VMware has updated the Zimbra collaboration platform it acquired in 2010, turning it into a cloud-ready service for email and messaging in a direct challenge to Microsoft's Exchange tool.
Zimbra Collaboration Server 8.0, available as a beta now with the full release due later this quarter, also features closer integration with unified communications tools from Cisco and Mitel.
VMWare said the updates would provide a clear path for enterprises looking to move messaging and collaboration to the cloud.
To this end, the new version is available as a virtual software appliance that can be deployed onto either private or public cloud computing infrastructure in as little as ten minutes.
Accessed via a browser, Zimbra 8.0 features a redesigned interface and what VMware calls a "smarter mailbox" to help manage the flow of information from email, calendar, voice and social network channels.
The voice capabilities are delivered through integration with unified communications tools from Cisco and Mitel, including presence indication and click-to-chat support right from the inbox with Cisco's Jabber instant messaging, for example.
This integration can be extended other third party communications platforms, with click-to-call on any phone number, according to VMware.
The fact that Zimbra is delivered as a virtual appliance makes for simpler upgrades and less downtime when migrating mailboxes, while easing administration efforts on IT staff, the firm said.
"Zimbra 8 is designed to make end users more efficient by connecting them with their data while providing IT departments with a simple way to manage the transition to a public or private cloud and help deliver the benefits promised by the post-PC era," said VMware senior director John Robb.
More details on Zimbra Collaboration Server 8.0 are available from the VMware Zimbra website.
Pricing starts at $25 (£16) per user per year for a subscription or $45 (£29) per user for a perpetual licence, with volume discounts.
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