Netline Moves to U.S., Changes Name, Gears Up Groupware
by Timothy Prickett Morgan
German software company Netline Information Services, which is best known as the creator of the Openexchange Server groupware that German commercial Linux distributor SUSE distributed as a separate product on top of its SUSE 8 Linux Enterprise Server, is making its move to attack the groupware market. Last week, Netline changed its name to Openexchange, incorporated in Delaware, moved its headquarters to the United States, and began mapping out its assault on the market with its recently open sourced Open-Xchange Server.
Last fall, Netline took the Openexchange Server software that it created for SUSE Linux open source, launching the Open-Xchange project. While Openexchange was married to SUSE Linux 8, it required a separate support mechanism distinct from SUSE Linux 8 because of the very tight integration between the two programs. When Novell bought SUSE at the end of 2003, Openexchange Server kind of hung in limbo, and Frank Holberg, Netline's CEO, decided that the best thing to do for the Openexchange Server customers was take Openexchange Server out to the community under a GNU General Public License, unbundle it from SUSE Linux, and put it on separate platforms. As is the case with many open source projects, there is a community development side and then a commercial support organization.
Back in April, Netline released the commercial kicker to the open source version of Open-Xchange, called Open-Xchange Server 5, which was only available on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 initially but became available for Red Hat Linux 4 at the end of May. Anyone can get Open-Xchange Server 5 free from the community (just like Linux), but if customers want support, the Small Business Edition (which supports from 5 to 25 users) costs $295 for five users and an additional $25 per user above those five users; the Advanced Server Edition starts out with 25 users for $895 and scales up from there, also at a cost of $25 per additional user. And to make sure customers are not worried about tech support, after Novell pretty much ignored Openexchange Server, the former Netline (now Openexchange) promised tech support for Open-Xchange Server 5 for a minimum of five years.
By the way, the Open-Xchange community was instrumental in creating the Red Hat support and is working on a port to Debian Linux. The fact that Open-Xchange is written in Java (with a smattering of C for security features) makes it relatively easy to do ports, and so the community is working on ports to Mac OS X, the Unix-oid operating system for Apple computers, and OpenSolaris, the open source version of Sun Microsystems' Unix.
So why did Holberg move the company to the United States--the new headquarters is in Tarrytown, New York, just north of New York City and just south of IBM Country--and change the name? "Moving the company headquarters to the United States made sense for us," explained Holberg in a statement accompanying the announcement of the move. "It gives us improved access to growth capital and a better finger on the pulse of the U.S. market." He said that the "heart and soul" of Open-Xchange would remain in Olpe, Germany, as would its development team. "But we expect exponential growth in the U.S. in the very near term and this move will help us to realize that." As for choosing the company name, Openexchange Inc, the name Netline was not available in the States, so the company went with a name that was close to its product name. This may cause some confusion--the company name, the commercial product name, and the open source project all have similar but slightly different names--even as it does get the Openexchange name out there. Most people will probably call the software OX 0.8 for the open source version and OX 5.0 for the commercial version, and then call the company Openexchange.
As part of the incorporation in the United States, all intellectual property, trademarks, URLs, branding, and marketing rights to Open-Xchange Server were transferred from Netline to Openexchange (the company); Netline has been retained as the developer of the OX commercial products and will presumably be the main development force behind the OX open source software. This is a multi-year development contract. Netline still exists as a German company, however, and has in fact been given reseller status for the OX products.