New Zimbra suite could shift competitive balance in virtualization, cloud

VMware leads with apps, trying to leapfrog Citrix and Microsoft's OS focus

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VMware has rolled out a product that may already be better known than any of its other products and which may become the flagship product of its desktop virtualization product suite even though, before the latest version was announced this morning, it had nothing to do with virtualization of any kind.

VMware announced this morning version 7 of the Zimbra Collaboration Suite, now renamed Zimbra Collaboration Server, which VMware bought from Yahoo a year ago and revamped to return it to its roots as an open-source, low-cost alternative to Microsoft Exchange and Outlook.

It rolled the suite out in three major configurations – standard client/server, virtualized servers and clients, or on a virtualized appliance -- all of which can be run internally or hosted

VMware bought Zimbra from Yahoo last January, for no clear reason anyone outside the company seemed able to articulate, despite the 55 million active Zimbra mailboxes in use at the time, and annual growth in the number of mailboxes of nearly 200 percent.

VMware said at the time the acquisition of Zimbra made sense, but the rationale was in marketing gobbledegook.

Oddly, for a genre of fiction in which the quotes of vendor executives are almost always empty fluff, the only clear explanation VMware gave for buying Zimbra was a canned quote from Brian Byun, Vice President and General Manager, Cloud Services, VMware:

...we expect more organizations... to buy core IT solutions that deliver cloud-like simplicity in end-user and operational experience... Zimbra is a great example of the type of scalable ‘cloud era’ solutions that can span smaller, on-premise implementations to the cloud. It will be a building block in an expanding portfolio of solutions that can be offered as a virtual appliance or by a cloud service provider.

Still not very clear, but the fog is clearing away a bit.

First, Zimbra has become a proof of concept for both cloud computing and virtual desktops, giving companies that would normally not experiment with new-ish technologies solid, manageable collaboration software that's also inexpensive even as a cloud-based app.

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