March 10, 2008 11:00 AM PDT

Gaps found in Microsoft Exchange API documentation

Gaps found in Microsoft Exchange API documentation
Software companies that provide alternatives to Microsoft Exchange, cautiously welcomed at CeBIT last week the recent publication of application programming interfaces for Microsoft volume server products, but have found gaps already in what has been released.

Zarafa Chief Executive Brian Joseph--having ported, as he put it, "all the Exchange features to the Linux platform with full MAPI (messaging application programming interface) implementation"-- said there are significant gaps in the Microsoft documentation released to date. Zarafa makes an e-mail server that is compatible with Outlook

Speaking to ZDNet UK at the CeBIT conference, Joseph said Microsoft's start is not promising: "This could definitely make life easier for developers, but we have spotted over 200 undocumented exceptions, including one that allows you to create recurring calendar appointments in Exchange. It was in the documentation for Exchange 2000, but they forgot to document it for Exchange 2003 and Exchange 2007."

Zarafa produces the eponymous e-mail server that runs on Linux and is used by enterprises such as car-rental company Sixt, which recently migrated its entire e-mail server infrastructure to Zarafa. Zarafa uses the MAPI open standard to communicate to e-mail clients such as Outlook. While Microsoft Exchange uses MAPI too, it also uses a large number of proprietary APIs that let the Outlook client perform actions such as creating recurring calendar appointments on the Exchange server.

"I am very positive about unconditional publication of APIs," said Joseph, "but only time will tell if this is justified, given Microsoft's history. I think hundreds of thousands of developers around the world are very interested in full publication with regular updates, but the devil is in the detail; for policy makers, these gaps in the Exchange documentation should put another light on the value of Microsoft's announcement."

Zimbra Vice President John Robb agreed that Microsoft's announcement is a good move, but again expressed reservations. His company produces the Zimbra Collaboration Suite, which also runs on Linux platforms and servers. The Zimbra Collaboration suite runs 11 million mailboxes through the commercial version of its product and many more through the open-source version.

"The MAPI protocol is open anyway, so that doesn't affect us directly," Robb said, "but we are concerned that Microsoft has not announced which APIs have patent conditions, nor what those conditions are. We're anxiously awaiting details."

Matt Loney of ZDNet UK reported from London.

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MAPI, Microsoft Exchange Server, API, e-mail server, gap

10 comments

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Clue: Microsoft Wants Competitors to Die
It's primary directive is the desertification of the entire computing landscape - nothing but Microsoft products as far as anyone can see, a vast, chaotic blue screen that spans the planet and destroys the productivity of every living human being at horrific dollar cost to everyone and every enterprise.

As far as MSFT is concerned, all email systems must run on Exchange, or be destroyed.
Posted by TheSmellyMoa (68 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It's okay. They're losing.
Seriously - their marketshare is eroding on all but one front (Office). Their new flagship product (Vista) can't even compete with the popularity of their old flagship product (XP). They're about to go into debt in a desperate bid to keep Google from stomping them into irrelevancy on the Web front. In gaming, what should have been their first year of semi-profitability for the Xbox is still a massive debt, and now they're losing their collective butt in marketshare to Sony and Nintendo. Their feeble attempt at challenging the iPod (Zune) is instead a complete disaster, fading into death. Even their mobile/smartphone endeavors, which they spent ten years' work to gain a foothold in, were shattered in less than 9 months by the iPhone.

Their only recent product that hasn't been regarded widely as a disaster? Office 2k7 - a tepid upgrade with a re-arranged menu.

The only thing that hasn't killed them entirely is inertia and heavy vendor lock-in (both of which are showing signs of erosion).

Quite simply, their options are two: Stand Pat, or Fall. I'm thinking that the latter has begun.

/P
Posted by Penguinisto (5042 comments )
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EVERY company wants this
Name a company that doesn't want to do better than its competitors. DUH! EVERY company wants to dominate their market. That's called competition. If you believe otherwise, then you have a very narrow view of the real world.
Posted by Seaspray0 (9714 comments )
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Microsoft should give away all their secrets
I find it funny to think that companies complain because Microsoft won't give away all their secrets to the public.

*WHY* should they give out all their information? Especially to a competing company in that particular product field?

I wasn't aware that requiring Microsoft to give away its proprietary secrets was a right guaranteed by the US Constitution. Hmm.
Posted by Vegaman_Dan (6683 comments )
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API's != secrets.
Source code is a secret. Sales techniques are secrets.

API's are not secrets - they are hooks into the OS by which applications can access its functions.

[i]"I wasn't aware that requiring Microsoft to give away its proprietary secrets"[/i]

Count yourself lucky. By all rights, Microsoft should have been broken up after their conviction for monopolistic anti-trust practices in the late 1990's.

/P
Posted by Penguinisto (5042 comments )
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