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Status Upgrade Of The eGroupWare 2.0 Effort

11-30-2007 09:27 PM CET | IT, New Media & Software

Press release from: Metaways Infosystems GmbH

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After working two months on eGroupWare 2.0 it’s time to give you a little update on the progress we have made so far.

First of all, we are very thankful for the enormous amount of positive feedback we got for our effort to increase usability and stability of eGroupWare.

eGroupWare 2.0 Project Page
We are glad to announce the immediate availability of a site dedicated to the eGroupWare 2.0 effort:

www.egroupware20.org.

This will be the main platform for information and discussions about eGroupWare 2.0. We documented quite a lot in the 'learn' section so far, and now we can't wait that the forum gets filled with life. We hope you enjoy this platform as much as we do.

Current State
Generally we are amazed by the speed the project developed. We already passed milestone 1 which we hoped to reach by the end of this year.

With the power of the Zend framework it was quite easy to implement the database back-end, support for filters and validation of user data. With the help of Ext-JS it’s also quite easy to build desktop like applications. So we are glad to say that we have all ingredients to build a very responsive groupware with an outstanding user-experience.

Great ascent was made in the user-interface. We now have all concepts ready to create desktop class applications. If you visit the demo please notice the contextual toolbars with enabled and disabled actions, try your right mouse-button and be astonished by the speed of paging and searching.
Many thanks to the Ext-JS team who provided an excellent foundation and helped out in our process of learning to develop desktop-class applications.
And guess what? It works in FF, Konqueror, Safari, Opera and IE

A great step forward is the uncoupling of access-control-rights from the ownership of records we made. With this it’s possible to create shared folders (e.g. a shared addressbook) and assign access-rights to the folder, which are valid for each containing item independent from the rights of a certain creator. We are quite optimistic that administrators will love this new degree of freedom when modeling a groupware solution.

For data safety we introduced a simple concurrency management, which rejects saving of records which got changed during the edit process. The user is asked to review his changes before he attempts to save them. This is a great advance compared to the current 1.4 approach where the last one who saves just 'wins'.

As a final note in this section it’s worth to explain the agile approach we use for developing. Agile programming means that the software makes an evolution and has frequent cycles of re-factoring. We evaluate our main concepts with the help of 3 applications. First the addressbook as an easy list application. Secondly a calendar which is mainly based on object composition, and thirdly with a CRM application which relies on linking of data. In the next weeks we will add a fourth app to this portfolio, the tasks, to cover all traditional groupware fields. However, we will wait with more applications until the evolution of these applications leads to major and well tested main concepts.

What's Next
We do not only want to create a more usable groupware, we also want to make eGroupWare more safe and stable. Therefore along with normal day to day developing for Milestone 2 and 3 we will start with unit-testing and history logging which was originally considered after Milestone 3.

We think that it is a precondition to have a fully functional history logging and a more advanced concurrency management, before starting to integrate interfaces like CalDav and SyncML. In our projects the absence of this core features in egw1.x has turned out to be one of the major pitfalls and showstoppers. Currently each record is as it is, and nobody has an idea how it came to this point which is more than unsatisfactory especially in large installations.

Database Brand Compatibility
eGroupWare uses PDO as database adapter and Zend_DB as database abstraction layer. Thus in principle it’s database independent when only using simple database actions.

However, for a fully featured and performant groupware it's not adequate only to use trivial sql statements. In the current egw1.x code we made enormous efforts to support much database brands. This makes the code complicated on the one hand, and on the other hand we abandon many great features of the specific database vendors. But most sadly we have to sum up honestly, despite these efforts and restrictions, egw1.x only runs adequate and fully featured with the mysql back-end.

So what lesson do we learn from that for egw2? eGroupWare2.0 is designed to support multiple back-ends. For accounts this is sql and ldap. For the addressbook this is sql, ldap and different web-services. For the calendar its sql and ical-files.
This being said, it's clear that we see different sql database brands also as different back-ends. We at Metaways concentrate on the mysql back-end, as we are a service provider for large scale mysql databases. We have much mysql knowledge in-house and work closely together with mysql consultants. Therefor we can write highly optimized and performant mysql code. The back-end concept gives us the freedom to include support for other brands when we or others need it. Again these back-ends than could be highly optimized and performant.

Versioning Strategy
While it’s confusing for users that a version 2.0 exists along the current 1.x versions we call the effort itself eGroupWare 2.0 and start with version 0.x. So it should be clear that eGroupWare and eGroupware 2.0 are two different products of the same project.

However the eGroupWare community has not yet officially decided if the outcome of the eGroupWare 2.0 effort really becomes the logic replacement for the current egw1.x code-line as a long-term goal.

We plan to request a vote on this topic in the first quarter of 2008. As we had a lot of positive feedback from the developers community so far, it’s likely that our plans come true to integrate our effort officially into the project.

So far for the update, thank you all for the enormous interest in eGroupWare 2.0. Please understand that we can't answer any single mail and therefore send updates like this from time to time.
Your eGroupWare 2.0 team!

What Is eGroupWare2.0?
eGroupWare 2.0 is an effort to increase usability and stability of eGroupWare, one of the leading open-source groupware projects.

By working on this effort it became clear, that the best strategy for improving eGroupWare would be a rewrite in a separate code-base like KDE 4 and Typo3 did before.

The eGroupWare 2.0 effort was started by 2 of the 3 most active eGroupWare developers which currently work full-time on the project. All this efforts are currently fully backed by Metaways GmbH which pays these developers.

Lars Kneschke
CTO OfficeSpot.Net
Metaways Infosystems GmbH
Pickhuben 2-4, D-20457 Hamburg
E-Mail: mailto:l.kneschke@metaways.de
Web: http://www.metaways.de
Tel: +49 (0)40 317031-21
Fax: +49 (0)40 317031-921

Metaways GmbH is an internet service company which backs large scale sites in a fail-safe server environment. One of these sites is OfficeSpot.Net, which provides the current stable version of eGroupWare as an ASP solution.
At Metaways more than 20 experienced PHP developers create large scale web-service solutions for international customers, focused on Typo3, ZendFramework and eGroupWare in their technical realizations.

Metaways Infosystems GmbH - Sitz: D-22967 Tremsbüttel
Handelsregister: Amtsgericht Ahrensburg HRB 4508
Geschäftsführung: Hermann Thaele, Lüder-H.Thaele

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