Stephen did his usual excellent job of explaining the the VMware Zimbra acquisition with a Q&A. Seriously – read the analysis. I already fed some of my thoughts into his post, but there are a couple of other things I wanted to mention.
Zimbra remains probably the single best implementation I have seen of real plasticity in a GUI, where information pops in context, without needing to move to a new screen or click through. Addresses turn into Google Maps, or sit up and beg to become Contacts. Zimbra was designed to be a plastic front end – not just for email, but any kind of back end web service.
RedMonk actually ran on Zimbra for collaboration for a while but the performance of the system was disappointing. This was because of the third party host we were using, rather than the Zimbra architecture itself. I know for example that Headshift ran its own server, and it was blazing fast. Another reason performance may have disappointed was that this was before the browser performance war really started heating up, driven by competition from the awesomely speedy Chrome browser.
On Premise Good?
As I just mentioned, Zimbra was never designed for cloud only deployment- on the contrary it can work just fine as an on premise open source email, messaging and collaboration server. Oh yeah- works well with Outlook too! Yahoo never seems to have decided one way or another what to do with its acquisition. VMWare has a much clearer view: Zimbra will fit neatly into a hybrid cloud play, potentially with an associated storage play for parent company of the parent company EMC.
Just before the VMware deal was announced I met a UK Zimbra reseller called In-Tuition. I was pretty skeptical about making a play to compete with Microsoft Exchange with a piece of software owned by Yahoo, which is not exactly renowned for its enterprise chops. But they must have known something we all didn’t…
Suffice to say Zimbra is and always was designed for enterprise class deployments. Its very much a business tool.
The collaboration market is in play again – customers are fundamentally reassessing strategies defined in the 1990s. Lotus is back. Google is making headway. Microsoft is not going to give up without a fight. And now VMware has a play. Different buyers? Perhaps. But the same people that make virtualisation decisions also make Microsoft infrastructure decisions. VMware CEO Paul Maritz wanted a pushback if customers decided to can VMware in favour of Windows Virtual Services. Now it seems he has one.
I am looking forward to seeing what happens when Zimbra meets SpringSource (another recent VMware acquisition): That could be back end to front end goodness, and a growing set of Java APIs for VMware to steward and grow a community around.
As I said in a recent post
Products like IBM WebSphere Portal and SAP Netweaver Portal were supposed to bring much improved user interaction models to enterprise IT, but unfortunately traditional systems-focused IT departments, rather than user interaction specialists and their web brethren, did the work. People like Josh Porter generally weren’t invited to the party. Portals were built to support IT systems and data, rather than users
Its not just email that’s up for grabs. The 1990s portal is also looking tired. I wouldn’t be surprised to see VMware make a plasticity play.