Kolab and Collabora team up to take on Google Apps and Office 365

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Credit: AK Rockefeller/Flickr

The two open source companies are now working together to bring Collabora CloudSuite to Kolab groupware.

Collabora Productivity, a UK-based consulting firm that offers LibreOffice for enterprises, and Kolab Systems, a Switzerland-based provider of open source groupware solutions, have partnered to offer Collabora’s CloudSuite as an integrated component of Kolab.

This is a significant collaboration because it will allow users to work on documents simultaneously, similar to Google Docs and Office 365, using a full-featured online office suite from within the Kolab collaboration suite. In addition, users will also get Collabora Office, an enterprise grade LibreOffice distribution, for offline use on the desktop.

Google Apps and Office 365 both offer excellent solutions, making it easier for business customers to manage email, calendars, document collaboration, etc. However, many enterprises are wary of using solutions they don’t have any control over, or where they can’t see the source code. And that’s where open source projects such as Kolab and LibreOffice come in.

Aaron Seigo, a KDE developer and technologist with Kolab Systems told me that they have Google Apps and Office 365 in their sights: “20 years ago, email as a lone product was the expectation in enterprise. Groupware servers, such as Microsoft's Exchange, helped redefine expectations and people came to expect contacts and calendaring with their mail. These days Google Apps and Office 365 are teaching people that 'collaboration' includes an office suite. We want to liberate people from those proprietary products.”

I asked Michael Meek, general manager at Collabora Productivity, whether the community can use the bundled products, since both Collabora and Kolab Systems currently have paid enterprise offerings. His response: “Personally, I'm eager to encourage people to use LibreOffice - but I'm by far most interested in those who contribute. There are many ways to do that of course either directly to the code, or indirectly via funding others to do that.”

“I imagine we'll jointly apply some creative solution for bundling these great products together - if only because we want to serve the customer, and make it easy to buy the product," Meek added. "Surely, people will continue to be able to buy either product separately if they want to.”

“We offer a number of optional components with Kolab that users can purchase support for, such as our data loss prevention framework," Seigo added. "These tend to be value-add additions which appeal to specific audiences (for data loss prevention that is primarily companies in regulated industries and government), and we expect the same to be the case with CloudSuite. It will be an opt-in component for Kolab, and the pricing will be harmonized within that.”

As for who will provide support, "my expectation is that these are Kolab clients, and that Kolab provides a single, sweet support service (as now) - and, that Collabora naturally will work with Kolab to make sure everything goes smoothly,” said Meeks.

"Customers generally, want a single point of contact for support, and as that point of contact we build relationships with the companies and communities behind the  products we bundle," said Seigo. "So while we will be providing the customer-facing support services, we will have Colabora in our 'back pocket' so that we can assure comprehensive expertise to our clients.”

Both Kolab and Collabora have seen interest from European governments as they try to increase adoption of vendor neutral software. Meeks said there is a lot of interest from the UK Government in both PC and cloud based solutions.

“[Kolab's] user base is typically professionals, be they individuals such as freelance journalists concerned about privacy, SMEs looking for an affordable and feature rich solution, ASP/ISPs looking for a scalable solution, large enterprise who value feature richness, and governments that are concerned about sovereignty," said Seigo. "Both the BSI (Bundesamt für Sicherheit in der Informationstechnik) and the city of Munich in Germany are using [Kolab], along with the school system of Basel. These are just a few examples.”

Kolab Systems released version 16 of Kolab at FOSDEM and the first version of Kolab with integrated Collabora CloudSuite functionality is scheduled to appear in the second quarter of 2016.

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