Zimbra has long been one of my favorite open source products. I remember getting a first demo of Zimbra from CEO Satish Dharmaraj at the Red Hat conference about three years ago, while they were still in stealth mode. Satish, Scott Dietzen and the rest of the crew weren't setting out to build a me-too mail client. They were attacking a much larger problem.
The idea of Zimbra was to disrupt the lock that Microsoft Outlook and Exchange have in many IT organizations. By going open source and cross platform, they could deliver massive cost savings and much better scalability. Not to mention the fact that they were building a powerful but easy-to-use Ajax based web email client that would handle calendaring and collaboration and have an extensible architecture for plug-ins and mash-ups. So this wasn't about having something "cheap" and "almost as good." This was about getting something better at a lower price.
From anyone else, this would sound like a lot of open source bluster. But Satish and his guys came from OpenWave and they'd built multi-million mailbox email systems before. But I've observed some times in discussions that prospects would get a bit confused about whether they could use the Zimbra client seperate from the Zimbra server. And when Yahoo! acquired Zimbra last year, it seemed like there was the possibility for Zimbra to take the game to a whole other level and really make clear that the Zimbra client was a first class citizen distinct from the Zimbra server.
That's now happened with two key actions inside of Yahoo! Today's news from OSCON is that Yahoo! is releasing the Zimbra Desktop client with full support for Yahoo! Mail. Zimbra Desktop also supports AOL, GMail as well as standard POP and IMAP accounts.
Yahoo has more than 250 million users of its email system, so this is a huge vote of confidence in Zimbra. And why not? They've proven their scalability time and again with customers like Comcast and others. (And I'm proud that MySQL played a small part as the meta-data store and helping them scale in the early days.)
The other significant news item is that a few weeks ago Yahoo! promoted Zimbra President and CTO Scott Dietzen to a larger role inside the company in charge of all of the company's email and communications products. While many commented on the strategic significance of Yahoo's acquisition of Zimbra, I think they got much more than just the Zimbra product and technology. Dietzen is one of the best technology leaders in the industry and it's great that Yahoo! is leveraging his abilities in a broader context. Kudos to Yahoo! for figuring this out and congrats to Scott in his new role.