Sendmail Bucks Open Source Trend

The emergence of Linux has application vendors scrambling to respond with a strategy to support the operating system. Sendmail Inc. ( is bucking this trend.

Expanding on its massive install base aboard open source and Unix platforms, Sendmail is gearing up to support the Windows NT market, with hopes of capturing a chunk of the market sector.

The Sendmail messaging product was developed by company founder Eric Allman in the early 1980s to solve e-mail gateway problems. His resolution eventually was bundled into BSD 4.3, then made its way into commercial Unix implementations. In 1991, Allman added volunteer-written enhancements to the source code, and placed it on an FTP site for free download. By 1998 Allman, realizing he needed an organization to support the product, launched Sendmail with co-founder Greg Olson.

The company uses a development model that marries open source development with the benefits of a single-source application package. The approach is similar to the approach used by industry pioneers such as Netscape Communications Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc.

Although this approach might suggest the company will take advantage of the open source development community without returning value to it, Sendmail executives maintain that open source developers will still benefit from their efforts. "We are very committed to continuing to drive innovation through the open source development program," says Richard Guth, vice president of marketing. "You will see us continue to enhance the open source version of Sendmail, prior to putting any products on top of it."

Its roots in open source aside, Sendmail must face established products in the NT market, including’s Post.Office and Microsoft’s Exchange Server.

Sendmail’s move into the NT space was prefaced by the company’s September acquisition of MetaInfo Sendmail from MetaInfo Inc. ( The product was essentially a Windows NT port of the Unix version of Sendmail. The acquisition, which was kept under wraps until December, gives Sendmail ownership of MetaInfo’s 15,000-customer international install base.

For the short-term future, Sendmail will offer two versions of its product, the former MetaInfo product -- which will be renamed Sendmail for NT -- and Sendmail Pro, which is the Unix version of the product.

The basic difference between the open source code, available free of charge, and Sendmail for NT and Sendmail Pro is the user interface, documentation and optional management features incorporated into the commercial versions.

Because Sendmail Pro is built using the most current Sendmail code base, version 8.9.2, and Sendmail for NT is built on version 8.8.9, the two products will reach parity at release 8.10, slated for 1999. At that time, the names will be synchronized, too.