Kolab creates a privacy refugee camp in Switzerland


Kolab System was created

The initial companies started a Kolab Konsortium to provide Kolab services to the BSI and other users, as many public bodies in Germany had begun using Kolab. But by 2008 it became clear that Kolab had to change its approach to the business side because lack of focus and resource was also starting to have technical impact. Georg Greve joined Kolab in 2009 following some initial conversations with the Kolab Konsortium and took on the restructuring of the business side alongside the task of bringing the technology back on track together with Dr. Paul Adams from the KDE community who later left the business to take up a management position at KDAB.

Greve recalls, “We realized that the companies have not been able to do it justice because they were project based and that’s a bad fit to manage a product in the long term. At the same time we saw the need for Kolab was as large as ever. Nothing else was going to provide this essential third pillar that was required for wide-scale Free Software adoption.”

When you develop for a project only it’s different from products which are widely available to customers outside that project. So Kolab needed a lot of re-structuring.

Greve said, “In 2010 we brought in a completely new crew which spent the past years largely redesigning, reinventing, refactoring the entire Kolab stack based on the groundbreaking concepts that had made Kolab unique. But some of the technologies used had aged. So it needed an overhaul. And that’s what we did with Kolab 3.”

The Kolab Groupware Solution integrates Roundcube as the basis of its web client and Kolab works closely with the Roundcube community which is known for the developing world’s most popular web-based IMAP email client.

Roundcube Webmail is designed to run on standard web servers such as Apache, Nginx, Lighttpd, Hiawatha or Cherokee in conjunction with a relational database engine. Supported databases are MySQL, PostgreSQL and SQLite. The user interface is rendered in XHTML and CSS and is fully customizable with skins.

“We have integrated ourselves very well with the Roundcube community and both major Roundcube developers work for Kolab Systems,” said Greve.

Collaboration with independence

“Roundcube is its own self run project so we don’t interfere at all with the running of the Roundcube project. However Kolab contributes heavily to the project and all versions from 0.7 onwards are largely based on our contributions. The Kolab Company Group also did a lot of work for the desktop, especially the KDE PIM on PIM client. At the same time we strengthened the native multi platform support. Now we have server side components for CalDAV and CardDAV so you can natively integrate Mac OS X and Thunderbird on all platforms through these. And then there is ActiveSync support so you can sync your mobile devices and tablets of any maker,” said Greve.

It’s modern and robust

Kolab manages to be fully featured without giving up its security centric design, with defense in depth and an approach where the server can be distributed into different security zones. At the same time it is extremely integration friendly, based on a set generated libraries for any operating system that expose their functions through libkolab in any language – from C++ over Java to Python and PHP. The combination of IMAP and libkolab provides instantaneous native Kolab support, anywhere.

What’s MyKolab?
MyKolab offers secure accounts hosted in Switzerland with support providing email, calendars, tasks, address books and a file cloud that synchronizes to all devices. MyKolab is the Gmail or equivalent with privacy for enterprise customers, SMEs, professionals and individuals who need trustworthy provider that treats them as customers, not products. It’s also the ideal way to try out Kolab for a while and then move to your own server, with or without support from Kolab Systems

What’s is Kolab’s target audience?

Before understanding their target audience we need to understand what are Kolab’s commercial offerings, what’s their business model.

“Our business model is similar to that of Red Hat or SUSE. We have an enterprise edition which is based on subscription and paid customers get a stabilized enterprise version of Kolab with five years of support which includes all updates and provides additional services as well as guaranteed response times,” explains Greve.

Anyone looking for a well supported solution is a target audience of Kolab Systems. The solution is used by the Schools in the city of Basel, Switzerland, but there are also customers which Greve could not name due to NDAs with the particular customers. Some of these, he explains, are very large organizations which use Kolab as a competitive advantage they do not wish their competitors to know about. Kolab is effectively used by every size of organization – from very small enterprises to bodies as big as regional governments. It’s also used by schools in Switzerland.

“We also provide this as a white label product to ISPs and offer consultancy, training around all of what we do and how third parties can integrate our services into their own product line,” says Greve.

In a nutshell it’s for everyone who wants to pay for a very well supported and secure system.