FreeBSD: Using Open-Xchange on FreeBSD

If you go looking for a usable webmail application, then you might end up with Open-Xchange (OX for short). Some larger ISP’s are using OX as their webmail application for customers. It has a multitude of options available, using multiple email accounts, caldav/carddav included (not externally (yet?)) etc. There are commercial options available for these ISP’s, but also for smaller resellers etc.

But, there is also the community edition available. Which is the installation you can run for free on your machine(s). It does not have some of the fancy modules that large setups need and require, and some updates might follow a bit later which are more directly delivered to paying customers, but it is very complete and usable.

I decided to setup this for my private clients who like to use a webmail client to access their email. At first I ran this on a VM using Bhyve on FreeBSD. The VM ran on CentOS6 and had the necessary bits installed for the OX setup (see: I modified the files I needed to change to get this going, and there, it just worked. But, running on a VM, with ofcourse limited CPU and Memory power assigned (There is always a cap) and it being emulated, I was not very happy with it. I needed to maintain an additional installation and update it, while I have this perfectly fine FreeBSD server instead. (Note that I am not against using bhyve at all, it works very well, but I wanted to reduce my maintenance base a bit :-)).

So a few days ago I considered just moving the stuff over to the FreeBSD host instead. And actually it was rather trivial to do with the working setup on CentOS.

At this moment I do not see an easy way to get the source/components directly from within FreeBSD. I have asked OX for help on this, so that we can perhaps get this sorted out and perhaps even make a Port/pkg out of this for use with FreeBSD.

The required host changes and software installation

The first thing that I did was to create a zfs dataset for /opt. The software is normally installed there, and in this case I wanted to have a contained location which I can snapshot, delete, etc, without affecting much of the normal system. I copied over the /opt/open-xchange directory from my CentOS installation. I looked at the installation on CentOS and noticed that it used a specific user ‘open-xchange’, which I created on my FreeBSD host. I changed the files to be owned by this user. Getting a process listing on the CentOS machine also revealed that it needed Java/JDK. So I installed the openjdk8 pkg (”pkg install openjdk8”). The setup did not yet start, there were errors about /bin/bash missing. Obviously that required installing bash (”pkg install bash”) and you can go with two ways, you can alter every shebang (#!) to match /usr/local/bin/bash (or better yet #!/usr/bin/env bash), or you can symlink /usr/local/bin/bash to /bin/bash, which is what I did (I asked OX to make it more portable by using the env variant instead).

The /var/log/open-xchange directory does not normally exist, so I created that and made sure that ”open-xchange” could write to that. (mkdir /var/log/open-xchange && chown open-xchange /var/log/open-xchange).

I was able to startup the /opt/open-xchange/sbin/open-xchange process with that. I could not yet easily reach it, on the CentOS installation there are two files in the Apache configuration that needed some attention on my FreeBSD host. The Apache include files: ox.conf and proxy_http.conf will give away hints about what to change. In my case I needed to do the redirect on the Vhost that runs OX (RedirectMatch ^/$ /appsuite/) and make sure the /var/www/html/appsuite directory is copied over from the CentOS installation as well. You can stick it in any location, as long as you can reach it with your webuser and Alias it to the proper directory and setup directory access).

Apache configuration (Reverse proxy mode)

The proxy_http.conf file is more interesting, it includes the reverse proxy settings to be able to connect to the java instance of OX and service your clients. I needed to add a few modules in Apache so that it could work, I already had several proxy modules enabled for different reasons, so the list below can probably be trimmed a bit to the exact modules needed, but since this works for me, I might as well just show you;

LoadModule slotmem_shm_module libexec/apache24/
LoadModule deflate_module libexec/apache24/
LoadModule expires_module libexec/apache24/
LoadModule proxy_module libexec/apache24/
LoadModule proxy_connect_module libexec/apache24/
LoadModule proxy_http_module libexec/apache24/
LoadModule proxy_scgi_module libexec/apache24/
LoadModule proxy_wstunnel_module libexec/apache24/
LoadModule proxy_ajp_module libexec/apache24/
LoadModule proxy_balancer_module libexec/apache24/
LoadModule lbmethod_byrequests_module libexec/apache24/
LoadModule lbmethod_bytraffic_module libexec/apache24/
LoadModule lbmethod_bybusyness_module libexec/apache24/

After that it was running fine for me. My users can login to the application and the local directory’s are being used instead of the VM which ran it first. If you notice previous documentation on this subject, you will notice that there are more third party packages needed at that time. It could easily be that there are more modules needed than that I wrote about. My setup was not clean, the host already runs several websites (one of them being this one) and ofcourse support packages were already installed.

Updating is currently NOT possible. The CentOS installation requires running ”yum update” periodically, but that is obviously not possible on FreeBSD. The packages used within CentOS are not directly usable for FreeBSD. I have asked OX to provide the various Community base and optional modules as .tar.gz files (raw) so that we can fetch them and install them on the proper location(s). As long as the .js/.jar files etc are all there and the scripts are modified to start, it will just work. I have not (yet) created a startup script for this yet. For the moment I will just start the VM and see whether there are updates and copy them over instead. Since I did not need to do additional changing on the main host, it is a very easy and straight forward process in this case.


There is no support for OX on FreeBSD. Ofcourse I would like to see at least some support to promote my favorite OS more, but that is a financial situation. It might not cost a lot to deliver the .tar.gz files so that we can package them and spread the usage of OX on more installations (and thus perhaps add revenue for OX as commercial installation), but it will cost FTE’s to support more then that. If you see a commercial opportunity, please let them know so that this might be more and more realistic.

The documentation written above is just how I have setup the installation and I wanted to share it with you. I do not offer support on it, but ofcourse I am willing to answer questions you might have about the setup etc. I did not include the vhost configuration in it’s entirely, if that is a popular request, I will add it to this post.

Open Questions to OX:

So as mentioned I have questioned OX for some choices:

  • Please use a more portable path for the Bash shell (#!/usr/bin/env bash)
  • Please allow the use of a different localbase (/usr/local/open-xchange for example)
  • Please allow FreeBSD packagers to fetch a “clean” .tar.gz, so that we can package this for OX and distribute it for our end-users.
  • Unrelated to the post above: Please allow the usage of external caldav/carddav providers
Categories: FreeBSD, Howto Tags: Tags: , , , ,