Telligent buys Zimbra from VMware ... to become Zimbra

Combined company to offer enterprise social, cloud email and calendar

Earlier this week, Telligent, an enterprise social tool, announced it had purchased Zimbra, a cloud-based communications platform that had been owned by VMware. The combined company will be known as Zimbra. 

While the deal seems to make sense at first glance, upon further examination there are some interesting questions about it.

Not surprisingly, Telligent CEO Patrick Brandt likes the combination of services the combined company will offer, giving customers traditional and real-time collaboration tools. "Zimbra enables traditional collaboration through features such as email, calendar sharing and address books, while Telligent supports real-time collaboration via chat, social networking, online communities and more," Brandt said in a statement.

Zimbra does give Telligent a broader play across the enterprise with social and other forms of communication, and offers the advantage of providing that more traditional content of email and calendar in the cloud--giving employees access to that information wherever they happen to be.

Telligent on the other hand is not cloud-based and perhaps they can learn from the Zimbra team on how to transform their product for true cloud-based collaboration. It's hard to imagine it working well otherwise. 

Statements from both chief executives emphasized continuity and continued support of the product, as they recognized that customers would be nervous about the transition.

Perhaps that's why the two companies have decided to dump the Telligent brand and become known as Zimbra. Maybe it's an olive branch to customers that the combined company will continue to support and develop Zimbra services.

I wonder what this means for Socialcast, the enterprise social product VMware bought just two years ago. VMware maintained in its statement about this week's deal that it wants to focus on the software-defined data center, hybrid cloud and end-user computing; but whether Socialcast will continue to be part of that end-user piece of the plan remains to be seen. So far, there has been no signal from VMware that it intends to dump Socialcast.

Yet, questions abound. VMware sold Zimbra to a direct competitor of Socialcast. Why not simply combine the two companies in-house if the combination makes so much sense, instead of selling it to a third party.

What's even more curious is that The New York Times Dealbook blog reports that Zimbra announced several financial supporters, including VMware itself, which means that VMware continues to hold a financial stake in the company it sold.

Ultimately, I have to wonder if Telligent is better off with Zimbra than it was without it? I'm not sure customers are clamoring for services like email and calendar when other popular tools fill in that void, or that the two companies are the natural match that they would like everyone to believe--but if perhaps Zimbra can help transition Telligent to the cloud and give it a broader customer base than it had previously, it might work out well.

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