Argonne Lab Puts Zimbra to the Test - Page 3

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Each division that chooses to migrate to Zimbra is given a domain in the Zimbra system. Locally assigned Zimbra domain administrators are able to provision user accounts themselves, using either a Web GUI or a command-line tool provided by Zimbra. This gives divisional administrators a great deal of control, while offloading central services such as hardware maintenance, storage, backups, recovery and availability to CIS.

Since first implementing the open-source e-mail alternative, CIS has migrated some 800 users to Zimbra; another 500 are slated to migrate during 2009.

CIS also hosts e-mail services for about 1,300 users in its Exchange 2003 environment. By the end of the year, said Salbego, more than 90 percent of the organization's staff will be using e-mail services provided by CIS.

According to Salbego, CIS has been able to provide high levels of service and scalability, helping it win over some of the lab's most demanding divisions. "We've gained a lot of credibility and trust," he said.

The migrations did help divisions shift IT staff to more mission-critical activities and freed more money for basic research. CIS also reduced its storage costs, thanks to HSM (hierarchical storage management) functionality within the Zimbra suite.

According to Salbego, Zimbra's integrated HSM capabilities allow Argonne to consume only 200GB of Tier 1 SAN (storage area network) attached storage; data older than 30 days, and Zimbra self-backup, consumes 1.25TB of less-expensive Tier 2 SAN attached storage.

"It's been a big, big win," said Salbego.

One drawback to Zimbra, said Finley, is the limited high-availability options for user-facing services.

Both Red Hat and Veritas offer add-on applications to resolve this issue, but require that systems run in a Red Hat Linux environment; Argonne runs Ubuntu Linux.

While Argonne would be willing to consider switching Linux distributions, Finley said that a better option is running the Zimbra servers in virtual machines, taking advantage of the high-availability characteristics of the virtual machine environment.

Zimbra is currently certified for VMware virtual machines. Finley expects that the suite will soon be certified for Citrix XenServer, which is the environment used by Argonne.

According to Finley, Argonne has been testing Zimbra in a Xen virtual machine environment successfully and intends to "begin moving portions of the Zimbra service into one or more Xen-based machines."

But Finley said CIS is being very conservative and won't move to such an implementation for at least a few months. He added that it could well move some parts of the Zimbra service--such as virus and spam checking, which generate peaks of load--into a virtual environment ahead of other parts of the service.

Approximately 20 percent of the lab's work force also uses mobile devices, so mobile support is of growing importance.

Zimbra looks like an Exchange server when connecting from iPhones and Windows Mobile- and Palm OS-based phones, allowing users to seamlessly synchronize their e-mail, calendar and address books.

Zimbra is currently beta testing a BlackBerry sync, done through a BlackBerry Enterprise Server via the Zimbra Mobile Connector for BES. Argonne has started testing that feature internally for a limited number of users.

"People are anxiously awaiting the ability to sync with Zimbra from their BlackBerry," said Finley. Argonne is also testing Zimbra's e-discovery capabilities.