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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

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
  • 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
  • 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.