Migrating from Cyrus to Dovecot

I ran the Cyrus IMAP server for almost a year on my home server, but I recently switched to Dovecot. I originally used Cyrus because of its demonstrated scalability and in part because it is a product of my father’s alma mater, but it is quite hard to set up, and quite brittle to changes in its dependencies.

The last straw was when I tried unsuccessfully to set up another instance of Cyrus on a server, with the exact same configuration files and permissions, but different versions of the Berkeley DB and Cyrus SASL libraries, and it simply wouldn’t cooperate. In disgust, I downloaded Dovecot, compiled it and installed it in less time it took me just to figure out that Cyrus wouldn’t allow me to authenticate because the ever-crufty SASL library failed in a new inscrutable way. I had also never managed to get Cyrus’ SSL to work reliably, it is nearly effortless with Dovecot.

Dovecot is much easier to build and manage, does not have dependencies on unreliable cruft like the Cyrus SASL library, and is much easier to integrate with procmail, SpamAssassin and other goodies thanks to its use of the Maildir format rather than a proprietary database cum filesystem structure like Cyrus. From what I have seen of the internals of the Cyrus 2.2 “skiplist” database back-end (which replaced the BerkeleyDB back-end used in previous releases), I have a hard time believing it is significantly more efficient than Dovecot, if at all.

One problem was migrating my email – I have pretty much all my email since 1995 in my IMAP mailbox, migrated from various Emacs Babyl mailbox files or Exchange PSTs over time. The Dovecot Wiki points to this migration script, but for recent versions of Cyrus like the 2.2.12 I ran, it has two major shortcomings:

  1. It will not preserve the flag that indicates whether an email was read or not.
  2. It does not preserve the delivery timestamp for the emails so they all look as if they were delivered at the time you did the conversion.

I wrote my own migration script in Python, cyrus2maildir.py, to avoid these shortcomings. It does not preserve the “replied to” flag, but the Read flag is carried over, as is the delivery timestamp (in some edge cases like emails you sent, it has to guess, though). This is not a very polished program because I spent far more time on it than I had anticipated, and basically stopped once I got it working, but it should be usable, or at least a starting point for anyone with some Python skills. Of course, it can also be used by users of other Maildir++ based servers like Courier.

The script should guess most parameters, and will dump the emails to a directory named Maildir.cyrus/ in your home directory. By default, your user will not have read access to the Cyrus mail spool, you may have to alter permissions (I do not recommend running the script as root). For the syntax, just type: cyrus2maildir.py -h

On an unrelated note, Solaris 10 users may find the SMF manifest and method useful to automate service management and fault recovery. To install them, copy the manifest to /var/svc/manifest/site and the method to /lib/svc/method and install them into SMF with the command: svccfg import /var/svc/manifest/site/imap-dovecot.xml

This entry was posted in IT and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Migrating from Cyrus to Dovecot

  1. Pingback: cyrus 2 dovecot mailboxes migration « IT CAFFE . NET

  2. hi !!!!

    I’m about to follow your path, leaving behing cyrus imap. Have you used your script recently?

Comments are closed.