Managing a high-volume e-mail system using traditional tools can be a demanding and costly task. That’s why Zimbra wants to rewrite the book on enterprise messaging. “It’s a clean-slate view of the world,” says CEO Satish Dharmaraj.
In fact, users can still use programs such as Outlook, Apple Mail, and Mozilla Thunderbird to access e-mail (Zimbra is working on an offline client, too). The product’s Web UI gets it noticed, but there’s a lot going on beneath the surface.
Mail data is managed through hierarchical storage, so individual mailboxes can be restored and managed -- no more restoring an entire mail directory to retrieve one user’s files. To reduce storage costs, Zimbra lets IT keep current mail on a high-availability storage system and move older messages to cheaper storage. Zimbra manages the flow of data among the storage systems, so users see a unified message list no matter where the actual messages are stored.
Zimbra integrates with a range of other software. The server indexes about 200 file formats, allowing users to perform free-form searches of all e-mail content, including attachments -- particularly useful for litigation discovery, Dharmaraj notes. Plus, Zimbra’s Zimlets technology allows IT to develop connectors to other applications; for example, users can receive purchase orders via e-mail, then have a Zimlet update the PO system automatically. The company provides pre-configured connectors to Salesforce.com, Oracle Purchase Order, SugarCRM, and Cisco and Asterisk IP telephony systems.
More recently, Zimbra has developed ALE (AJAX Linking and Embedding), a technology that allows users to embed applets into e-mail. For example, users can share a live spreadsheet in e-mail, rather than sending copies back and forth. Dharmaraj says that with ALE, the promise of collaboration via e-mail systems will finally be realized.