VMware's Zimbra Buy All About Simplicity

Continuing on its mission to bring greater simplicity to users of its cloud platform, VMware announces its agreement to acquire Zimbra, a provider of e-mail and collaboration software, from Yahoo.

Continuing on its mission to bring greater simplicity to users of its cloud platform, VMware has announced its agreement to acquire Zimbra, a provider of e-mail and collaboration software, from Yahoo.

In a Jan. 12 blog post on the move, Steve Herrod, chief technology officer at VMware, likened the company's acquisition of Zimbra to its acquisition of SpringSource last August, saying it is all about simplification. SpringSource simplifies enterprise Java application development, and Zimbra simplifies the deployment of IT services.

The acquisition is expected to close in the first calendar quarter of 2010. Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed.

Herrod mentioned Zimbra's 55 million users and praised Zimbra's open-source e-mail, calendaring and collaboration software. He also described how Zimbra can help VMware simplify IT, noting that Zimbra was one of the more popular downloads on VMware's virtual appliance marketplace. According to Herrod, virtual appliances are virtual machines prepopulated with an operating system and applications that can be downloaded and easily started without installation and with minimal configuration.

Herrod said that once a Zimbra virtual appliance is deployed on VMware's vSphere cloud operating system, it "will automatically benefit from the built-in VMware vSphere scalability, availability and security services. We see this on-premises virtual appliance distribution and deployment model as a very simple yet effective approach for providing employees with collaboration capabilities, especially for small and medium-sized businesses [SMBs]. We've temporarily taken the existing Zimbra virtual appliance off the marketplace to spruce it up. ... Stay tuned for a new version soon."

In the blog post, Herrod added that another opportunity Zimbra brings to VMware is around cloud-based e-mail and collaboration services. Said Herrod:

""Companies who wish to provide these services from an on-premises data center obtain a simple way to deploy and manage their offering. Other companies may choose to rent this service from a trusted cloud provider. Zimbra has already proven to be a popular and effective solution for many companies and individuals, and we plan to invest further in advancing its capabilities for this use case.""

Zimbra products offer a full enterprise feature set and excellent interoperability with legacy e-mail environments, and have been deployed across small and large environments: as on-premises software at thousands of small and medium-size businesses and distributed enterprises, and as a hosted service at major service providers such as Comcast and NTT Communications.

Regarding VMware's cloud-oriented goals for Zimbra, Herrod said:

""The Zimbra team and their technology will be an important element in expanding our VMware vCloud strategy to deliver a well-integrated portfolio of compute, application development, and core IT service clouds. Furthermore, Zimbra is open source with a vibrant community, highlighting VMware's belief in, and commitment to, the use of open platforms in the clouds.""

"Over the coming years, we expect more organizations, especially small and medium-size businesses, to increasingly buy core IT solutions that deliver cloudlike simplicity in end-user and operational experience," said Brian Byun, vice president and general manager of cloud services at VMware, in a statement. "Zimbra is a great example of the type of scalable 'cloud era' solutions that can span smaller, on-premises implementations to the cloud. It will be a building block in an expanding portfolio of solutions that can be offered as a virtual appliance or by a cloud service provider. We are excited to welcome the Zimbra team and community to the VMware family."

VMware plans to support existing Zimbra products and open-source efforts while further optimizing Zimbra products for vSphere-based cloud infrastructure, alongside Microsoft, IBM and other messaging and collaboration solutions, the company said in a press release

Under the terms of the agreement, VMware will purchase all Zimbra technology and intellectual property. Yahoo will have the right to continue to utilize the Zimbra technology in its communications services, including Yahoo Mail and Yahoo Calendar.

Jim Morrisroe, vice president and general manager of Zimbra, told eWEEK that at Yahoo Zimbra maintained its original mission of selling collaboration software to the enterprise market, and the company will continue this mission at VMware.

However, "VMware gives us greater capacity for distribution. We get a gigantic channel to help us distribute the product globally."

Yet, "from a technical standpoint, we can leverage the VMware infrastructure and we can do more to enable users in public cloud environments to have a more well-rounded solution set."

Morrisroe also said he expects that with VMware's investment Zimbra will be able to grow its overall team, including its development and engineering unit. "The entire team is moving over to VMware, and we believe that we'll have stronger and more rapid investment into the business and we'll be able to move faster."

The Zimbra unit is currently at work on Zimbra 7, and the group will be focusing on adding more real-time technologies to the platform, including enhanced instant messaging capabilities, additional real-time collaboration technologies to enable better sharing of documents and workspaces, and leveraging the VMware technology.

In a Jan. 12 blog post, Morrisroe added:

""At VMware, Zimbra will continue focusing on our product roadmap and setting the standard for web-based collaboration. Look forward to Zimbra Desktop 2.0, more real-time messaging, new ways for sharing content in collaborative workspaces, enhanced team scheduling and business continuity services. Over time we will also adjust the scope and scale of our roadmap to reflect incremental investment, plus we will integrate Zimbra with VMware's vSphere cloud infrastructure.""

"The Zimbra technology has played and will continue to play an important role in our communications services products," said Bryan Lamkin, senior vice president of Yahoo, in a statement. "The technology is core to Yahoo Mail and Yahoo Calendar and a key differentiator for these leading products. The customers and partners of Zimbra's industry-leading product and successful enterprise business will be well served with VMware."