By Michael Caton  |  Posted 2006-01-23 Print this article Print

Zimbra Inc.s Zimbra Collaboration Suite puts a new wrinkle on the idea of providing contextual links to corporate data.

Still in beta but expected to ship at the end of this month, Zimbra Collaboration Suite provides e-mail, calendar and scheduling information through a rich browser interface. During tests of the beta, eWEEK Labs found that this "contextualizing" of information in e-mail messages distinguishes Zimbra Collaboration Suite from a growing number of competing e-mail and calendar and scheduling servers.

The Zimbra suite is available through commercial and open-source licenses. The commercial license version of the software, Zimbra Collaboration Suite, is priced at either $28 per seat per year for large organizations with premium support under the Standard Edition or at $1,450 for 50 users under the Small Business Edition. Enhanced support for the Small Business Edition costs an additional $3,000 per year.

Zimbra uses two open-source licenses for the open-source version of the suite. Two components of the open source code, the Zimbra Collaboration Suite Server and Zimbra Ajax Toolkit, are licensed under the MPL (Mozilla Public License).

A third component, the Zimbra Collaboration Suite Web Client, is licensed under the ZPL (Zimbra Public License). ZPL is derived from the MPL and includes an attribution requirement for derivative works.

What sets Zimbra apart from the run-of-the-mill e-mail and calendar server is the suites rich, Web-based client, which is built using AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) and has the ability to identify and present message content with additional contextual information.

For example, when we sent an e-mail message including phrases such as "next Friday" or "Jan. 13," these phrases in the recipients e-mail message become links. The alt-tag information associated with the link (which appears when the cursor hovers over the link) displays availability information from the recipients calendar.

The company intends to extend this capability to include information in other systems, such as CRM (customer relationship management), so that users can see relevant and actionable information without having to actually go to another system.

Developers will be able to create integrations with third-party applications using the Zimbra AJAX Toolkit and through Zimbras SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) and REST (representational state transfer) APIs. Zimbra also has packaged some components, including the "hover" capability, as applets called Zimlets.

IBM Lotus Domino and Notes pioneered bringing database applications closer to the mail client through the use of embedded links, but Zimbra provides users with information just by moving the cursor over a link.

Click here to read eWEEK Labs review of IBM Lotus Domino/Notes 7. For a first version, Zimbra does a number of things well for both users and administrators. The basic Webmail interface provides good productivity and message management tools, including the ability to customize message flags and organize messages by threads .

From an administrative standpoint, the Web-based management console makes it easy to add and manage users and groups, as well as control user access to the suites features.

Zimbra also has a plug-in for Microsoft Corp.s Outlook so users wont be limited to the Web client.

Next page: Evaluation Shortlist: Related Products.


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