Zimbra Takes Aim at Enterprise Collaboration

What do you get when you cross open source, Web Services and AJAX?

The enterprise collaboration market got a bit more competitive today with the release of the open source Zimbra collaboration and messaging server.

Zimbra, which has been in beta use for over a year has now officially released its' flagship product Zimbra Collaboration Suite 3.0 (ZCS) and made it generally available. Though Zimbra will work from a client point of view on Microsoft Windows desktops, it is not currently available for Windows Servers and will not challenge Microsoft Exchange directly on Windows. If an enterprise is looking to provide additional functionality beyond Exchange or to migrate to a Linux server though, the Zimbra technology may well be an attractive one.

Zimbra is a convergence of open source, Web Services and AJAX technologies. There are two fundamental components to the Zimbra solution, the collaboration server and the browser based AJAX client which will run on all major browsers.

Integrated search and anti-spam/anti-virus are core features of ZCS 3.0. RSS and Atom syndication enables users to not only subscribe to feeds but to publish their mailbox content whether it be email folders, contacts or calendar via RSS as well. On the calendaring side of things, ZCS 3.0 can import or export calendars via the iCal standard.

Web Services integration is also a key part of ZCS 3.0. Baked in capabilities include the ability to recognize map addresses in emails and pull up the associated map via the Yahoo maps API. Phone number recognition within ZCS, is integrated with Skype and other VoIP and softphone services to enable click to call functionality.

At the heart of ZCS's extensibility and Web Services feature set is something that Zimbra calls, "Zimlets". Zimbra defines Zimlets as a mechanism for integrating the Zimbra Collaboration Suite (ZCS) with third party information systems and content.

Scott Dietzen, president and CTO, Zimbra explained that Zimbra has been in alpha and beta for more than year with the first customers touching the technology in late 2004. It started off as mostly messaging no calendaring and no Zimlets.

"Open source community and customer feedback reinforced the AJAX model and were instrumental in getting us to support iCal, RSS and Atom, and especially around Zimlets," Dietzen told internetnews.com.

Zimlets are a key component of how Zimbra encourages community contributions and grow its functionality without breaking anything within Zimbra.

"What we've tried to accomplish with Zimlet and our AJAX toolkit is to make it a lot easier for people to develop add-ons that increase Zimbra's reach and value without them having to go in and make internal changes," Dietzen said.

Being open source has helped Zimbra to grow its technology and its user base, but it has also been the cause of some limited concern as well. Dietzen noted that in the beginning Zimbra received a "handful of concerns" about intellectual property related issues. Zimbra has since moved to allay end user concerns and provide assurances by sharing its intellectual property contribution agreement.

"As a result of SCO, enterprises are bit more aware and wanting to check to make sure that their open source technology providers are doing their homework to protect IP and make sure they can provide squeaky clean IP," Dietzen commented.

This article was first published on InternetNews.com. To read the full article, click here.

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