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Microsoft's curious infatuation with Zimbra, redux

Microsoft, by its own admission, thinks that Zimbra is superior to it.

Wow. I had no idea when I stumbled across Microsoft's internal positioning against Zimbra just how little Microsoft feels there is to recommend its Exchange 2007 software against Zimbra. I'm not exaggerating. The best Microsoft can come up with to slam Zimbra falls into three buckets:

  1. Zimbra is a small company.
  2. Zimbra doesn't integrate as tightly with Microsoft technology as Microsoft's Exchange does.
  3. Zimbra only offers Exchange-to-Zimbra migration.

I don't know about you, but I'm having a hard time getting myself pumped up to go fight the good fight against Zimbra after that battle cry. When the best Microsoft can say for itself is that its technology is incestuous and that it's a big company, it's time to look for alternatives.

Speaking of which, Microsoft lists several Zimbra strengths that sound much more compelling than its defense of Exchange 2007:

  • The open-source-software components [used by Zimbra] are proven solutions by themselves, many with large existing user bases (MySQL, OpenLDAP, Apache, PHP, SpamAssassin).

  • Its' [sic] class of service architecture allows for simple tiered access to services.

  • Searching via their Web interface is fast and robust (AJAX query builder).

  • The Verity HTML converter allows for fast rendering of 200 documents to HTML.

  • Zimlets, can provide a more interactive user experience compared to the Microsoft equivalent of SmartTags.

  • The Documents solution provides integrated wiki-document sharing with powerful embedded document features.

  • The AJAX interface is pleasing and has a "wow" [The wow is now?] factor due to speed and Zimlets. Additionally, its' [sic] interface is identical across Internet Explorer/Firefox/Opera.

In short, we, the Microsoft Exchange team, sorely wish that we would have developed Zimbra, because the only thing we've got going for us is incumbency.

Zimbra, by the way, writes a persuasive response to Microsoft's weak attempt at a Zimbra smack down. On Microsoft's weaknesses, Zimbra notes:

  • Exchange's core kernel was designed in early 1990s

    The architecture is not modular (requires installation of mailbox server on each physical server albeit the ability to assign "roles") and cannot scale to growing messaging user-base and gigabyte mailbox sizes without significant investments in training and hardware [If you've worked with other Microsoft technologies, this will sound familiar. Microsoft scalability generally means "more hardware...lots more"]

  • Exchange subscribes to proprietary interface to retain significant control over customer experience, while creating substantial reliance on Microsoft

  • Microsoft's agenda to progress its [Windows] business has resulted in lack of compelling support for Mac and Linux based products, non-Windows mobile devices and browsers, thereby limiting end-user choice in an otherwise diverse ecosystem

  • Exchange 2007 is based on Microsoft Windows platform that is plagued with security issues that UNIX-based platforms are not.

    Arno Edelman, Microsoft's European business security product manager, recently said "Microsoft is not a security company. Security is important, but it's just a little part of Microsoft." [I feel comforted.]

  • Many enterprises that have run Microsoft's Exchange Server have reported reliability and uptime issues

    Average unscheduled downtime of 4 hours/month is not uncommon. [This is] primarily due to the difficulty and complexity of managing Exchange....

  • Exchange 2007 is not extensible and cannot easily integrate third party applications

And the list goes on...and on...and on.

All of which is unfortunate, since Exchange really should be the jewel in Microsoft's crown. It, not Sharepoint, should have been the center of the Microsoft universe, and would have been (I'm told), but for Exchange's antiquated architecture. Exchange will never be much more than it already is, until it's completely rearchitected to be...

...more like Zimbra.

I don't have permission to distribute either Zimbra's or Microsoft's comparison documents. You can get Microsoft's from the link above. I'm not aware of a link to Zimbra's.