Tag Archives | zimbra

Zimbra – Backup & Recovery

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Over the past several months, I have been working with various NetApp employees and contractors to develop what we believe is a first for Zimbra; application-consistent backup & recovery. For NetApp and its customers backup & recovery is always very important and now you have one more reason to trust NetApp for your Zimbra workloads.

It’s an interesting coincidence that my first exposure to NetApp and Zimbra came at about the same time, as the company I worked at in Tokyo decided to purchase a FAS3040 filer for both e-mail and shared file storage. One of my first tasks in that implementation was to set-up iSCSI LUNs for the Zimbra installation to use. With the help of a contractor, we implemented Zimbra on those backend LUNs and everything worked quite well. The one thing that I always would have liked would have been automated and space-efficient backups, but alas I had to script the backups from scratch much like we did with many of our plethora of open source applications.

Well, the day has come when we no longer need to consume valuable shared storage space or develop scripts from scratch. Leveraging NetApp Snap Creator, along with our upcoming Zimbra plug-in you can now perform full and incremental backups of multi-node Zimbra environments via NetApp snapshots and all of the benefits that go along with those. These will, of course, require no dowtime to the Zimbra application and will be application, not just crash consistent! In addition, given the similarities between Zimbra and Octopus, this plugin will allow backup and restore of VMware Octopus as well, another first!

We have recently completed the initial testing and are about to go BETA with this plug-in. This, along with other Snap Creator related demos and labs, will be a highlight of our content at VMworld this year. I for one am very excited to see the dream of application-consistent Zimbra backups come true and very much looking forward to showing customers, partners and others what’s possible with Zimbra and NetApp Snap Creator.

Thanks as always for reading. I’m looking forward to seeing you all very soon!

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Zimbra 8.0 – BETA

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VMware has just announced the availability of the next version of the Zimbra Collaboration Server, at least in BETA form. Version 8 will have several new, compelling features to help further convince those looking to make a move away from Microsoft Exchange or other e-mail & collaboration platforms toward Zimbra.

Here are the highlights:

  • End Users Seamlessly Connect to Their Personal Clouds: Zimbra features a rich, browser based client and can be accessed on a wide range of devices and platforms.
  • Integrated Unified Communications: Unified communications solutions from Cisco and others are now built-in to the Zimbra client for seamless voice communication.
  • Manage IT-as-a-Service: You have the choice of deploying Zimbra behind your firewall or hosting at a growing number of service providers, instantly and without complex implementation or configuration requirements.
  • Streamline Administration: Zimbra inherits a lot of the high availability, disaster recovery and backup features of VMware and leverages those to simplify day-to-day administration requirements.

For more information go to: www.zimbra.com

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VMware Zimbra vs. Microsoft Exchange – Follow-up

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I am truly excited by the response to my Zimba vs. Exchange post from a couple weeks back. I would like to thank my readers and especially those who commented for their valued feedback. The response thus far shows that there is definite interest in alternatives to Exchange for e-mail and collaboration needs at various industries and organization types.

I believe is important to be open to competing viewpoints as well, and it is this type of interaction that causes software organizations to sit up and take notice at what they are doing right or wrong and how they can improve to expand their offerings to a wider audience and to improve the customer experience.

That said, I would like to point you to a post here & here co-written by two obvious proponents of Exchange, by the names of Michel de Rooij and Dave Stork. They put forth a rebuttal that can serve as a response (albeit somewhat flawed) to my arguments in favor of Zimbra. The comments on my post, as well as those on their sites, should be reviewed as well, as they provide constructive feedback on the validity of our arguments on both sides of the fence.

I welcome this sort of feedback and look forward to continuing the conversation throughout the Zimbra product life-cycle as well as similar or competing offerings from VMware, Microsoft and their partners.

The fact that I got a response of this magnitude not only shows that there is significant interest in Zimbra, but also that Exchange proponents feel a need to defend their territory proves that Zimbra is on their radar. I think this bodes well for competition in a Microsoft-dominated world! “No publicity is bad publicity”, so they say…

Thanks for reading!

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VMware Zimbra vs. Microsoft Exchange

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Introduction

In this post I would like to propose the idea that VMware Zimbra Collaboration Server can serve as a drop-in replacement for Microsoft Exchange in Enterprise environments of all sizes. I would also propose that Zimbra is better suited for multi-tenant ISP deployments than Exchange. Let’s discuss the pros and cons of Zimbra and give you the background to consider Zimbra for your next e-mail deployment or customer engagement.

Background

Technically, VMware Zimbra is part of VMware’s End-user Computing catalog, but I would also consider it as a good example of a Tier-1 application, once deployed. E-mail is becoming so critical to the operations of any size business that it needs to be designed, implemented and maintained with the same level of care as any other Tier-1 app.

