Zimbra Joins Google, Microsoft in SAAS with Class

Yahoo's Zimbra messaging and collaboration software unit releases Zimbra Hosted, a SAAS version of its suite. Zimbra Hosted is designed to remove the burden from colleges and universities of running software on their own hardware, a welcome idea during the recession. Zimbra Hosted is also an open-source alternative to competing cloud computing products from Google and Microsoft.

Even as Yahoo struggles to stay afloat with new services, its messaging and collaboration property Zimbra continues to chug along at its own fervent pace. Zimbra released Zimbra Hosted, its first ever SAAS (software as a service) suite, Oct. 28.
The hosted version of Zimbra Collaboration Suite (ZCS) is geared to let students at colleges and universities access e-mail, calendar and other collaboration tools. Zimbra Hosted keeps educational institutions from managing the software on their own servers.
Zimbra Hosted customers will not need to implement software upgrades, pay for maintenance or add more hardware. This makes SAAS and cloud computing attractive to organizations, particularly during a recession when budget dollars are being shaved off the bottom line by cost-conscious concerns.
The news also means schools now have an alternative Google Apps Education Edition and Microsoft Live@edu, both of which leverage SAAS to power productivity and collaboration apps for several universities.
While those scholastically-tailored solutions are SAAS only, Zimbra Hosted lets institutions choose whether to host the software on-site, through Zimbra, or through local partners.
Zimbra claims more than 400 educational institutions are already using its collaboration and communications software; it will be interesting to keep tabs on Zimbra Hosted to see which method schools choose the most.
Kansas State University has over 30,000 students, faculty and staff and even alumni are using Zimbra Hosted, while Kaplan Higher Education is using the platform to serve more than 135,000 e-mail accounts.
Features of Zimbra Hosted include the ability to customize the logo and color scheme of the collaboration suite; enterprise-grade features, such as Outlook Sync and Apple Sync for faculty; mobile access to Zimbra from Apple's iPhone, J2ME enabled devices, or any mobile Web browser; and offline access via Zimbra Desktop.
Priced per mailbox and varying according to product versions, Zimbra Hosted for Education is available now for students, faculty and alumni.
Just as Zoho continues to be an alternative to Google Apps or Salesforce.com's CRM and other SAAS apps, Zimbra provides and open source alternative to Google Apps and Microsoft Live SAAS offerings.
As we know from the last decade, open source always has a place at the table, whether it's from IBM, MySQL or Sun Microsystems. The question is: does Yahoo? If not, what will become of Zimbra if Yahoo falls?