Zimbra CMO on being a great guardian of open source's three C's

Zimbra's Olivier Thierry talks about the three C's that open source firms must support, the need to be market driven in tech, and how his firm's solutions address security and data privacy issues.

United States Botanic Garden (Maryland)
Photo courtesy of The United States Botanic Garden

A firm providing open source solutions, said Zimbra Chief Marketing Officer Olivier Thierry, needs to be a custodian of the three C's: contribution, community, and creativity. Communities are like gardens, explained Thierry -- they need to be tended.

Zimbra CMO Olivier Thierry
Image courtesy of Zimbra

Zimbra is a provider of open source email, calendar, and collaboration software headquartered in Frisco, Texas. I recently had an email Q&A interview with Thierry about open source trends, Zimbra's commitment to open source, and his role as CMO.

Thierry began work as CMO at Zimbra in the spring of 2014. He believes it is important for tech companies to have market-driven focus, and sees his role as enabling a market-driven culture at Zimbra. A veteran of 30 years in the tech business, I also asked him what he still finds useful in the current dynamic environment.

Zimbra released in June 2014 the Version 8.5 beta for its collaboration solution and announced its decision to add Open Source Initiative (OSI) licenses to the 8.5 release. In a company blog, Zimbra wrote about the licensing shift that "we are absolutely excited about this change" and that making "our source code more accessible" to developers has been "our goal all along."

TechRepublic: What in your view are the most important trends in open source?

Olivier Thierry: There are several trends that mix different go-to-market styles and approaches; ultimately, I still think it's all about being a great custodian of the three C's: community, contribution, and creativity, and how they form a circle of open source life. It needs to start with a compelling contribution (project), which is put into a community, which then engenders widespread utilization and creative contribution, and so on. Communities are also like gardens. They must be tended in order to flourish.

TechRepublic: Having joined Zimbra as CMO in April, how do you see your role? What do you most want to accomplish?

Olivier Thierry: I believe it is important for tech companies to be market driven. This differs from sales or technology driven, and so I see my role as driving a market-driven culture from product requirements through to partner and customer enablement and adoption. We build products not because they are functionally cool or satisfy the needs of a customer sale, but because they address the needs of the broader market. Done right, the first two elements happen as well.

TechRepublic: Based on Zimbra's work with its public sector clients, what can you share about government adoption of open source?

Olivier Thierry: After I joined Zimbra, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that we have over 1,000 government agencies around the globe that trust Zimbra for their daily collaboration needs. Trust is the key word here. In many countries outside the US, government and public sector agencies have an "open source first" policy. Add to that the desire to have private cloud deployments and security transparency through open source code validation, and it is easy to see why it's a booming sector for us.

TechRepublic: Forrester (June 2014) writes that Zimbra's product strategy is increasingly focused on a "new integrated worker experience" looking to "break down barriers" between knowledge worker applications. Could you elaborate?

Olivier Thierry: It's about eliminating the swivel chair user experience of having to use multiple tools in different contexts to get one's job done. It seems completely natural for us to have seamless integration within calendars, tasks, and email. Many applications integrate into business workflows to enhance collaboration, productivity, and user experience. Some applications are more social, like chat, forums, groups, and wikis; but, some are more traditional, like unified communications or integrations that drive regulatory compliance in and around unified collaboration. The point is to reduce tool clutter and context switching.

TechRepublic: In today's rapidly changing business environment, what elements of your 30-year tenure in the technology industry do you find most useful?

Olivier Thierry: I guess with a lot of years in the tech industry, I don't necessarily have to use Google to look up things as I actually have the relevant experience! All kidding aside, the elements that I rely most upon are:

  • Systems development methodologies, in particular, Agile;
  • The culture of international business;
  • Different go-to-market models, in particular, commercial open source;
  • Market-driven product development; and
  • Finally, like all good marketers, automation tools, PowerPoint and Excel.

TechRepublic: What was Zimbra's goal in moving to OSI-approved licenses with the release of Zimbra Collaboration 8.5 last month?

Olivier Thierry: There were two main goals. First, to foster greater contribution from the community with a license that is familiar to open source proponents. And the second was to move to a stronger open source standard that protects both Zimbra and contributors through stronger copyleft enforcement.

TechRepublic: How has your engagement with the open source community changed since the OSI license announcement?

Olivier Thierry: It's just in the process of being introduced. We are currently in beta with 8.5 and general availability (GA) is just around the corner. To date, we have received very positive feedback and comments through social media and on our forums. So, I'd say "so far so good." But the real proof is yet to come.

TechRepublic: What kind of traction and feedback are you seeing with Zimbra Collaboration 8.5?

Olivier Thierry: As I mentioned above, it's early; the beta feedback has been really strong and positive. We are pleased with the feedback we have received on the quality, stability, and security of the code base. Too often it is easy to get enamored with feedback on the new and cool features we are releasing and forget that, at the same time, we are enhancing a platform that has deployments with millions of users. So, "rock solid" is very compelling feedback.

TechRepublic: How do Zimbra's solutions address security and data privacy issues?

Olivier Thierry: Security is addressed at multiple levels through:

  • Prior to software being released, third-party security audits ensure that we address all known or discovered vulnerabilities;
  • A responsive security center addresses new threats like the Heartbleed bug, for which we were the first of the big collaboration vendors to issue a patch within hours of detection;
  • Code transparency through open source;
  • Existing integration with leading security vendors for AV and AS gateways;
  • Integration with directory services for identity enforcement; and
  • Zimbra developed encryption.

Data privacy is addressed through the ability of customers to deploy Zimbra software on their premises (private cloud) or choose one of our hundreds of cloud providers around the globe. This ensures data privacy is maintained through clear data residency within geographic and/or corporate boundaries.

TechRepublic: What are your firm's major goals over the next year?

Olivier Thierry: We will drive increased revenue and profitability by:

  • Introducing new market-driven products;
  • Innovating and unifying Zimbra Social, Zimbra Sync and Share, and Zimbra Collaboration in ways that lead the market in innovation and delight our customers and partners;
  • Delivering an enhanced user experience with our mobile-first strategy; and
  • Continuing to deliver increased levels of security and security responsiveness.

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