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Thread: Zimbra Capabilities and Limitations?

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  1. #1
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    Default Zimbra Capabilities and Limitations?

    I've been using Exchange4Linux for the past year and a bit now with moderate success, but they've discontinued E4L development and joined up with the Zarafa folks.

    As we were Exchange4Linux, all of our users were running Outlook of various versions (2000 and 2003). We have a very large (6000+) shared contacts database and are using most of the features that Outlook+Exchange provide (shared folders, tasks, journals, calendars, delegation, etc.). We use E4L because it was the *only* server-side solution that didn't give Outlook the screaming heebie-jeebies.

    Since I'm going to be moving away from E4L anyway, I am taking the time to evaluate alternatives as well. Zarafa's pretty much an Outlook-only solution, much like E4L was, and it uses MySQL as Zimbra does.

    Since almost all of my users will be using Outlook (moving to Outlook 2007), what can I expect from Zimbra Network Professional edition in terms of what does and does NOT work properly from an Outlook standpoint?

    Also, I can see the various open-source products that compose the backend of Zimbra, but several threads in the Administration and Installation forums say that Zimbra requires the "Zimbra-specific" versions -- where are the patches/changes to the OSS versions? Do I have the complete source for the Zimbra backend available to me? What's proprietary? Can I download the source tarball for the NP edition and build a complete product? What about the Outlook connector?

    I've also noticed some topic posts where "routine" problems such as running out of disk space ended up in a completely corrupted datastore that had to be restored from backup (January 2007) -- are there any other known "gotchas" I can expect? (If I can expect them, I can prepare for them -- in the case of this particular one having disk space notification would help).

    With regard to the system it runs on -- I see RH is the officially supported platform, but others are able to work. What is absolutely required from the distribution? I tend to use Slackware and don't expect distribution-level support, but are there any gotchas lurking for me in terms of required infrastructure (PAM, glibc-specifics, etc.)?

    The architecture of Zimbra suggests that it could very well be DB-agnostic one day. Is Zimbra intentionally using any MySQL-isms (INSERT "*", etc.) which would prevent this, or is it simply a matter of finding out where the inconsistencies are and working on them? As an administrator not afraid of getting his hands dirty, do I have any capability to fix these issues as I find them in NP? How is the DB layer abstracted, do I need to recompile the application or is there a "translation" file which is used to select the appropriate SQL statement?

    Overall, Zimbra looks very good. However, I've been at this game long enough to know that it's easy to look very good, which is why I've been scouring the forums to see how well it really works. :-)

  2. #2
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    Default Complex forum posts FTL

    That's a lot of questions, several of which are fairly complex. I'll do my best to take a crack at them, though the Outlook side of things is not my forte.

    Quote Originally Posted by akohlsmith View Post
    Since almost all of my users will be using Outlook (moving to Outlook 2007), what can I expect from Zimbra Network Professional edition in terms of what does and does NOT work properly from an Outlook standpoint?
    Outlook 2003 is supported now (4.5 Network); Outlook 2007 will be supported in the next major release ("Franklin", probably 5.0 Network). I'll leave the point-by-point feature comparisons to Sam or one of the other ZCO experts.

    Quote Originally Posted by akohlsmith View Post
    Also, I can see the various open-source products that compose the backend of Zimbra, but several threads in the Administration and Installation forums say that Zimbra requires the "Zimbra-specific" versions -- where are the patches/changes to the OSS versions? Do I have the complete source for the Zimbra backend available to me? What's proprietary? Can I download the source tarball for the NP edition and build a complete product? What about the Outlook connector?
    Zimbra ships with particular versions of various software packages (postfix, clamav, mysql, etc.) because we've tested with those versions. When you upgrade to the next rev of Zimbra, you'll get the newest versions of these packages that we've tested against. There will eventually be a version of Zimbra OSS that uses your already-installed version of various packages, but such an animal will never be supported for Network and will be a bear to support via the forums because nobody will be able to repro a particular given setup to tell what precisely is going wrong.

    As for source, you get the full source for the OSS version through the public SVN repository. You can build it yourself if you'd like; look on the wiki and the forums for pointers. For a range of reasons headed by third-party non-open-source licensing issues, you do not have access to the source for the features present only in the Network edition (backup/restore, Outlook, over-the-air mobile sync, etc.).

    Quote Originally Posted by akohlsmith View Post
    I've also noticed some topic posts where "routine" problems such as running out of disk space ended up in a completely corrupted datastore that had to be restored from backup (January 2007) -- are there any other known "gotchas" I can expect? (If I can expect them, I can prepare for them -- in the case of this particular one having disk space notification would help).
    I'm not familiar with the forum thread you're referencing (please PM me a link, if you would). I wasn't aware of any other "routine" problems that'd break your Zimbra install, and that'd be the first.

    Quote Originally Posted by akohlsmith View Post
    With regard to the system it runs on -- I see RH is the officially supported platform, but others are able to work. What is absolutely required from the distribution? I tend to use Slackware and don't expect distribution-level support, but are there any gotchas lurking for me in terms of required infrastructure (PAM, glibc-specifics, etc.)?
    Version 4.5 Network is supported on RHEL 4 (32- and 64-bit), SUSE ES 9, Open SUSE 10, and Mac OS X 10.4 (Intel and PPC). If you run it on anything else, we wish you godspeed but we won't be able to give you support.

