Small firms, big impact
The thing is, PowerDNS may power 40 - 50 per cent of all the domain names out there – per principal author Bert Hubert – but the company has until now had a grand total of two staff members. It's impressive that they've been able to support as many users as they have through big-name customers such as Deutsche Telekom and BT, but they've been limited on the sales front.
According to Hubert: "We were servicing the needs of hundreds of millions of internet users and servicing them well, but in the open-source world people noticed that sometimes PowerDNS development would cease for a month or two, because we were doing sales."
Merging with Open-Xchange, which has about 150 employees, fixes that problem for PowerDNS - and does much the same thing for Dovecot too; both companies can now just get on with it rather than having to tout around for investments in order to grow.
Dovecot co-founder Mikko Linnamäki said that deal (announced last week) means Dovecot doesn’t have to build its own sales force. The outfit, which claims to have a 57 per cent market share of all the IMAP servers out there, has been around for a dozen years as an open-source project – and it will continue to be that, now with better funding. However, it's only started offering professional support to bigtime users in the last three years; now it can expand that work.
Sales aside, though, one of the biggest advantages of all this merging seems to lie in Open-Xchange's desire to offer decent yet usable encryption capabilities. It has a certain amount of form on this front, having last September rolled out an "OX Guard" encryption layer for its mail and cloud storage apps, though that system was far from perfect as users' private keys reside with whoever's running the server. In any case, not all the customers of the combined Open-Xchange-Dovecot-PowerDNS morass run OX App Suite apps.
"You can do more if you have both the application and the backend more deeply integrated," Laguna said. "We will be able to develop and enhance and bring to market new security standards so email is more secure and trustable, and we can get enhancements out to market more rapidly."
With PGP encryption, the key problem is... the key problem. How do you distribute and handle them in a securely authenticated way? Open-Xchange's plan involves using IMAP as the delivery mechanism – which is where Dovecot comes in – and DNSSEC-enabled DNS servers for the key directories, which is where PowerDNS comes in.
"The key [directories] out there today are really bad," Laguna said. "They're scannable, they don't scale well, they're totally chaotic… We thought, how do you get to the key? You need a scalable, highly trusted directory. What's out there that can do that? DNS servers, especially DNSSEC, and 90 percent of the DNSSEC deployment in the world is on PowerDNS."
The first components to emerge from the combined operations will show up sometime in the summer, though Laguna stressed that everything will be published as an open standard "so anybody can play... Dovecot, PowerDNS and OX App Suite simply have an implementation of that." ®