Microsoft’s dominance of the Exchange Server market has been deeply entrenched for some time – their careful product refresh cycle and ubiquity among enterprises has ensured an expansive market uptake. Recently, however, virtualization gurus VMWare have released the beta version of their Zimbra enterprise email server. Their sights are clearly lined up to topple Microsoft – or, at least, grab a share of the market that Microsoft has totally captured.
Microsoft’s untimely release of Microsoft Server 2012 Essentials – the stripped-down replacement for Microsoft Small Business Server – might just play in to VMWare’s hands. The newest offering from the company responsible for the Windows franchise omits the inclusion of Exchange Server – leaving small and medium businesses to pursue their own e-mail service provision, hosting or to make the significant financial investment required to upgrade to the ‘Standard’ edition of the server software.
Zimbra 8.0 in particular focuses on closing the gap between e-mail communication and social networking at-large. Address books “become aware” of social networking personalities such as LinkedIn and shared calendars, claims VMWare senior director John Robb. A host of social features – such as VMWare’s SocialCast, Cisco’s Jabber and WebEx service and Canadian telecommunications firm Mitel’s VoIP system have been included in the release. It looks to be significantly more than just e-mail provision.
Robb further claimed that deployment could take ‘as little as ten minutes’, and is deeply integrated with existing VMWare virtualization products.
But is this package going to be enough to shift Microsoft from its deeply-dug position? This author thinks not. Through Zimbra 8.0, VMWare have released a multi-purpose application suite that aims to move e-mail provision in to the 21st Century. And I don’t think that’s something that enterprises see the need for right now.
E-mail’s beauty is in its simplicity. The same can be said for Microsoft’s exchange server offering – it does what it does very well, and without additional bells and whistles. Ultimately, there are a host of free applications out there that offer synchronous collaboration – from whiteboard-sharing apps to IM clients – and enterprises are experimenting freely with them. But e-mail is the trusty old packhorse for information. If everything else fails, e-mail is always there to carry the communication burden.
And that’s why I don’t feel that Zimbra 8.0 is going to appeal to many enterprises. Exchange server – frustrating though its omission in Windows Server 2012 Essentials is – is a tried-and-trusted failsafe in the e-mail and synchronisation sphere. Since those things are, ultimately, totally mission-critical, I would be surprised if many companies were keen to swap out their entire exchange infrastructure for the VMWare offering. While I can see that VMWare may capture part of the start-up market, I highly doubt that they will have a significant impact on the medium or large business market. Exchange Server works, it’s reliable, and that’s just what you want from your last line of communication defence. I think it’s here to stay.