devices powered by Z-Push synchronization. We also have “Zarafa DesktopApp” in our innovation lab. This is a version of WebApp that runs as an application (in R&D).
I have users depending on offline access. What is Zarafa’s answer here?
We are researching different directions that could answer this user need. A system built to work offline with all kind of devices, is the ActiveSync protocol. Our Z-Push integration is proven technology and works on many modern mobile devices. We are in contact with the Z-Push community on the possible directions. They have built a proof of concept for this Outlook offline use case. First results are looking promising. We will update this section when we learn more.
How do I deal with 3rd-party-integrations, like Outlook plugins?

At Zarafa we understand the need for integrations with other applications. Next to the use of WebApp plugins, you can access data via Python-MAPI and PHP-MAPI.

As already mentioned, we are in contact with the Z-Push community, they have built a proof of concept for this use case. First results are looking promising. This could prove to be an option to work with Outlook plugins alongside Zarafa.

Finally, we are looking into other options to enable 3rd-party-vendors to easily integrate their solutions with Zarafa.

What is the difference between Zarafa’s available open source code and paid editions?

We strongly believe open source drives innovation. On the other hand, reliability is needed for the essential day–to-day communication software of companies.

We see two important benefits for using commercial open source software. At Zarafa, we take care on testing, tuning and troubleshooting across a wide range of browsers, distributions and configurations before we allow any new code into our subscription products. And if your company uses open source software in mission critical areas, you will probably need someone to provide support when the software doesn't work as expected.

Why did Zarafa decide not to deliver Outlook-support in the future?

There are several reasons for our decision. The communication world is changing in a fundamental way. Many of us are moving to web applications for their communication needs. Other (large) players are moving into this direction, too. We expect that the world, including Microsoft, in a couple of years will no longer see Outlook as their main client.

To address this change we will combine web meetings, unified communications, file sharing and groupware into one platform, all available from one web client with a consistent user experience.

To deliver on our product vision, the majority of our development resources needs to be reallocated from Outlook compatibility to designing the a communication & sharing platform for web and mobile.

Moreover, staying compatible with all versions of Outlook has proven to be very challenging in the past, both for the professional and Click-to-Run versions. As far as we know, Zarafa was the only vendor which has been successful in this area and this didn’t go unnoticed in the market.

And then more recently, when we visited Microsoft’s interoperability event “Plugfest” in the US, we saw our presumptions confirmed: Microsoft is shifting to a cloud and mobile strategy. For example, MAPI will be replaced by MAPI/HTTP in the future. For us, this would mean that we have to restart development from scratch.

In addition, we expect Mircrosoft will combine Exchange, Sharepoint, Onedrive and Skype in upcoming server products. This can be ssen already in the Office365 offering. Implementing the same features in OL feels for us as a logical next step. We will neither be able nor do we want to develop Skype, Onedrive or Sharepoint compatibility for a desktop client like Outlook.

Instead of just chasing after the development of an extensively changing 3rd-party client, this new strategy allows us to deliver our vision and our own client.

What happens to on-premise customers who want to work with Outlook and Zarafa after Q2/2016?

After Q2 2016, a few different use cases for Outlook on Zarafa will arise:

  • For Outlook 2010 and/or 2013, one of the updates could make him lose the advanced collaboration features. For example, one of the results would be that a user will no longer be able to open a colleague's calendar without opening the entire store.
  • For Outlook versions 2007 or 2003. These customers have no issues, as there are no automated Outlook updates for these editions.
  • Customers who insist on keeping Outlook 2010 and/or 2013 compatibility with Zarafa, have the option to selectively use Outlook updates. For example: one of our partners, Campai, offers a solution that differentiates between security and compatibility breaking updates. We know that others are working on similar solutions. Please note: this option might have security implications.

In addition to these solutions provided by partners, we are currently looking in more options in this area. We will get back to that in a few weeks.

You can find out more about the advanced collaboration features in our wiki: http://www.zarafa.com/wiki/index.php/Zarafa_Outlook_2010_Support

Can you make the OL client open source?
Legal and other reasons are preventing us to make the Outlook connector available under an open source license.
Could other ISV’s or communities help out with their products in delivering Outlook compatibility?
We found out that there are no technologies at this moment that could be integrated while ensuring the user of the same functionality.
What can we expect next in WebApp?

At our yearly partner-event, the Zarafa Tour, we organized a live voting session to find out the general opinion of partners on which new developments we would need. With that input, we have now started WebApp development in the following three key areas:

  • Extending the WebApp with web meetings, a communication tool to offer Skype-like, browser-based interaction.
  • Laying the foundation for new sharing possibilities by adding a files-component with open and compatible WebDAV/CIFS-interfaces to all kind of storage systems or DMS.
  • Expanding the usability of WebApp based on valued feedback given by our partners and their customers.
Can I test drive the Zarafa web meeting extension?
Yes. A private BETA for partners has started. Get in touch with us if you want to know more. A public release is then scheduled for Q2/2015.
What will be the benefits of Zarafa’s new product line-up?

File sharing, web meetings and business apps like email and calendar are integrated in one suite. Teams can work together in real-time. The software can be installed both on-premise and in the cloud. Other features in our offering:

  • A stable, tried and tested platform that supports business ready groupware features like advanced calendar sharing
  • An open platform that offers flexibility and modularity to integrate in existing open infrastructures.
  • Advanced support, strengthened by our management platform to view manage and optimize your installations
Where can I get additional information?
As soon as more information becomes available we will make sure to update this FAQ. You can also drop us a note here if you would like to receive the newsletter,