Zimbra’s Commitment to Open Source

As we move forward with our new mission at Zimbra, it’s time to reaffirm our commitment to Open Source software. Open source is part of our DNA at Zimbra. It’s how we started our journey back in 2005 to innovate and bring a next generation email and collaboration platform to the web, mobile and desktop. From our early days, we worked with the broader open source and developer community to develop our own Javascript toolkit as well as to help improve the speed of modern web applications. Now, as we move forward to create a unified suite of social and collaboration tools, Open Source will be at the heart of what we build.

Our Code

Probably goes without saying, if you’re going to be Open Source, so goes the code. We will continue to invest in our Open Source Edition of the Zimbra Collaboration Server both in binary and source formats. Our hope is that hackers and system admins alike can benefit from the work that we’ve done. Learn from the problems we solve…and our bugs ;)… to go on and solve other problems with your own unique solutions.

Our Community

This is an area where we feel we need to double down on. If our code is at the heart of what we do, our community is our pulse. To everyone that uses our software, files bugs, contributes code, gets upset when something doesn’t work, and likes us on Facebook when it does…Thank you! You are the reason why we do this and we owe you so much. Things we are committed to doing:

  • Communicating our future plans and Roadmap.
  • Responding to your questions in a timely manner.
  • Listening to your feedback and letting the voice of the community be heard in our product plans.
  • Building a living knowledge base that’s easy to discovery information and people to connect with.
  • Making it easier for hackers, customers, and partners to contribute to the software to build a better Zimbra.

Investing in a Broad, Open Source Ecosystem

The most important commitment we have to Open source is our energy. Our software influences and connects many users around the world. Our energy however, has the ability to positively influence so much more by our contributions to the broader Open Source community. We’ll continue to invest our energy and resources to contribute to other great projects including OpenLDAP, Jetty, NGINX, Postfix, Apache Lucene, Apache Solr, and more. In our next release of Zimbra we will be adding MariaDB to the list of amazing projects and people that we work with!

Next Steps and Open Questions

There are still a few open questions that we have as we reaffirm our commitment to Open Source, but we are committed to answering them.

  1. Should we consider changing our Open Source license to a license that is more commonly used?
  2. What conferences can our developers and leaders attend to help advance critical open source projects and participate in the community?
  3. As we enable public and private cloud offerings built using Zimbra software, what virtualization and cloud stacks should we build on and contribute to?

This is what Open Source means to the Zimbra team and it establishes our commitment going forward. We’re as excited and passionate as we’ve ever been in our mission to build something big…and to help others do the same!  Please let us know if you have feedback on our commitment to open source and the community going forward.

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17 Responses to Zimbra’s Commitment to Open Source

  1. roderickm August 2, 2013 at 1:42 PM #

    I appreciate your reiterating Zimbra’s commitment to open source, and to open discussions with users and customers. The recent news of another acquisition brings uncertainty and speculation, so I encourage you and your team to be deliberate and transparent in your communication. Hearing from the Zimbra team directly will settle many concerns.

    As for the open source license, I believe using a custom open source license inhibits adoption to some extent, though it’s difficult to say exactly how much. Some organizations are more careful about reviewing licenses, and it’s much easier if the license has already been considered and approved. As you might expect, the Zimbra Public License isn’t even in the Top 20 open source licenses.

    Which license to choose? That depends… What are your corporate objectives in licensing Zimbra openly? I’d wager that there are more popular existing licenses that would align with your corporate aims and be better understood by the community.

    What do you want from the open source community? Code contribution to ZCS? Integrations of ZCS with other business software? Zimlets and mashups? Testing pre-releases? Wiki pages and documentation? Freemium use that builds awareness of Network Edition features? Be straightforward about what you want, and what you plan to keep proprietary. Some will whine that you’re not giving away everything for free, but those people misunderstand both commerce and open source communities. Draw clear boundaries for what is free/open and what is not, and stick to them.

    As a Network Edition customer that also maintains a personal OSE install for family and friends, I’m interested in seeing integrations and mashups become more accessible. SOAP, XML and Java were the way to do things years ago, but REST, JSON, and Javascript are the way things are now. It matters more than you might think. There are plenty of people that dreamed up a cool Zimlet or mashup, tried to grok Zimbra’s way of doing things, then simply gave up.

    As a former product manager at Digium, The Asterisk Company, I still have a soft spot for what should have been an amazing mashup between Zimbra and Asterisk. I hope your team will either create, or equip others to create, a Zimbra Voice Vendor for Asterisk. The UC Integration wikipage assumes knowledge of Zimbra’s internals, which is antithetical to a web API.

    I’d be interested to see Zimbra become a collection of OpenStack services, though I admit there are many hurdles to that technically and politically. But hey, you asked.

    One more thing: please keep the Product Management Portal in place. I refer to it often and have used it as a reference for the way other open source projects should openly manage a feature roadmap. Bravo.

    Again, thanks for the reassuring blog post. I hope you and others will keep it up during this time of transition.

    • Jon Dybik August 5, 2013 at 8:47 AM #

      This is great feedback @roderickm!

  2. John Speno August 2, 2013 at 3:58 PM #

    Get your code into git for easier public consumption. Make sure there are branches for all versions under development. Put it on GitHub. Consider accepting pull requests.

  3. Zimbraguy August 3, 2013 at 10:18 AM #

    I was a day away from signing the VMWare VSPP agreement to offer Zimbra Network Edition when news broke about Zimbra’s sale. I have since shifted to the OpenSource version, so this post is reassuring.

    I second the request for a more modern API that will make a Zimbra-Asterisk mashup more easily possible. I mean, it’s incredible that even CommuniGate offers full-fledged UC whereas Zimbra, with its superior email and collaboration platform (my personal view) just got on to the bandwagon. The default integration in 8.0 with Cisco’s and Mitel’s proprietary and pricey UC platforms wasn’t a great advertisement or affirmation of Zimbra’s open source roots.

