Comcast Deal Puts Zimbra In Big Leagues

Zimbra Web 2.0 e-mail crowd

The two companies, along with integrator HP Services, are building what they're calling the SmartZone communications center for Comcast customers who use the company's full menu of phone, cable modem and cable TV services.

SmartZone, unveiled Monday and slated to start rolling out this year, will give these "Triple Play" customers one landing page to check their e-mail or voice-mail messages and manage a universal address book.

Zimbra CEO Scott Dietzen told CRN the deal is big for his company because it will broaden its exposure to the masses. "Comcast is the No. 2 ISP and in the top handful of Web properities. It's a huge deal for us," he said.

HP Services will implement the system, Dietzen said. Interestingly, HP Services is also a huge Microsoft Exchange partner and implementer. Comcast is also allied with Microsoft on some fronts.

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Plaxo, the online address book service, is part of the SmartZone ecoysystem as well.

Zimbra, which went public with its software last year, is looking to propagate it in consumer and business accounts. The San Mateo, Calif.-based company is testing a Zimbra "appliance" with Rpath, for example.

"The appeal of the software appliance is that it will be a big channel juicer for Zimbra," Dietzen said.

The company has two packages in the works. Basically, Zimbra and Rpath work on a bootable CD, which the user drops into the box for a "clean install."

"There is a Web interface. There's no Linux configuration for the user to muck around with," Dietzen said. "With RPath, we embedded Linux to stream the software updates, and the target for that is most likely SMB companies without Linux admin skills but that still want to run a premium e-mail system."

In addition, there will be a VMware distribution for people who want to try Zimbra by dropping it on a laptop without installation worries, Dietzen added. Another incarnation of that "appliance" would be for large virtual deployments for bigger companies and enterprise service providers, he said.