Blogger: Bill Pray
VMware completed the acquisition of Zimbra this week. In order for Zimbra to find success in what is shaping up to be a very competitive e-mail market - with Microsoft continuing to dominate market share, IBM holding on to a significant number of seats, and Cisco and Google trying to disrupt through new delivery models and technologies – I believe VMware needs to address five strategic issues:
1. SaaS Strategy: Zimbra’s SaaS strategy to date has been to be an arms supplier to providers who offer the Zimbra technologies to clients as a hosted service. Short term, sticking with this strategy will probably net additional partners as disaffected partners from IBM and Microsoft look for options while the two dominant e-mail vendors build out their SaaS e-mail offerings. Long term, those partners will have a difficult time competing on price as Cisco, Google, IBM, and Microsoft achieve economies of scale that allow them to drop the price on their SaaS e-mail offerings. So, long term, VMWare needs to define a SaaS strategy that either selects a very large partner in the hosted space that can compete or enter the hosted market directly and compete.
2. Open Source: VMware needs to leverage the open source community and capabilities of Zimbra and invest in growing them. The open source underpinnings to Zimbra are a source of its strength as a technology. The Zimbra web client and Zimlets are good examples of the benefit of open source for Zimbra.
3. Outlook Support: Long term, the Zimbra web client needs to be the strategic direction for client access for Zimbra. Short term, VMware needs to make the Outlook connector using the native MAPI protocol rock solid in order to deal with users’ desire to use a familiar client. It needs to work well. To date, no Microsoft competitor has been very successful in supporting Outlook as a client for a non-Exchange server backend despite Microsoft publishing the the Outlook-Exchange Transport Protocol, although several have tried.
4. Unified Communications: Zimbra currently does not have a unified communications story. Integration and/or the addition of real-time synchronous communication and collaboration is required to compete in the enterprise market.
5. Virtualization Support: VMware can make Zimbra “the best” e-mail server running in a virtualized environment by optimizing support for production e-mail server implementation on their hypervisor technologies. This will also help VMware keep a step ahead of other virtualization vendors by enhancing VMware’s support of a highly transactional application like e-mail. So, even if VMware does not win the e-mail business from an enterprise, they can still be the vendor of choice for the hypervisor for on-premise e-mail production servers.