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VMware to acquire Zimbra

In August, I published a blog post explaining our acquisition of SpringSource, the popular open source Java development framework focused on simplifying the task of application development. Furthermore, we liked how SpringSource targets this application development simplicity for both on-premise and cloud deployment targets. Today I’m pleased to announce that we have entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Zimbra from Yahoo.  While Zimbra’s domain is different than that of SpringSource, there are several commonalities in the acquisition rationale on how we will move forward with them in our fold.

First, a quick introduction… Zimbra provides open-source email, calendaring, and collaboration software for deployment within companies of all sizes (e.g. Bechtel, Digg, and Stanford), as well as to cloud and hosting providers offering mail services over the web (e.g. Comcast and NTT Communications).  Yahoo! also continues to utilize Zimbra technology in its communications services, including Yahoo! Mail and Yahoo! Calendar.  From a business perspective, Zimbra is one of the most popular collaboration software offerings, with more than 55,000,000 users and a subscriber base that is growing rapidly. And from a technology perspective, I like many things about the Zimbra offerings. First and foremost, the team is extremely motivated and talented. Furthermore, the products have really been soundly architected and are known for their outstanding scalability, elegant user interfaces, interesting mash-up creation capabilities (Zimlets), and administrative simplicity.

You may be thinking, “That’s great, Steve, but why is VMware acquiring them?”

There are two primary reasons for the acquisition:

  • Zimbra will further our mission of simplifying IT
  • Zimbra will add to the portfolio of offerings we provide our VMware vCloud™ partners

Let’s go into each of these in more detail:

Zimbra will further our mission of simplifying 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. To date this strategy has involved products and services targeting complexity in datacenter infrastructure (e.g. VMware vSphere™ and VMware vCenter™ Server), desktops (e.g. VMware View™ and VMware Fusion®), and application development (e.g. SpringSource, VMware Lab Manager, and VMware Workstation). With this acquisition, we will extend our focus into email and collaboration, one of the core services (along with areas such as file and print services and identity management) that IT departments universally provide to their users. All four of these technology areas are common to companies large and small. Furthermore, each area is taking growing amounts of IT attention, time, and money without furthering the ultimate goals of the company.

And how can VMware help simplify IT with the acquisition of Zimbra? We are initially focused on two key areas.

First, Zimbra was one of the more popular downloads on our virtual appliance marketplace . You can think of the virtual appliance marketplace as our version of iTunes, but for business applications. Virtual appliances are just virtual machines pre-populated with an operating system and applications that can be downloaded and easily started without installation and with minimal configuration. Once deployed onto VMware vSphere, the Zimbra virtual appliance will automatically benefit from the built-in VMware vSphere scalability, availability, and security services. We see this on-premise 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!

  The second opportunity is around cloud-based email and collaboration services. As mentioned above, companies who wish to provide these services from an on-premise datacenter 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 will expand the portfolio of software that we can offer our VMware vCloud™ partners

This second motivation is very much related to the above point. We launched our VMware vCloud™ initiative just over a year ago to develop an ecosystem of telecom, hosting, and service providers that offer cloud solutions based on VMware technologies. This ecosystem has grown by leaps and bounds, quickly surpassing 1,000 members. Today we offer this ecosystem VMware vSphere-based compute and storage infrastructure upon which they can offer what is commonly referred to as “infrastructure-as-a-service” (IaaS). With the acquisition of SpringSource, we can enable our partners to offer a higher level of cloud-based service; one where programmers can write their code and let the cloud handle the details of how and where it runs. This is commonly referred to as “platform-as-a-service” (PaaS). And with Zimbra, we will now offer our partners an even higher level of cloud capability; one where customers can simply use an application without worrying about the details of how and where it runs. This top layer of the hierarchy is known as “software-as-a-service” (SaaS).

In this way, the outstanding 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.

And there’s one thing I’d like to address head-on. VMware vSphere is and will continue to be an outstanding platform for the deployment of Microsoft Exchange. We have heavily optimized our virtualization offerings specifically for the deployment of Microsoft Exchange, and thousands of companies are benefiting from the increased flexibility, availability, and security that comes from running Microsoft Exchange on top of VMware vSphere. We have some great material on these advantages available here.

So whether it is datacenters, desktops, application development, or core infrastructure applications, our mission will be to attack complexity and simplify IT. You’ll see much more from us in this space, so stay tuned! And I encourage you to check out the demo videos of Zimbra and also take a look at my new colleagues’ blog post on the acquisition as well.


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