VMware is purchasing Zimbra, a messaging and collaboration software company, from Yahoo!. Already one of the most popular virtual appliances available for download in VMware’s Virtual Appliance Marketplace, Zimbra will now be optimized for VMware vSphere and probably be offered as a standard service in VMware hosted cloud offerings such as vCloud Express. Eventually I would expect to see Zimbra imported and exported as a vApp for the federated, private vSphere cloud environment. As for now, Zimbra is running more than 55 million mailboxes for both SMB customers as well as in hosted environments that arguably have instantly become VMware customers.
There is no doubt that VMware will provide support, enable high availability, ensure live backup and DR site fail over, as well as develop scale, automation, monitoring and management capabilities for virtualized Zimbra. The fact that VMware is acquiring a large percentage of SMB mail accounts could mean that virtualizing those servers (if they are not already) will provide the first shining, every day business application in the cloud examples.
VMware CTO Steve Herod explains on his personal blog that purchasing Zimbra is part of VMware’s strategy to simplify IT:
“VMware’s mission is to simplify IT, and every VMware product focuses on attacking the complexity and rigidity that has crept into this world. In many ways we see the excitement over cloud computing to be a longing for a simpler, more flexible way of doing computing. The VMware strategy is to help customers achieve cloud-like efficiency and operational improvements across the major IT infrastructure investment areas.”
Other reports I’ve read seem to suggest that VMware is “seeding” it’s cloud for the SMB market by buying Zimbra, and at the same time possibly even attempting to strengthen it’s position against the looming threat from Microsoft. Maybe VMware is even trying to beat Microsoft at it’s own game but on a new battlefield. A post on The Tech Beat blog from Businessweek.com titled VMware’s ‘West Coast Offense’ explains the following:
“[Chief Operating Officer Tod] Nielsen, VMware Chief Executive Paul Maritz, and Executive Vice-President Richard McAniff are all former executives at Microsoft, whose Windows Server products compete with VMware’s software. VMware is employing a strategy similar to the one Microsoft used to dominate the desktop computing market, adding software applications that can create demand for an underlying system.”
There are certainly a lot of skeptics that say VMware’s sudden diversification is crazy. Anyone else reminded of Kevin Costner turning a corn field into a baseball diamond in the film Field of Dreams? Are there ghostly whispers echoing “If you build it he will come” in Palo Alto these days? It makes sense that VMware could accelerate cloud adoption if they provide and support (with their partners) all the critical services themselves.
I can’t help but imagine the future when I boot my client hypervisor and sync my offline VM while checking my VMware vMail (or will it be zMail?) with a native Zimbra client.
I guess Tuaw, the unofficial Apple Weblog, states what’s the most obvious for now with the post titled Zimbra and VMWare get married, cloud-shaped kids expected.