    As for Slackware, there have been some recent forum threads about building the OSS version on that distro.

    Quote Originally Posted by akohlsmith View Post
    The architecture of Zimbra suggests that it could very well be DB-agnostic one day. Is Zimbra intentionally using any MySQL-isms (INSERT "*", etc.) which would prevent this, or is it simply a matter of finding out where the inconsistencies are and working on them? As an administrator not afraid of getting his hands dirty, do I have any capability to fix these issues as I find them in NP? How is the DB layer abstracted, do I need to recompile the application or is there a "translation" file which is used to select the appropriate SQL statement?
    Zimbra could indeed run on a different database backend. I've got a stripped-down version of the server running on my desktop using Derby as the database right now. You select a database by specfying a database config class in the localconfig.xml file, and the settings specified by that config (e.g. whether there's a BOOLEAN datatype) are used to generate the SQL commands passed to the JDBC layer.

    If you want to port the Zimbra OSS version to another database (postgres, Oracle, MS SQL Server, etc.), please do so and submit the patchset!

    But be warned that we will probably not be supporting a non-MySQL database in the Network version any time soon -- there hasn't been anywhere near sufficient demand to warrant the added support headaches.
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    Thanks for your response; it's generated a few new questions now. :-)

    Version 5.0 -- when's it due out?

    Is the "core" version in Zimbra NP the same as the OSS version? (i.e. are the proprietary bits simply modules or add-ons?) How do the MAPI (Outlook) bits communicate with the backend? i.e. do they request data through the same interfaces that the OSS version has and manipulate them in proprietary ways, or do they access the JDBC directly? I guess what I'm trying to ask is is the data access contained within the OSS version, and the proprietary bits operate entirely THROUGH the OSS API, or do they reach around the OSS API and access the data stores (LDAP, SQL, etc.) directly?

    Another reason I ask is with regard to development/enhancement/bugfixing -- if I'm running Network Professional can I mess with the OSS bits, or are the products totally separate?

    Your last comment about database agnosticism (heh) seems to indicate that the Network version is completely, totally separate from the OSS version and that Zimbra Network Pro is essentially a proprietary content/collaboration system built on top of OSS data stores, and (in theory) could share no code with the OSS version. Is this accurate? I can't modify the parts of the Network Pro version that also exist in the OSS version, and have an updated Network Pro?

    I completely understand restricting official support to limited distributions. That's only sensible.

    The thread about reinstalling after the data volume becoming full is here: http://www.zimbra.com/forums/showthread.php?t=6235

    -A.

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    Default More answers

    Quote Originally Posted by akohlsmith View Post
    Version 5.0 -- when's it due out?
    Later this year, but no hard release date yet. There will probably be beta Outlook 2007 support in a 4.5 dot release before then. Outlook 2007 support will not GA until 5.0, however.

    Quote Originally Posted by akohlsmith View Post
    Is the "core" version in Zimbra NP the same as the OSS version? (i.e. are the proprietary bits simply modules or add-ons?) How do the MAPI (Outlook) bits communicate with the backend? i.e. do they request data through the same interfaces that the OSS version has and manipulate them in proprietary ways, or do they access the JDBC directly? I guess what I'm trying to ask is is the data access contained within the OSS version, and the proprietary bits operate entirely THROUGH the OSS API, or do they reach around the OSS API and access the data stores (LDAP, SQL, etc.) directly?
    The Outlook connector uses the exact same SOAP API that the CLIs and the AJAX web client use. There is no hanky-panky going on behind the scenes.

    Quote Originally Posted by akohlsmith View Post
    Another reason I ask is with regard to development/enhancement/bugfixing -- if I'm running Network Professional can I mess with the OSS bits, or are the products totally separate?
    If you directly alter the server, you probably will not get support, for obvious reproducibility reasons. If you use the extension framework for extending the server, you should be OK.

    Quote Originally Posted by akohlsmith View Post
    Your last comment about database agnosticism (heh) seems to indicate that the Network version is completely, totally separate from the OSS version and that Zimbra Network Pro is essentially a proprietary content/collaboration system built on top of OSS data stores, and (in theory) could share no code with the OSS version. Is this accurate? I can't modify the parts of the Network Pro version that also exist in the OSS version, and have an updated Network Pro?
    I'm not sure where you got that impression. All I said was that I'm running OSS with Derby as the database.

    Were you to write a new DB backend and try to run Network on it, it probably wouldn't work since you don't have access to all the relevant DB code. And again, we would not be able to provide support for such a setup.

    Quote Originally Posted by akohlsmith View Post
    The thread about reinstalling after the data volume becoming full is here: http://www.zimbra.com/forums/showthread.php?t=6235
    That's odd, and I'm surprised they didn't find a way around that. I'd guess that the issue is entangled with the fact that they were running in a VMWare instance, but I'm not familiar enough with the case to comment meaningfully.
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