Zimbra breaks the mail server mold

Zimbra Collaboration Suite promises to break new ground in ease of use and administration

Your typical mail-contacts-calendaring system is about as well-integrated as blocks of wood nailed to a bowling ball, but the Zimbra Collaboration Suite is different. An open source collaboration server now in Beta 2, Zimbra truly behaves like a single application. A commercial edition also in the works adds features that should please enterprise admins.

Zimbra is much smarter than your typical mail client. Mouse over a name in a message header, for example, and Zimbra will show you the person's contact info from your address book or allow you to create a new contact by right-clicking. Zimbra recognizes e-mail addresses, phone numbers, and date references in message bodies, providing similar shortcuts to viewing contact and calendar info or sending a message, initiating a VoIP call, or creating an appointment. 

Zimbra allows you to search across e-mail, contacts, and calendar all at once, and you can quickly dredge up lengthy "conversations" that span many folders because Zimbra tracks message threads automatically. You can categorize messages with multiple tags and save searches based on them. All of this is handled through a sophisticated, drag-and-drop, no-refresh-necessary AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) interface.

The Network Edition, now available for 60-day beta trial, promises to be just as innovative from an IT standpoint, starting with its AJAX toolkit and XML Web service APIs for integrating with other apps. Enterprise administrators will appreciate goodies such as hierarchical storage management, incremental backups, and single-mailbox restores. Work remains to be done -- features such as Outlook/MAPI support and attachment searching are on the to-do list -- but Zimbra is one collaboration platform to keep an eye on.

Zimbra Collaboration Suite
Cost: Open Source Edition: free; Network Edition: $28 per mailbox, per year, including license and support
Available: Q1 2006