    • Jon Dybik August 5, 2013 at 9:12 AM #

      UC is definitely an important part of our vision for building a unified suite of collaboration tools with an integrated experience across email and social. We’ve already started doing some work with WebRTC and see it as an important project to enable voice and video for web apps. I would also check out eZuce. They’re OpenUC software integrates with Zimbra and is the commercial version of SIPFoundry sipXecs.

  4. Kevin Henrikson August 3, 2013 at 12:50 PM #

    Nice post Jon. Looking forward to Zimbra re-engaging in OSS. A big step would be to invest in making the source easy to build on at least the supported platforms.

  5. David Killingsworth August 4, 2013 at 11:22 PM #

    I want to re-iterate everything “roderickm” said above.

  6. Laurent Bounin August 5, 2013 at 6:13 AM #

    1. Should we consider changing our Open Source license to a
    license that is more commonly used?

    It depends on your objectives. It would certainly be easier for the community.

    2. What conferences can our developers and leaders attend to help advance critical open source projects and participate in the community?

    Your developers should attend conferences on Open Source projects in which Zimbra is investing such as :
    LDAPcon, Apachecon, MySQLconnect, OpenStack Summit

    Your leaders should attend :
    OSCON in the US, Solutions Linux in Europe, S2LQ in Canada, FOSDEM Europe.

    3. As we enable public and private cloud offerings built using Zimbra software, what virtualization and cloud stacks should we build on and contribute to?

    Join Rackspace, Paypal, Intel etc. and invest in OpenStack

    Good luck!

    • Jon Dybik August 5, 2013 at 9:15 AM #

      @Laurent, these are definitely conferences on our list as we plan our events schedule.

  7. Bruce Wolfe August 5, 2013 at 3:21 PM #

    Yes, use GPLv2 or better.
    Please, please support DRBD/Corosync/Pacemaker. If you are committed to FLOSS then you must support Linbit and their work, too, otherwise suffer the hypocrisy.
    Yes, use a FLOSS virtual machine. VMWare’s everchanging pricing structure puts many of us small businesses and nonprofits at a major hardship.
    Create your own web appliance built on FLOSS.

  8. dave kempe August 5, 2013 at 4:10 PM #

    As for virtualisation tech, I would prefer a containerisation approach – LXC rather than a virtual machine one. Containers allow for better density on physical hardware, a more flexible approach to managing resources, real disk I/O etc etc. Backups are easier to manage. It wouldn’t be hard to make an LXC template, and it is in the mainline kernel. Some simple contributions could make a Zimbra LXC combo easy to deploy multi-server. Our current cluster of 20 servers runs on OpenVZ which is replaced by LXC, even though we are VSPP (perhaps for not much longer). No reason you couldn’t support LXC and KVM for people who are using KVM. KVM is harder to backup tho, and has more overhead, and is more difficult to manage.

  9. Majid August 6, 2013 at 2:26 AM #

    Hello Zimbra,

    There are too many opensource tools that developed for zimbra for many reasons the most favorite is zpush!
    I think this could be nice to integrate this free available OpenSource tools in Zimbra OpenSource Edition?

    Thank you very much for clarify your opinion about feature of OpenSource and zimbra opensource edition, Keep doing good job guys

  10. Zimbraguy August 10, 2013 at 10:24 AM #

    @ Jon Dybik, thank you for the link to eZuce. I had no idea something like this was already available. I was considering the AnyMeeting Zimlet, but eZuce seems more integrated with Zimbra. Thanks, once again.

  11. Rich Schmitt August 30, 2013 at 7:24 AM #

    I second the comment on git and the comment on making it easier to build. We maintain our own version of the open source distro under git. git’s branching, and history is much easier to understand and manage then p4, plus it’s much easier to get contributions for the community if you’re using git.

    The build is very complicated. And depends on custom builds of many third party tools. This is kind of hackish.

    For what license to release under, well, my preference is bsd or apache. Next to that, I’d keep the zimbra license. My least favorite open source license would be GPL, particularly if zimlets would end up being governed by gpl. This would have the effect of squashing innovation on features. Some deployments of zimbra are likely to want to provide some differentiation. GPL would make that difficult.

    Definitely agree with OpenStack as the cloud technology. This will hold the mindshare in Linux.

  12. Enrico Weigelt, metux IT service August 30, 2013 at 7:50 AM #

    Hi folks,

    as John Speno already mentioned, an proper SCM is the center of any good OSS/Community project. The current P4 setup clearly doens’t work for the community – you can’t even get the full tree (due to the currently configured limits), nor are there any (publically accessible) reference points for the current releases (release tags). The least thing you should do is deploying P4-GitFusion to give full (readonly) access _including_ complete history.
    Otherwise you’ll seldomly get any code contributions.

    Another important point that needs to be done is the build system:
    It’s extremely complex and hard to understand. A plain hierachy of _well-designed_ Makefiles should make it much easier.

    In the next steps I’d drop the bundled 3rdparty libraries and use those from the operating system instead. And provide packages for different distros (and distro releases) – setting up a proper build infrastructure really isn’t a big deal. (@Jon: feel free to call me anytime if you need some help :)).


  13. Gervase Markham September 2, 2013 at 6:10 AM #

    In terms of copyleft scope, the Mozilla Public License 2 is the closest thing to the ZPL. The major differences is that the MPL 2 requires contributors to grant a patent licence to patents they hold which are implemented by the contributions they make, and there’s no requirement for disputes to be resolved in Texas.

    If you are interested in using the MPL 2, I’m the first point of contact at Mozilla for MPL questions – do get in touch.



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