VMware Zimbra Offers Business a Microsoft Exchange Alternative

By Jessica Davis  |  Print this article Print

VMware is now formally bringing the Zimbra email and collaboration software appliance to its 25,000 channel partners in direct competition to Microsoft Exchange on-premise email as well as Microsoft's BPOS and Google Apps and Zoho.

Zimbra is taking its e-mail, messaging and collaboration suite embedded appliance to VMware’s channel organization – effectively growing from just 1,000 channel partners to 25,000 overnight. The move follows VMware’s acquisition of the corporate cloud e-mail and collaboration vendor from Yahoo earlier this year, and poses an even more serious threat to entrenched players such as Microsoft with its Exchange e-mail and collaboration.

Zimbra is a direct competitor to Microsoft’s Exchange e-mail and collaboration technology as well as to cloud-based e-mail and collaboration services such as Google Apps and Zoho.  The difference is that Zimbra offers its solution as an embedded software appliance, enabling the channel partner or IT administrator to set up the mailboxes and collaboration applications on a server in the cloud or in a private cloud. That’s different from Microsoft’s premise-based offerings that reside on a server at the customer site with desktop clients accessing it and different from hosted services such as Google Apps, Zoho and Microsoft BPOS (Business Productivity Online Services). 

The software appliance from Zimbra is sold as a perpetual license. Separately, Zimbra has partnered with about a half-dozen hosting providers who have agreed to offer the Zimbra technology as a service to better serve those companies that simply want a hosted service. Such Zimbra mailboxes with collaboration services typically run from $30 to $60 per user per year.

John Robb, vice president of global sales and product for Zimbra says that e-mail and collaboration software users typically want the same functionality – offline access, access from all devices, apps that can talk to each other. Zimbra also offers the capability to integrate with third party applications such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Users can access the services through any web browser, or, when working offline, through a Zimbra desktop client. If they prefer, they can also use the Zimbra client while online as well.

The Zimbra Appliance is designed to run on the VMware vSphere platform in an effort to reduce the costs and complexity of IT infrastructure management.

VMware also announced that Zimbra is now fully integrated with VMware, and customers are now supported by VMware’s Global Support Services.

Features of the Zimbra Collaboration Suite Appliance include the following, according to the company:

  • Zimbra E-mail and Collaboration Server - enterprise class e-mail and collaboration including e-mail, contacts/address book, calendaring, document management, file sharing, tasks, and search and indexing.
  • Zimbra Advanced Web Client - multiple-browser, multiple-platform web-client with an AJAX interface provides desktop-like experience for end users.
  • Zimbra Mobile - Native "over-the-air" synchronization to iPhone, Windows, Palm and Symbian OS Smartphones with customizable mobile security policies including remote device wipe, PINs and device management features on user accounts.
  • Easy Migration and Interoperability – Zimbra Appliance Migration Wizard lets customers migrate from Microsoft Exchange and Domino environments quickly and easily. Plus it offers interoperability with Microsoft Exchange and other e-mail clients including shared enterprise calendars and Global Address List (GAL) for mixed environments.
  • Simplified and Anywhere, web-based administration provides task-oriented web-based administration console for "anywhere administration".
  • Zimbra Appliance Integrated Application Stack – Rapid deployment of integrated  operating system and application stack, combined with firewall, anti-virus and anti-spam filtering.
  • Zimbra Appliance Automated Software Updates – software and security updates are combined into a single lifecycle management policy, which can be configured from the anywhere access, web-based administration console.
  • Open Virtualization Format (OVF) packaged Virtual Appliance, which the company says reduces the cost and complexity of provisioning and lifecycle management.

The Zimbra Collaboration Suite Appliance is currently available starting at $625 for 25 mailboxes for a perpetual license.


Jessica Davis covers the channel for eWeek and Channel Insider. Her technology journalism career began well before anyone heard of the World Wide Web and has included stints at Infoworld, Electronic News/EDN, and the Philadelphia Business Journal. Her work has also appeared on CNN and Forbes.com. She has covered hardware, software and networking, as well as the business side of technology. She has won several journalism awards, including a national ASBPE award for best staff-written column, and was named Marketing Computers hardest working tech journalist on their inaugural list of top tech journalists. Jessica can be reached at jessica.davis@ziffdavisenterprise.com