Word comes from Techcrunch, the technology blog whose stories are featured in the Washington Post, that Stanford University has chosen Zimbra as the platform for its new integrated collaboration service. Zimbra is an open-source collaboration product that includes standards compliant e-mail, directory, and calendaring. The announcement from the university came after a competition in which both Microsoft and Google competed. The company was purchased late last year by Yahoo!.
Zimbra’s system architecture architecture combines some very mainstream open source components into an enterprise-class service: Apache Tomcat, Postfix, OpenLDAP, MySQL, Lucene, ClamAV, SpamAssassin, Amavisd-new, James/Sieve filtering. The core Zimbra server is written in Java to run on the Tomcat jsp server.
All of these components are freely available as separate components, and most all are included as optional packages for the major Linux distributions, like Red Hat.
With it’s latest version, Zimbra supports most e-mail clients, including standards compliant open-source clients like Mozilla Thunderbird, the proprietary bug-encrusted MS Outlook, the ubiquitous but heretofore MS Exchange-tethered Blackberry and even the uber-geek niche iPhone. Zimbra also includes its own Zimbra Desktop gui client and a web based Ajax client called Zimbra Web Client.
While Zimbra’s recent wins, especially in the .edu space, are just cause for celebration over at their company headquarters, they shouldn’t really be surprising. Academia and government have trended towards open source from the beginning. Linux has become an established part of national and international science agencies, while OpenLDAP continues to serve on its home ground at the University of Michigan and other educational institutions. MySQL is almost viral in its spread throughout both public and private organizations, both Sendmail and Postfix are the stuff of which the Internet messaging infrastructure is built. The intel community has been out front in embracing Linux, with NSA making a significant contribution back to the open source community in the form of potentially game-changing (from a software security point of view) SE Linux, now a standard part of Red Hat’s products. Then, of course, there is the U.S. Navy’s use of embedded Linux instead of Windows for their newest systems (and, I’ve heard quite a bit of classified redesign of existing systems in the infrastructures of all the services, especially the Air Force and Marine Corps, to replace Windows with Linux).
It will remain to be seen if private corporations are able to pull their heads out of the proprietary software quicksand long enough to see that there is in fact a better way. So far few have, although HP’s aggressive adoption of OpenLDAP two years ago showed it is happening. The leaders seem to be in the financial sector, where Red Hat has made impressive gains throughout Wall Street data centers. Given their penchant for needlessly wasting money through sheer blissful (and, apparently, shareholder approved) ignorance, I’m not hopeful.