Benefits Overview

That said, the ease with which backup and restore can be performed in Zimbra far outweighs the capabilities of Exchange. A good backup/restore strategy is one of the cornerstones of any Tier-1 app deployment worth its salt. Add to that the fact that Zimbra has orders of magnitude better scaling capabilities than Exchange, all at about 50% of the price, on average.

Storage Benefits

Combine Zimbra with NetApp storage platforms and technologies and you will see even more efficiences around the storage required for backup, attachments, etc. (using NetApp’s deduplication technology) in addition to ease of management. Snapshot technologies allow quick backups of e-mail and attachment data resulting in quick restoration when you run into issues. Cloning technologies (FlexClone) will allow you to reduce time required for upgrades by allowing staff to test upgrades with a live copy of recent production data. Replication technologies (SnapMirror) will allow you to move data backups to remote locations for disaster recovery or remote backup facilities for compliance purposes.

General Comparisons

Here are some other comparisons that can be drawn between the 2 platforms:

Key Features Exchange 2010 ZCS 7.x

Platform Architecture

Core architecture “Extensible Storage Engine (ESE)” is over 20 years old and is a non-modular .edb file which doesn’t separate message and metadata, so is not conducive to tuning. Database availability group (DAG) uses components with a DNA based on Windows failover clustering, but has yet to be proven for large deployments.

Modular architecture offers Web 2.0 features and cloud scalability. Message and metadata are separated to allow granular tuning and optimization flexibility.

Platform Reliability & Robustness

Microsoft is considering moving the storage engine to SQL Server.
Microsoft has yet to prove the robustness of the new architecture.
ZCS leverages a Linux-based operating environment for greater levels of robustness using proven open source components.
Uptime measured in years instead of weeks.

Platform Scalability

Exchange doesn’t support the use of tiered storage, so adding more users is more costly than in Zimbra.

ZCS supports storage tiers and can scale to millions of users at lower cost.

High Availability

DAG only provides mailbox protection, not protection for the Exchange infrastructure.
DAG has a learning curve and only applies to Exchange.

ZCS in conjunction with SRM is a proven, scalable and effective high availability solution.
Companies can leverage their existing HA/DR solution with ZCS.

Platform Extensibility

Recommendation is to use Microsoft’s proprietary shell. SOAP API has limited server access. Outlook add-ins require significant developer effort and are difficult to support.

SOAP API allows server access. Uses the web services framework for client access and Zimlets for integration with 3rd-party services.

Platform Openess

Microsoft is a closed ecosystem. Developers cannot change or extend platform or APIs.

Based on open source code and extensible using open source programming languages.

Support of Open Standard Protocols

Limited support for the SOAP protocol. No support for REST, CalDAV, CardDAV and ICS.

Support of open standard protocols such as SOAP, REST, CalDAV, CardDAV and ICS.

Rebranding

Outlook Web Access has only a single theme in Exchange 2010, so users cannot switch between themes.

Complete re-branding of the client is possible. Ajax web client has feature parity with the desktop client.

Web-client End-user Access

Limited browser support for OWA.

Rich Ajax/HTML web client is supported on a broad range of browsers and platforms.

Mac Desktop

Parity with Outlook.

Zimbra’s desktop client is supported with Mac OS X and has feature parity with the web client.

Linux Desktop & Server

No Outlook client for Linux. No Exchange server for Linux.

Zimbra desktop functions on Linux and has complete feature parity. ZCS server components love the Linux platform.

Mobile Support

Fully supports push using Microsoft’s ActiveSync technology.

Supports ActiveSync push for calendaring and e-mail.

vSamurai’s Take

Zimbra has been a passion of mine since I started using it back in 2006-2007. My previous company had evaluated implementing Exchange, Zimbra and a couple of other solutions. Due to our IT management and staff being huge proponents of Open Source, we decided on the Zimbra solution. I am very glad that we did. To be honest, despite the fact that we had users who were used to the Outlook client, we didn’t have much pushback when we moved to Zimbra as it has full feature parity with Exchange. I expect that your results may be the similar if Zimbra is given a serious look for new e-mail implementations or during hardware/software upgrade cycles in pre-existing implementations of Exchange.

Expect to hear more soon about the ins and outs of deploying Zimbra in your or your customer’s environment. SaaS is here and this is just one part of VMware’s End-user computing strategy, so look for more in the future from them as well.

