Sendmail Going Inside the Firewall

The messaging industry is hugely proprietary when it comes to the corporate environment. Most solutions within Fortune 500 companies revolve around either Microsoft Exchange or Lotus Notes, and in some cases both. The e-mail being routed around the Internet, however, largely depends on the use of sendmail, a messaging technology that dates back to the dawn of e-mail.

One company, Sendmail Inc. (www.sendmail.com), is trying to get inside the firewall and use sendmail technology to meet internal hosting needs. The company partnered with MessagingDirect Ltd. (www.messagingdirect.com) to add POP and IMAP support to the widely popular messaging platform.

Early last year, Eric Allman, who helped develop sendmail in the 1970s at the University of California, Berkeley, joined up with now CEO Greg Olson to form Sendmail Inc. The company was built around packaging the messaging platform with other features and selling it to ISPs and corporate enterprises.

The technology remains in its open source model, and independent developers contribute to its progress. But Sendmail Inc. has been able to cash in on its proprietary versions since December, when it released Sendmail Pro and purchased Sendmail for NT from MetaInfo Inc.

Olson says Sendmail for NT has been the company's largest selling product. He explains that this is partly because the product can support up to 10,000 users on a single Wintel-based platform. Olson points out that this can't be done with Microsoft Exchange.

Differentiating his company’s product from the open source version, Olson maintains that the Internet has more needs for standard packages, push-button controls, tech support, training and consulting. These, he cites, are the reasons why Sendmail Inc. was started.

"Sendmail [the technology] never included [POP and IMAP], but our commercial customers requested that we provide them with a complete solution -- so we've extended that," Olson says. "Our approach is not to abandon the original open source community, so we have two product lines," Olson says. "One is the open source for the developer community and we have also launched a set of commercial products for the mainstream market."

Mark Levitt, research director of collaborative computing at International Data Corp. (IDC, www.idc.com), says sendmail isn't used within the corporate environment because it lacks the needed functionality. "Sendmail [the company] is looking to change and reverse that for enterprises to break into that market," Levitt says. "They realize that Microsoft, Lotus and Netscape have captured the lion's share of the market. What they do have is the ability to offer an optimized, Internet-friendly Sendmail product that can word with those other products in relaying messages."

Levitt explains that Sendmail still has many hurdles to clear before it breaks into the enterprise environment. Solutions such as Exchange and Notes offer workflow, document management, calendaring, scheduling and custom application development.

MessagingDirect will help Sendmail Inc. achieve its goals by delivering several solutions, including e-mail bill and presentment. The software will allow vendors to send bills through a form in e-mail. The bill can be paid through the same type of transaction. MessagingDirect calls this M-Bill. M-SecureNet will be providing the security for the solution and M-Builder will allow ISPs, outsourcers and system integrators to deliver customized solutions on top of M-Bill. These will be announced in October.