The Big Thing that Was Ignored

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 5:17 AM

After all the hubbub had settled down over WWDC '06 itself and, especially, the alleged lack of anything “really exciting” being announced by Apple, I stumbled across something that seems to have been mostly ignored that is very exciting: iCal Server. One of Apple's major server offering weaknesses has been the lack of a groupware solution. While Mac OS X Server comes with most everything else you might want in a SMB server package, it offers nothing analogous to the full Exchange package. OpenDirectory does provide directory services using OpenLDAP and Samba, and Apple has also long included Postfix for e-mail serving — but the lack of a server counterpart to iCal has always seemed odd to me.

While not much of a deal was made of it, Apple released a number of FOSS projects at WWDC, not the least of which was Darwin Calendar Server, a python based calendar server which will be included with the next Mac OS X Server as “iCal Server”. This is much like the arrangement by which Darwin Streaming Server is known at QuickTime Streaming Server when included with the OS.

Why is this big news? To my knowledge no FOSS calendaring server has claimed Microsoft Outlook compatibility thus far. I could be wrong, but to my knowledge, such servers, as FOSS versions of older proprietary products, have been stripped of that function, necessitating the purchase of a module from the donator of the code to achieve Outlook support. Support for Apple's own iCal has been even shakier for most of these projects (though Apple claims in a case study that is no longer the case for the Zimba Collaboration Suite). Now, I'm not sure exactly how Apple has this all worked out, but if you can truly get Outlook's calendaring to work with this FOSS project, it will prove a giant boon to system administrators looking for a completely Open Source groupware solution, when assembled with the rest of the Mac OS X Server middleware stack.

Apple also released its launchd startup manager (which, let me tell you, is far faster than any other *nix launching system I've seen and dramatically reduced Mac OS X's boot time when it made its debut in Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger), the latest Bonjour (f.k.a. “Rendezvous”) zero-conf implementation and the “infamous” x86 version of the Darwin kernel code. While Apple continues to keep its crown jewels closed, it still seems to be creating a very decent portfolio of in-house created FOSS projects. Moreover, while Darwin Calendar Server is not yet cross-platform, I suspect it will be in the future, just as Darwin Streaming Server is.

In other words, this is big news for everyone who desires FOSS server components, not just Apple users.

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