Zimbra - a goliath in the open source field

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One of Zimbra's main mantras is: "Giving individuals and companies the ability to work from anywhere and from any device using transparent software that suits their needs".

Zimbra, a company specialising in offering businesses of all sizes open source, unified collaboration software solutions, is able to bring thousands of users together through its applications.

Led by CEO Patrick Brandt, Zimbra is the third-largest open source collaboration software provider in the world, with a global network of over 1 000 partners. The company has over two-million paid users and over 200 000 customers, including multinationals like Vodafone, Mozilla, Red Hat, Dell and Rackspace.

Its current application portfolio predominantly spans messaging, collaboration, social networking and file sharing solutions, all built using disparate tools - meaning that its clients are not locked into any contracts with a single vendor. It is able achieve this through the use of enterprise open source solutions.

The open source explosion

"Over the past decade or so, open source software has evolved from niche developer projects developed by geeks in the early hours of the morning to large communities dedicated to developing solutions to suit just about any business process or need. Open source solutions are rapidly becoming alternatives to the mainstream proprietary solutions many companies are so used to," says Kevin Virsolvy, Zimbra Senior Field Marketing Manager for EMEA.

According to a recent survey by Black Duck Software, the number of unique open source software projects is projected to reach two million by the end of this year. This, according to Virsolvy, has a lot to do with commercial open source companies like Red Hat, Alfresco and, of course, Zimbra being able to deploy pre-built solutions and easily customisable solutions by their large teams of developers and partners.

In fact, it is now at the point where large corporations like Twitter, Google and Netflix are leveraging off open source infrastructure components. Additionally, nearly all of today's SaaS (software as a service), cloud platforms and cloud infrastructures are built using some sort of open source components.

This, however, is just the beginning. According to research company, Gartner, by 2016, 99% of mission-critical application portfolios within Global 2000 leading companies will contain open source components somewhere in their IT infrastructure - a clear testament of the growing awareness of the benefits of open source besides its cost savings.

Virsolvy attributes this to four main factors.

"Firstly, because enterprise open source solutions have a huge community backing, the applications tend to be of superior quality compared to some proprietary solutions that perform the same task," he says.

The open source community also plays an important role in terms of software patches for any bugs or security flaws that may come up in an application. "For example, when the Heartbleed bug was uncovered, the open source community addressed this problem more aggressively than any other company or group. This enabled Zimbra to issue a fix in less than three hours after it was discovered," he states.

"Secondly, when a company purchases an open source solution, whether it be a messaging platform or a simple operating system, the company also gets the source code, allowing it to change it to suit any special needs. This can be done without any worries of a contract breach," he continues.

"Thirdly is the total cost of ownership (TCO). Licenses can be bought when a company needs them and they are not forced to pay for any instances of a program that is not used.

"Lastly is the issue of vendor lock-in. When a company buys proprietary solutions, more often than not they would be forced to buy other solutions from the same vendor in order to ensure transparency between the various applications.

"At an international level, there are growing concerns about the NSA collecting data from businesses that infringe on their personal privacy. It is for this reason that we are seeing more IT administrators adopting an open source policy. For instance in the UK government agencies are using open formats to ensure that its citizens and employees use applications that best meet their needs when working together," concludes Virsolvy.

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Praxis Sean Bacher sean.bacher@gmail.com
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