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Startup Zimbra releases open-source Notes alternative

Category Software Development

From InfoWorld:  Startup Zimbra releases open-source Notes alternative

Zimbra, the open-source startup that lured Scott Dietzen away from his former job as chief technology officer of BEA Systems, has released a beta version of its enterprise collaboration software. The San Mateo, Calif. company bills the software as an open-source alternative to enterprise collaboration products such as IBM Lotus Notes or Microsoft's Exchange Server.

Called the Zimbra Collaboration Suite, the software includes e-mail, contact and calendar software, according to an announcement posted Wednesday on Zimbra's Web site. The suite includes an AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and Extensible Markup Language) client, as well as server software. In addition to Zimbra's own code, the suite employs a number of open source products, including the MySQL database and the Apache Software Foundation's Lucerne indexing software.

Sounds like it's more an open-source alternative to Exchange than Notes, in that it appears to be more focused on email/calendar/scheduling as opposed to an application development platform.  While I generally like to see new ideas like this get a chance to survive in the market, I have my doubt about this niche.  With Notes and Exchange holding such a dominant place in the market, it will be hard to get traction.  Enterprise software such as this is an area where you want to have assurance the company will be around for the long run.  But you can't get customers until you show success in the marketplace, and you can't show success in the marketplace until you get customers.

Of course, the same's been said for Firefox, too...  :)


Gravatar Image1 - I disagree somewhat with Ben's comment. Individuals can choose to use Firefox on their home computer, not their work computer. Enterprise organizations choose what software get's placed at the desktop as much as they choose enterprise collaboration solutions. What we're seeing is a lot of enterprises choose to install Firefox as the alternative, or move in that direction. That's a big shift.

Products like zimbra, or Novell's Hula, are becoming more commonplace, and as they become more commonplace, it will become much more difficult to justify the licensing structure that Microsoft and IBM have in place, especially as these products mature.

mySQL isn't going away, Apache certainly isn't (most widely used web server out there isn't it?), and neither are many of these open source products. They already have tons of customers, many of whom don't even realize that's what's being used on the backend, and that's the biggest point, isn't it?

Gravatar Image2 - Jon, You have a valid point, but I guess I didn't make mine clearly enough. Even in a larger enterprise, small numbers of test users can be switched to Firefox with no impact on other users. Thus, a controlled pilot is much easier. The issue with enterprise collaboration is that, unless interaction between those on it and those off it is seamless, it is very hard to have a controlled pilot that tells you much. Even switching one server to a different web server is no bid deal to accomodate, but collaboration is all about people working together, so if they can't, it makes testing and gradual acceptance more difficult.

This is not to say that these products won't or can't gain acceptance, but it does mean that that acceptance is likely to start with smaller customers and move to bigger customers, because a smaller customer (with 100 users, for example) can choose to switch all of them at once to a different form of collaboration. Once there is a fair amount of acceptance, the larger enterprise will start to desiginate a more autonomous group to use the technology and so on, but it makes the road to acceptance longer and harder than with Firefox or apache or thsoe sorts of products. That is all I meant to indicate.

Gravatar Image3 - Yes, but every individual can decide to use Firefox or not, which is hardly the case with an enterprise collaboration product. That is a huge hurdle to overcome.

Gravatar Image4 - Good point, Ben...

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