Upgrade of Kolab Now to Kolab 16

This weekend, from Sunday 00:00 UTC to Sunday 04:00 UTC, users and customers of Kolab Now may experience intermittent availability of various services.

While our data center’s network provider will perform standard network maintenance, so will our staff upgrade our software and databases, and reconfigure infrastructure to get you to the next generation of collaboration software — Kolab 16.

This will conclude the upgrade of all Kolab Now services to Kolab 16, so let’s look at what we’ve already completed, and what more is going to change.

What has already changed?

Most of our back-end infrastructure has, in fact, already been upgraded. You would not have noticed much of it, unless some of the other software you used sent emails with badly formatted headers (resolved).

You may have noticed we are better protected against spam, or you might have not noticed, and that’s fine too.

These back-end services will not change any further during this service window.

What will change? Guam!

One of the most prominent features that people will experience includes Guam, the Kolab component that filters out IMAP folders for clients that do not understand their contents. No more pesky groupware folders in Thunderbird, Evolution, Outlook, Mac OS X MailApp, iOS over IMAP, K-9, Mutt, etcetera.

This has been in the making for quite a while, and previously made available through the Kolab Now Beta program.

What will change? ActiveSync!

Kolab 16 ships with a newer version of our ActiveSync than was so far available over Kolab Now, and should greatly enhance the experience for most Android, iOS and Outlook users.

One such significant change includes support for multiple calendars, so that we do no longer have to merge various Calendars in to a single one. Another feature of most new client devices is that they now support hierarchies.

What will change? Tasks!

Albeit already available on Kolab Now, it has not often been pointed out that our Tasks module supports recurrence and assignment. Want to be reminded to mow the lawn every first Sunday of the month? Sure! Don’t want to mow the lawn yourself? Assign it!

What will change? CardDAV, CalDAV, WebDAV!

We should gain a lot for Mac OS X users (native apps), and iOS devices, as well as DAVdroid users. On the one hand, there’s much improved compatibility, while on the other, much anticipated additional features are included; scheduling support for one.

What will change? Performance!

Our original infrastructure used a database service topology more commonly known as MySQL’s “master-slave replication”. More recently however, MariaDB has vastly outperformed MySQL’s availability schedule for features critical to large-scale enterprises. Our new topology is known as a MariaDB Galera Cluster.

This is the actual part that requires a service window — the database information that are your web client preferences, settings, identity configuration including signatures and the like, and caches — a cumulative voluminous amount of caches.

Since this post isn’t about too many technical details, please tune in to my blog for more information about what these things mean exactly.

What will change? Further, assorted changes!

If you’ve ever heard of terminology like “Defense in Depth”, and “Service-Oriented Architecture”, and “Policy Enforcement Points”, then while perhaps things are still not perfect (how can anything ever be perfect?), they will be far less imperfect. Far, far less.

graphviz-7df2c662caa5513e77ea6cfc6aa82f84cb3029a2It’s modeled after a reference architecture, for which you can see a graphviz diagram rendering on your right;

These sort of practices cause the environment as a whole to be more redundant, less volatile, even more scalable, less dependent on any one system, and overall facilitates a pace of deployment that is much closer to DevOps — more on that later.

What’s Next?

As we are better facilitated under this new scenario, we unlock the opportunity to do two things at the same time;

  1. Adopt updates earlier, faster — unstable and stable alike.After this service window, we can stage the updates and slowly increase the number of users consuming the results, while we monitor how well things are going. This will be a great deal to those of you whom have occasionally logged support tickets about the software yielding unexpected results (aka. “bugs”),
  2. Re-invigorate the beta programme.While this has been available, and consumed by a few of our customers, it isn’t quite what it is supposed to be. Let me illustrate a few line-items, from among the many targets we could see become available in the foreseeable future;
    • Online, collaborative editing of documents, presentations, spreadsheets and the likes will become available to selected customers,
    • Second factor authentication could become available in two stages, ultimately addressing some of the fundamental problems with the concept I’ve blogged about before;
      • “Web-client only”, where OTP can actually be required,
      • Fully implemented, RFC-compliant, while no special client application coding would be required.
    • A three-column view for the web client — much anticipated by people with wide screens on their computers, where lots of real estate could be considered “wasted”, whereas also wide screens are ever so much more prevalent these days,
    • A responsive skin for the web client, with reduced functionality for early adopters, and more functionality as the Open Source development progresses.
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