Lead Image © Klementiev, fotolio.com

Lead Image © Klementiev, fotolio.com

Kopano Groupware – an open source productivity suite

Group Dynamics

Article from ADMIN 60/2020
Kopano Groupware seeks to be more than a slot-in replacement for Microsoft Exchange. We reveal how you can commission the platform and the highlights it offers.

In many corporations and institutions, groupware solutions based on Linux serve as productivity tools to free users from Microsoft vendor tie-in for email, calendars, and other functions, as well as save licensing costs on a large scale. Although proprietary solutions such as Microsoft Teams, Slack, Skype for Business, Webex, and Zoom have claimed major slices of the market for themselves, the open source camp is still lagging behind in the groupware sector.

Despite a long tradition, with former giants Scalix, Zimbra, and Horde, only a few open source solutions still survive at the enterprise level, even as real-time collaboration becomes more important with a rise in the number of home offices. German-Dutch software manufacturer Kopano [1] is now looking to fill this gap with its open source software of the same name.

In this article, I describe the installation of all components on a Ubuntu server. For a small setup with up to 25 users, the Kopano team recommends a server with at least two CPUs, 2GB of RAM, and 5GB of disk space. Depending on the number of active users, the RAM requirement can increase to 16GB.

In Real Time

Kopano relies on the software stack from Zarafa, which became extremely popular thanks to, among other things, its MAPI and ActiveSync emulation named Z-Push. The ambitious feature list (Table 1) reveals that Kopano wants to be far more than its ancestor: In addition to email, group calendar, address book, tasks, notes, and document processing, real-time communication is now also on the agenda.

Table 1

Kopano Features

Interactive Functions
(Group) Calendar
Address book
Documents (back ends: FTP, ownCloud, Nextcloud, S3)
Team chat (Mattermost)
Video conferencing (Kopano Meet)
WhatsApp (plugin for desktop app only)
Mobile Device Management (MDM)
Interfaces and Standards
MAPI and ActiveSync (Z-Push)

As usual in the industry, Kopano offers the software in a freemium model [2]. Most components can be used under AGPLv3 without support. Subscription customers pay EUR15 per user per year, with a sliding scale in increments of five users.

Data Control

Kopano extends the core features of the groupware platform to include modern technologies such as group chat and video conferencing. With Mattermost [3], Kopano also integrates a comprehensive open source real-time messenger for teams, much like the popular Slack.

The Kopano team has developed its own open source solution for video conferences. Kopano Meet [4] is based on the modern WebRTC standard, supports peer-to-peer connections and a bridge, and encrypts connections with the Datagram Transport Layer Security protocol and Secure Real-time Transport Protocol (DTLS-SRTP). Although companies have been dependent so far on commercial providers for real-time communication, Kopano is looking to help security-conscious users offer video conferencing in a private cloud or on-premises.

Flexible Setups

For a quick start, Kopano offers downloads on its website of virtual appliances for VMware, VirtualBox, and KVM [5]. Alternatively, if you only want to try a short test, you can access an online demo [6].

To install the software yourself, you have to invest a little more time and patience. Very detailed documentation [7] and installation packages are available for Debian from version 8, RHEL from version 6, SLES 12, Ubuntu 18.04, and Univention Corporate Server from version 4.2.

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