While there is still a significant gap in terms of market share between the Zimbra email system and rival offerings from IBM and Microsoft, Zimbra in recent months has quietly emerged as the third largest email platform in the enterprise.
VMware is hoping to expand that market presence with an upgrade to Zimbra that can be more easily deployed as a software appliance on premise or in the cloud.
According to John Robb, senior director of Zimbra products and marketing, Zimbra is gaining momentum because it’s significantly easier to set up and manage than rival email systems. In addition, Robb says that part of Zimbra’s appeal is that it behaves very much like any other typical software-as-a-service (SaaS) application no matter where it’s deployed.
Robb also notes that the vast majority of the instances of Zimbra have been deployed on top of a virtual machine, which is not nearly as common with other email system platforms.
Another core element of VMware’s Zimbra strategy is to focus on core messaging functionality while partnering with companies such as Cisco and Mitel to deliver best-of-breed, real-time communications applications such as videoconferencing. That approach, says Robb, gives customers a lot of flexibility at a time when it’s not at all clear what the future of the unified communications landscape will actually look like.
Whether VMware can close the gap between Zimbra and Exchange remains to be seen. But there is a lot of frustration in particular with the cost and complexity associated with deploying and managing Microsoft Exchange.
It’s hard to definitively say for certain whether that frustration has reached a boiling-over point just yet. But it’s safe to say that a lot more IT organizations these days are re-evaluating all their messaging options, especially at a time when many of them are thinking about moving their email systems into the cloud anyway. As that process continues to occur, VMware is betting that market incumbents such as Microsoft and IBM have a lot more to lose than gain.