Zimbra is marking its full integration with VMware in the form of a new virtual appliance designed for the data center and hosting markets. The new service combines VMware's vSphere with the Zimbra email client in a portable product called the Zimbra Collaboration Suite Appliance.
It's part of the new VMware stack for the cloud that competes with Google Apps, Microsoft Exchange and providers such as Red Hat.
VMware sees an advantage with its portability and its ability to meet the needs of a customer that is still a bit uncertain about a move to the cloud.
Both Google Gmail and Microsoft can be ported to different environments but the transition can be complex when moving calendars, contacts and the associated metadata.
The Zimbra service is not exactly the cloud, but it may be suited to customers who have concerns about the cloud and its distributed nature.
Zimbra executives cite, for instance, a government agency in Japan that may not want its data distributed outside its borders. VMware is working with its hosting partners to meet that demand for offerings that keep the data in a specific geographic region. VMware will also focus on vertical markets such as healthcare.
VMware has a network of 25,000 channel partners. Zimbra Collaboration Suite is now fully available to the entire network. It can be purchased in components or as a full suite.
Zimbra is also fully integrated into VMware. And it looks like a decent fit, especially as the competition gets tighter to provide applications that are more flexible and have the ability to reach people anytime, anywhere, on any device.
Google Apps does have its own advantages to Zimbra. A new customer can be in the cloud in minutes. Zimbra says its appliance takes 10 minutes to deploy. But it also needs to be installed and maintained.
The offering shows that the cloud and a virtulalized infrastructure each has its advantages. The difference may be how deep VMware and Google can push their services to all those local and vertical markets.