Update:

Thanks go out to Jim Millard who had a good point on Twitter, which is that I forgot to compare ActiveSync capabilities between Exchange and Zimbra. Well, the good news is that Zimbra Network Edition fully supports ActiveSync capabilities for push of e-mail and calendar appointments.
I use it everyday, in fact, between a Zimbra e-mail account I have set-up in 01.com’s zMailCloud and my iPhone 4. You configure it just as you would an Exchange account on the iPhone (see here). I receive meeting requests that can easily be added to my calendar with automatic reminders as well. You can also deploy Zimbra to work with Blackberry Enterprise Server.

To be sure, these features are only available with the paid Network Edition of Zimbra, however, they are still much less costly than Exchange. Based on my experience, I believe the mobile functionality to at least match that of Exchange, however, I recommend that you look at doing a PoC and ultimately make that decision on your own as your results (as with everything) may vary.

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Basic Zimbra Cloud

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Overview

I was having some issues around my Zimbra implementation just before lunch and I got to thinking… why not do a Zimbra post. Most of my peers in the virtualization and cloud industry at this point either are using Exchange by choice (or by force) or are just starting to investigate the use of Zimbra, since the VMware acquisition. I would like to talk a little bit about how I use Zimbra to help out those looking at deploying it.

Background

My relationship with Zimbra is unique in that my previous company actually started using it officially before they started using VMware. We started at version 4.5 or 5, and the current Zimbra release is 7.1. As part of the role-out at my previous employer, I set-up a Zimbra OSS installation in my home lab environment, and eventually started using it for my custom domain e-mail services. Those that know me know I come from a Red Hat Linux background, having deployed about 100 RHEL servers in my earlier sys admin days. From that, I learned the Red Hat way of setting up LDAP, IMAP, SMTP (Postfix), CLAMAV, SPAMASSASSIN, etc. that make up a fully featured Internet mail server. Although not fully compatible with Exchange, this set-up can provide a flexible e-mail solution for companies on a budget. Coincidentally, these services also form the basis for an installation of Zimbra Collaboration Suite, with the welcome addition of MAPI compliant functionality that adds calendaring and free/busy data which are at the heart of Exchange. This makes Zimbra a drop-in replacement for Exchange, and competition is good!

Infrastructure

I won’t discuss the architecture at my former employer, but I will discuss the architecture in my small installation. I think it’s a rather interesting blend of public and private components that show a simple use of hybrid cloud that others can extrapolate and build upon.

  • My Zimbra server consists of a single RHEL 5 (x64) VM. This machine has 2 vCPUs and 4GB RAM. As Zimbra is heavily reliant on Java, and Java likes lots of memory and no swapping, I reluctantly set a reservation of 4GB on the VM and the performance is more than adequate for my environment. I have been running Zimbra v6.0.x OSS for the past 2 years, and upgraded to 7.1 a couple weeks ago.
  • In addition to the Zimbra server, I have an external mail gateway in Chicago which is provisioned as a VM in the Rackspace Cloud. This server not only relays mail to and from the Zimbra server, but it also performs DNS resolution duties among other things. I have established a VPN between this server and my home lab network in order to get around any firewall restrictions, but also to ensure secure relay of the mail. This VM also has a backup VPN route to my home lab in the US.
  • For redundancy, I also have another Rackspace Cloud VM provisioned in their Dallas DC. This is essentially an exact duplicate of the Chicago VM, also serving DNS and SMTP duties. This VM has a VPN established between itself and my home lab in the US, Japan and also to the other Rackspace Cloud VM. It’s really nice to have this server in a separate physical location, despite it being a VM. The only thing I have to worry about it this configuration is the inter VM (i.e. VPN) traffic, which fortunately amounts to less than $1/mo.
  • In order to relay mail to and from the Zimbra server in a load-balanced fashion, I created 2 DNS MX records with the same priority. This allows incoming mail to arrive at either SMTP server and provides resiliency if one server crashes. I also created 2 DNS A records for the SMTP servers that points to each VM separately, this way when Zimbra has a mail to send it goes to each SMTP server in turn, and will retry if one of the SMTP hosts is crashed or otherwise inaccessible.
  • In order to provide mobile access, I enabled both secure IMAP and secure SMTP on the Zimbra server and then NAT these to the internal hosts behind my firewall. Believe me, it’s nice that I have a static IP for this purpose. Because my ISP allows SMTP and IMAP without issue, I connect directly over SSL from my mobile phone to the Zimbra server and have fully-featured mail access.

Diagram

Diagrammatically, the setup looks something like this:

wygtya_zimbra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary

As you can see, this is a very basic setup but is interesting in that it is a blend of public and private cloud components. One nice thing about this is that if my Zimbra server goes offline or even my entire home Internet connection, the mail will continue to queue at the SMTP servers in Rackspace’s Cloud. Once my site comes back online, the queued mail will start relaying again. All in all this makes a nice basic cloud that you can use as a lab to test out and try various cloud technologies without spending too much coin (about $22/month).

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