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Zimbra's Latest Add Covers Your E-Mail Backs

Ever lose an e-mail? It might be frustrating on a personal level, but on an enterprise compliance level, it might well be illegal.

With the various compliance regulations requiring enterprises to retain and be able to provide e-mail, the need for online archival and discovery of e-mail is clear. Zimbra is taking advantage of this need with the addition of an archiving and discovery feature to its Zimbra Collaboration Suite. The add-on is intended to help facilitate both compliance and legal search needs.

"We really think archiving, compliance policy and discovery are coming together inside of the online mail infrastructure," Zimbra President and CTO Scott Dietzen told internetnews.com.

"The problem with having two solutions is that you potentially get inconsistent management of policy. It doesn't make sense to implement policy once online and a second time in the archive environment. Only the online environment can respond in real time and actually prevent actions that are inappropriate."

The Zimbra archiving and discovery solution is an Ajax-based interface that allows users to search and discover messages across multiple mailboxes. And it's not limited to just Zimbra mailboxes. Dietzen noted that it can read Microsoft Exchange, IBM Lotus Domino and Novell Groupwise mailboxes, as well. The solution is also able to search inside of over 200 types of commonly used attachments.

For storage, Zimbra has included a Hierarchical Storage Management (HSM) and automated content aging system, which is similar in practice to an Information Lifecycle Management (ILM) approach for keeping older data on less expensive media.

In terms of media that Zimbra Archiving and Discovery supports, Dietzen said the solution will work across whatever enterprises have in their storage environments today.

"We do testing with SAN , NAS and locally attached, as well as iSCSI and even tape drives," Dietzen said. "From a Zimbra perspective it's all melded together in our volume management system so you can have an extremely large storage farm under a Zimbra archive."

The traditional problem of large volume search though has been speed. It's a problem that Zimbra is attempting to solve by decoupling the metadata (the message information that users would need for a search) from the message data itself.

Dietzen said by decoupling the metadata, messages can be stored on tape but users can still search for messages that meet a particular criteria.

Going a step further for lawyers involved in the process of discovery, the solution can then take the search results and populate a separate Zimbra mailbox that is accessible online.

"The fact that we can deliver exactly the set of messages that meets a discovery criteria virtually instantaneously and then partition in a way that lawyers can have full access online is a very powerful feature, " Dietzen added.

The core Zimbra Collaboration Suite is available under both a commercial and an open source-style license. The Archival and Discovery solution is only commercial, and Dietzen said he has no plans to open source the implementation. So someone else could potentially do it.

"The Zimbra licensing model could enable anyone interested in so doing to use the same open source infrastructure behind the Zimbra Collaboration Suite to build a cross-mailbox search for themselves," Dietzen admitted.

With Archival and Discovery in hand, Zimbra is now going to be potentially competing against some of its partners, such as EMC and Symantec/Veritas. Overall, though, Dietzen is looking at the big picture.

"We think longer term that archiving compliance and discovery policy are all going into the critical features of online e-mail systems, and we plan to be competing on that front for a long time to come."