VMware-Zimbra: What Becomes of 450 SaaS Partners?

VMware-Zimbra: What Becomes of 450 SaaS Partners?

vmware-zimbraThe rumors and speculation were all correct. VMware today acquired an open source email specialist -- Zimbra -- from Yahoo. If you're a managed service provider that's still sorting out your virtualization and SaaS email strategies then VMware's move is worth following. Here's why.

Our sister site, The VAR Guy, has been tracking the VMware-Zimbra story closely for more than a week -- pointing out multiple story angles involving open source, software as a service (SaaS), and emerging competition with Microsoft, Red Hat and Google Apps.

Who Controls SaaS?

But ultimately there's one key issue that matters most to Zimbra's channel partners: As of September 2009, Zimbra had more than 450 hosting partners.

That's right: Zimbra has largely left the SaaS market to its channel partners and hosting providers. Will that change under VMware's ownership? Or will VMware promote Zimbra to SaaS partners as an alternative to Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS)?

Out on Zimbra's corporate blog the company pledged: "First and foremost, we want to reassure our community, customers and partners that we stay 100% committed to our mission."

Zimbra also noted:
In just five years, Zimbra has grown to become one of the largest email and collaboration providers in the world with Microsoft and IBM, totaling more than 55 million paid mailboxes at over 150 thousand organizations worldwide – that’s upwards of 80% year-over-year growth.
That's big-time growth. And much of it involved 450 SaaS and hosting partners that offer Zimbra to their end-customers.

No doubt, there's a small business angle here, too. In the VMware-Zimbra news announcement, VMware notes:
Zimbra is a leading open source email and collaboration solution with over 55 million mailboxes.  As an independent Yahoo! product division, Zimbra achieved 2009 mailbox growth of 86% overall and 165% among small and medium business customers.
If you're a small MSP taking a look at Exchange Online, Google Apps, Zoho and other SaaS-driven email systems there's a new game in town: VMware and Zimbra.
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