The report of email hosting platform’s extinction has been greatly exaggerated. While new avenues of communication have appeared and taken a portion of email’s market, such as chat and SMS, the world very well might come to a stand still if email were to stop working all of a sudden.
It is unsurprising, then, that the battle for email hosting dominance is fierce.
For a long time Microsoft (News - Alert) dominated the space, owning corporate email and holding the position with proprietary technologies such as its Active Directory protocol that kept firms locked into their Microsoft solution. Then came Google (News - Alert) Apps, however, which brought credible cloud-based email hosting to market and won converts.
Microsoft answered the Google threat last year with the release of Office 365, and it is shoring up its position by leveraging the recently released Windows 8 to entice users with a single, unified environment that mixes their desktop and cloud solutions with the same interface.
The giant from Redmond now faces other challenges to its traditional strength as an email host. One of them comes from Samba 4.0, the open source file, print, and authentication server suite that was recently updated.
Samba 4.0 brings full support for Active Directory, the directory service created by Microsoft for Windows domain networks. Previously companies that relied on Active Directory had little choice beyond their Microsoft implementations. But now they have a credible open source alternative.
“Samba 4.0 provides everything needed to serve as an Active Directory Compatible Domain Controller for all versions of Microsoft Windows clients currently supported by Microsoft, including the recently released Windows 8,” reported an InfoWorld article last week.
The competition comes as a gift from the European Union, which compelled Microsoft to divulge Active Directory protocol documentation as part of its 2004 antitrust case with the Union.
Microsoft not only shared the documentation, it also helped test the Samba implementation as a good-will gesture.
“The documentation created as part of the EU settlement with Microsoft helped us to make the Samba 4 Active Directory Compatible domain controller code robust and reliable when interoperating with Microsoft AD domain controllers,” Samba developer Jeremy Allison added.
Previously, Samba only offered Windows NT domain controller functions.
Samba now can join existing Active Directory domains and provides all necessary function to host a domain that can be joined by Microsoft Active Directory servers, according to the InfoWorld article. It makes available all the services needed by Microsoft Exchange. This also sets the stage for open source alternatives to Microsoft Exchange.
“Samba is fast and scalable enough for new enterprise deployments, flexible enough to join existing installations, small and low-powered enough for use in embedded applications, and modular enough to offer a source of protocol implementations for new projects needing Microsoft compatibility,” the piece added.
“These enterprise-strength features pose a significant competitive threat to Microsoft in multiple market segments,” the article concluded.
The battle for email hosting dominance continues and we will just have to sit back and wait to see who ultimately reigns supreme.
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Edited by Jamie Epstein