February 24, 2006

The EECS Department and Horde are Providing What Oracle Can't

Posted at February 24, 2006 01:20 AM in Case IT , Oracle , failures of technology , open source , web services .

I have known about Horde for a while now. For those not in the know, Horde is an application framework and suite of applications. I first played around with Horde on my own probably two years ago and was turned away by its complexity. It was a pain to install and still is. A few weeks ago, I discovered that the EECS department has Horde installed at http://www.eecs.case.edu/horde/. I started to play around with it and started to like it. Every time I see a web application with well-integrated mail, calendar, tasks, etc, I get excited. I've always wanted a one-stop shop for my collaborative needs. There are many 3rd party sites that do this, but none interface with infrastructure at Case.

After starting to like Horde, I started to do some research about the software. I was impressed to see it has support for importing an exporting iCalalendar files. I was impressed to see it has support for mobile devices. But, what really made my jaw drop was the SOAP interface. Every relevant API call for manipulating data has a SOAP method attached to it! What does this mean? All of the data stored in Horde is readable and editable by external programs through the SOAP interface. Relevance? Horde can do what the university's current Oracle products can not: provide a simple-to-use interface to access its content. Ever tried interfacing with Oracle Calendar? Next to impossible. Want a API interface to the Case Portal? Can't do that either.

Since there is no hope that the university will NOT use Oracle, I hope to offer some relief. Later this year, the beta OCS service at Case will roll out. It does EVERYTHING. Unfortunately, if history tells us anything about Oracle products, "everything" includes everything except a good remote API and good documentation. It is taking countless man-hours and a whole server farm to install the product. I managed to install Horde on my desktop and have it fully-configured in about an hour. Anyway, OCS might surprise us and actually have a decent remote API. Unfortunately, we won't know for a few months. Even if it does have a good API, we can't do anything with it because it probably won't be in production until 2007. So, what does this mean? It means that on my own time, I have been busy creating a SOAP interface to Horde. I'll be able to remotely query my to-do list, modify my to-do list, look at my schedule, modify my schedule, check e-mail, etc. All this will be done from the comfort of a nifty web-interface or whatever client a chose to use.

Horde is an amazing product. It rivals "enterprise" software that costs six-figures. I speculate the reason why adoption isn't higher is because Horde doesn't have corporate sales drones to inflate the abilities of its product. Instead, you just get scores of volunteers contributing to an open-source product that gets better and better every day. Until OCS proves otherwise, the EECS Horde service is the best service available at Case to store groupware data. You will soon see what I mean when SIS follows up forum.case.edu with their next service.

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Comments

Three cheers for closed courseware!

Speaking of closed systems, did you see a Yahoo Exec is calling for music without DRM?

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