=Zeroing In on Zimbra}
The CIS team decided on the Zimbra Collaboration Suite as its Exchange alternative. The suite includes e-mail, calendar, contact management and document sharing capabilities. The suite also includes instant messaging functionality, but Argonne decided to forgo that feature because the lab has already settled on Jabber as its IM client.
Salbego and Finley had also considered other groupware alternatives--including platforms from IBM Lotus, Novell and Scalix--but found that Zimbra met their most important requirements.
Foremost among those was interoperability of free/busy calendar features. Users had to be able to see others' schedules, regardless of what e-mail system they were using. "If that wasn't the case, it wouldn't fly," said Salbego.
Finley added that they were attracted to Zimbra's open-source tradition, which they felt would make it easier to work with the company and ensure that features were implemented as expected.
In fact, Finley said his team has been able to "interact directly with the developer [at Zimbra] ... to make sure the desired behavior was achieved. ... It's hard to do that with Microsoft or Lotus," he said.
Zimbra pricing is also significantly lower than Exchange's; as a government entity, Argonne benefits from higher discounts, but standard business pricing starts at $25 per user per year, and goes down to $18 for 50 or more seats.
CIS was also looking for a flexible and scalable architecture to support the aim of providing e-mail service with no mailbox quotas.
"The architecture looked very clean and open to accommodating new features easily, and they didn't have the legacy baggage that comes with some of the systems that have been around a long time," said Finley.
Zimbra's architecture uses best-of-breed tools such as the MySQL database, OpenLDAP for keeping track of user accounts and the Postfix mail transport agent. "We have a leg up on how to implement this in an enterprise setting-these tools are all very well vetted by the enterprise community," said Salbego.
The suite, which Argonne began testing on-premises in 2006, includes a Web-based GUI and a desktop client for when users are offline. The Zimbra server works on Microsoft Outlook, Entourage (for Mac) and Thunderbird clients, which means end users often don't even know they're using Zimbra, according to Salbego.