Novell officially pulls plug on Hula

Hula Logo

Novell has officially ended development of Hula, its open source email server stack. For those involved in the Hula community the news was not unexpected but it will be a shame to see go what once promised to bring a breath of fresh air into the rather staid life of open source email and webmail services.


In its prior, closed source life Hula was named NetMail and was sold as a lite alternative to GroupWise for webmail users. Back in early 2005 Novell open sourced Hula to great fanfare and pitched the project as a concise and up to date alternative to the postfix/imapd/Squirrelmail stack dominant amongst most Linux email solutions. The idea was a good one, the existing stack is a pain to configure, disjointed and the Squirrelmail component is really showing its age. Hula offered a complete, concise and functional alternative that was well tested and had an exciting development path plotted out.

Unfortunately for Hula problems began to rise very quickly. The underlying mail storage engine had significant problems requiring a complete rewrite and the 'Web 2.0' style interface which promised to blow people away took forever to emerge. The consequences of these problems set the project back significantly. The rewritten engine whilst significantly improved lacked a stable migration path for existing Hula users, trapping many in older versions and causing others to think twice before deploying or even testing the system. Delays in the interface put Hula significantly behind in terms of user experience when compared to its competitors like GMail, Yahoo Mail, Zimbra, Scalix and RoundCube.

Recent email rumblings

Email as a technology is pretty boring but it is hard to tell that this morning with two really interesting announcements coming from Eudora and the Hula-Project.

Eudora are the creators of of the first usable pieces of email software for normal people. Since that time in the early 90's they have fostered a relatively small but loyal user base. Recently however they have announced that the latest version of Eudora email client will be their last based on the traditional code-base. As a replacement Eudora are going to build their unique interface and feature-set on top of the Mozilla Thunderbird code-base which is a win/win for both parties. The move allows Eudora to focus on specialised functionality rather than maintenance of general features whilst for Mozilla it increases their overall user-base and in theory should result in a more stable product overall.