In September last year I wrote about Zimbra, which had just introduced its open source email/calendaring application for enterprises. It’s claim to fame was a slick interface using AJAX technologies that reset the bar for Web-based email and calendaring. This week Zimbra is formally launching its mashup platform, now called Zimlets, which allow developers to declaratively integrate data from various sources in the Zimbra Collaboration Suite (ZCS). Among the preconfigured Zimlets are maps (Google and Yahoo), Alexa, Amazon, salesforce.com, Skype and the ZCS calendar and address book.
“We have formalized the API, so you don’t need to write declarative AJAX code. You can hook up to any data source, such as taking a calendar appointment for a meeting in Philadelphia and dropping a weather or Zimlet on it to check the weather or a airline Zimlet to check flight status,” Zimbra CEO Satish Dharmaraj told me.
Dragging an email over an SMS Zimlet
The Zimlet integration templates can be configured as 'panel items' or as 'content objects.' With panel items, users can drag elements, such as email messages and contacts, onto them and then take actions based on the options baked into the template. Content objects, such as events, package tracking numbers, URLs, addresses and phone numbers within email messages, contacts and calendars, can be linked to relevant services such as maps and telephony services. For example, right-clicking on a purchase order could include workflow options for approval, rejection or other routing.
Zimbra’s code is open source, and Dharmaraj fully expects competitors, including established players like Scalix and Gmail, to offer Zimlet-like mashup capabilities. “The whole thing about open source is that you cannot take your eye off of innovation—we have to keep innovating, so we are already thinkng beyond Zimlets,” he said. “We aren’t competing with Exchange and Lotus Notes—our biggest competitor is our own open source distribution,” Dharmaraj added.
Zimbra’s ZCS edition, which is coming out of beta this month according to Dharmaraj, supports multiple OS clients and server platforms, and is priced at $28 per mailbox per year, including support services. Dharmaraj said that Zimbra has a “double-digit” mumber of customers and will announce distribution and partner agreements for its server-based suite. A mashup with Rearden Commerce, a Web services platform for business service requests, would make Zimbra a compelling proposition. Zimbra is well funded and has experienced management, which will be helpful given the challenge in weaning businesses off of Exchange and Notes as their primary email solution.