Potential VMware Acquisition May Threaten Microsoft Exchange Stronghold

By Jessica Davis  |  Print this article Print


Desktop-as-a-Service Designed for Any Cloud ? Nutanix Frame

VMware's rumored acquisition of open-source collaboration and e-mail suite vendor Zimbra from Yahoo could prove to have a disruptive effect on e-mail leader Microsoft and its Exchange server if VMware uses its virtualization stronghold to spread virtualized e-mail appliances to customer organizations.

As if it weren’t enough that VMware owns most of the server virtualization market out there today, now the company is rumored to be interested in buying open-source messaging, e-mail and collaboration vendor Zimbra from Yahoo.

Rumors first surfaced last fall that Yahoo, which purchased Zimbra two years before, was looking to sell it just as Zimbra’s 6.0 collaboration suite came to market.
Early this week press outlets were reporting VMware as the apparent suitor.

While some see this as a move by VMware to expand and diversify its markets, perhaps giving it an entrée into cloud computing and hosted software-as-a-service offerings—much the way Microsoft and others offer hosted Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint—others weren’t so sure.

"VMware is so good at virtualization, why would they look at acquiring any collaboration suite, open source or not?" asks Doug Ford, president and CEO of The I.T. Pros in San Diego, which heavily relies on VMware as its virtualization solution for its own infrastructure-as-a-service delivery. "My eyes are focused on hosted Exchange for customers that can't afford or don't want an on-premises solution."

As a strong VMware partner, Ford says he looks forward to learning more about VMware’s plans and product offerings for the channel.

But Todd Knapp of CEO, CTO and founder of Providence, R.I.-based Envision Technology Advisors, speculates that VMware may have its eye on more than just software as a service.

"The message I’m taking out of this is that VMware is really trying to do what IBM did when it released the rights to make generic PCs," says Knapp. "If you let everybody develop on [the VMware platform], then it will become the solution of evolution rather than brute force."

Knapp believes VMware may be looking to use Zimbra and its other recent open-source acquisitions to add application appliances into its data center operating system.

"They would get into the business of providing virtual appliances you could buy to meet business needs in the data center rather than investing in Microsoft operating systems with their licensing requirements," he says.

Such an approach would greatly simplify administration, says Knapp, who points to the nightmares many experienced when upgrading to Microsoft Exchange 2007, making sure it was compatible with current server operating systems and then upgrading to Microsoft Exchange 2010 and encountering more migration headaches among all the different operating systems and applications, not to mention Active Directory.

Would stalwart customer organizations consider switching to an open-source e-mail application from longtime e-mail application leader Microsoft and its Exchange server?

"If I said to any end user or CEO anywhere, 'What’s your mail server?’ they would give me a blank stare," says Knapp. But what about if he pitched it to an IT administrator? "Any IT person would say [Exchange] works, and then they will look at you with that face that says it’s the lesser of two evils."

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

Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...