Zimbra Inc. on Tuesday launched what it claims is the first open-source group scheduling calendar—and with it comes the first publicly available release of its Network Edition, targeted at enterprises.
In addition, the companys self-named collaboration suite now supports RSS and Atom feeds, online backup and recovery, hierarchical storage management and clustering for high availability.
The startup came out of stealth mode when it launched its Zimbra Collaboration Suite at Web 2.0 in September.
The San Mateo, Calif., companys suite is a client/server system for e-mail, contacts and group calendaring.
The new calendar capability in Zimbras Beta 2 version includes group scheduling with free/busy indication; the ability to import external calendars in .ics format; a multi-calendar view that allows users to view all calendars to which they have access and to overlay each calendar in different colors; delegated access, such as for executive administrators; time zones and recurrences; and graphical layout that includes drag-and-drop capability.
“You can subscribe to calendar data off the Internet: Your favorite sports teams or bands or rock venues are all available,” Zimbra President and Chief Technology Officer Scott Dietzen said. “You can share calendar data with friends … as well as subscribe [to date feeds].”
As far as enterprise use goes, the group scheduling capabilities of ZCS Beta 2 mean that marketing or engineering groups can publish their data on an intranet. That includes, for example, attachments in calendar entries, thus making it what Dietzen called a “full-on collaboration vehicle.”
ZCS Beta 2 includes updated support for AJAX mashups. Mashups, a core component of Web 2.0, are the combination of multiple Web services into a single application with the use of the services APIs to bind them together.
Examples include Housing Maps, a mashup that combines Google Maps with Craigslist.com real estate listings.
According to Dietzen, Zimbra has pioneered the use of mashups inside of e-mail. An example is the ability to mouse over a date within an e-mail and be presented with the opportunity to access the collaboration suites calendar function.
The introduction of RSS and Atom feeds makes ZCS Beta 2 bidirectional, Dietzen said, as it allows users to not only subscribe to feeds but also to publish their mailbox contents via RSS. Thus, users can share calendar, contact or mail folders via RSS feeds, either whole or in part.
Microsoft Corp.s acquisition of Groove Networks has given rise to speculation that the company plans to leverage Web services within Exchange in a similar fashion. But so far, much of the work theyve done has been of a proprietary nature, Dietzen said.
“…With technologies like RSS, Atom, wiki, iCalendar, interoperable IM, voice over IP, XML, Web services, etc., the Web is growing into a collaboration platform,” he said. “To date, at least, I would argue that Microsoft has been viewing collaboration as more of a proprietary top-down effort than embracing this grass-roots movement.”
Besides distinguishing itself from proprietary technologies such as Microsofts Exchange, Zimbra distinguishes itself from other open-source collaboration tools such as Hula (a Novell-based project) and Open-Xchange (a European effort that recently moved its headquarters to the United States) with the amount of native support for features that normally require third-party support.
For example, Zimbra natively supports archiving, anti-spam and anti-virus features, cross-mailbox search (important for discovery related to compliance efforts), and replication across WANs for fast disaster recovery.
ZCS Beta 2 also includes a dashboard for its anti-spam and anti-virus services; advanced message tracing and troubleshooting capabilities; and an AJAX admin client to edit and create new e-mail alias and distribution lists.
As far as the now-public Network Beta Edition goes, new features include online back-up and smart recovery utilities that enable administrators to back up or recover a single mailbox or group of mailboxes without shutting down the mail server; hierarchical storage management that allows administrators to designate messages to varying grades of storage; the ability to host and manage multiple domains on a single node; the power to search attachments and to view attachments in HTML, thus eliminating the need for all employees to have licensed office applications; and server clustering that allows for automated failover in the event of server crash.
A 60-day trial version of network Beta 2 Edition and the updated Open Source Beta 2 Edition of ZCS are available for free download at Zimbras site.