As much as open source guys like myself love to bash on MS, there is just something they do right. And if its not right, sometimes they are just the only guys in town. And one of those things in Microsoft Exchange. No one has yet been able to replicate the full experience of Outlook + Exchange in terms of calendaring and E-Mail, especially if your looking for a non-cloud solution. Hell even many Web 2.0 companies who are ready to accept non-Microsoft products have a hard time walking away from Exchange. But in that case you might run in to a case you might have a Exchange Server but a Client using Linux, and that is what I ran in to helping LinkedIn move to Exchange 2010. So what are you to do? Well we got a fix for you.
I am currently helping LinkedIn move its users from Exchange 2003 to Exchange 2010, and if anyone is thinking why Exchange I asked the same questions my first day on the contract and after hearing the answers its a bit clear. Zimbra has some upside but its still ruff around the edges, and in a environment that has both developers who can live with that, but regular employees who have spent years learning the Outlook world its hard to make the changes.
While most of LinkedIn users are Macs, a few are testing Linux for development boxes. And the question that came up, is their a Linux E-Mail client that is currently supporting Exchange 2007+ as Microsoft has changed the way it does Calendaring. While we can get away with IMAP for all the E-Mail issue, Calendaring is important for a company as that is the way you book rooms, make sure people are free and etc. I posed the question on Quora, invite only, http://www.quora.com/Is-there-any-Linux-email-client-that-will-work-with-Exchange-2010 and got nothing. The best was someone saying Evolution but its support ended with 2003, which is what we are moving away from. Googling did not help much, usually you found most people asking the same questions and the answer was mostly use OWA, Exchanges new Web Mail which is very good and now supports Firefox and Safari with AJAX-ish style.
But some people want a native client. Then Brian Guan, an Engineer at Linkedin and Linux user found xdata-provider which is a plug in for Thunderbird Lightning to add Exchange Calendar support, and since its a plug in it means you can also use it on any OS that runs Thunderbird, not just Linux!. After some tweaking and configuring we got it to work prefect, and pretty much all features worked. You could check availability of other people, book rooms and everything. It crashed a few times and stopped work once or twice, but checking in with Brian today it still works. And from what I see on basic google search we might be the first company to have actually done a Exchange 2010 + Linux setup, as xdata does not provide much info on their own deployment. I hope to take a look of the code of xdata and keep it update, as well as it might help the adoption of Linux in the corporate world as people will have at lest now a working Calendar solution for Linux.