VMware (NYSE: VMW) is hoping to pave the path to cloud messaging and collaboration with the launch of Zimbra 8.0 and the solution's updated cloud manageability and e-mail, calendaring and contacts management features. This latest release follows closely on the heels of last quarter's announcement of the launch of Zimbra 7.2, which made both S/MIME encryption and signing e-mail protection native to the platform.

Zimbra, formerly an independent open source leader on The VAR Guy's Top 50 Open Source Companies list before going through acquisitions by Yahoo! in 2007 and then VMware in 2010, has tried to give Microsoft Outlook and Exchange a run for their money over the last several years. It's had its share of successes, including the recently formed partnership between VMware and EarthLink for use of the open source e-mail system.

With version 8.0, Zimbra is stressing simplified, out-of-the-box integrations with unified communications (UC) products from Cisco Systems (NASDAQ: CSCO) and Mitel. As part of the stronger integration, Zimbra has included various features that UC users have come to expect in their solutions -- click-to-call, voice mail, presence and chat. All of those features finally are available in Zimbra's web client.

For channel partners dealing in Cisco or Mitel UC in addition to Zimbra, the latest version of the platform provides that extra bit of integration value, but the folks at Zimbra also are hoping 8.0 helps partners enable customers to migrate to cloud messaging and collaboration -- a growing area as more businesses of all sizes start to think long and hard about how their overall UC strategies can fit within a cloud framework.

Zimbra is trying to entice end users by showcasing the personal cloud options that make it possible to manage contacts, e-mail and calendars from any device. That's hardly anything new to consumers, particularly Google Gmail and Android users who have had the ability for some time to access all of those features from their smartphones, laptops, tablets and just about every other Internet-enabled device on the planet. Zimbra has also added the ability to tie Google calendaring right into version 8.0.

From a corporate and enterprise architecture standpoint, though, Zimbra is likely to have something over Google, but at the same time, it's going toe-to-toe with Microsoft and its -email products, including Office 365, which just became much more channel-friendly.