What if VMware (NYSE:VMW) and its Zimbra email business countered Microsoft (NYSE:MSFT) and Office 365 -- plus Google Apps? At first that sounds far fetched. Zimbra already is widely available from multiple cloud services providers (CSPs) and third-party hosting companies. But what if Zimbra was available in VMware's new public cloud -- called the vCloud Hybrid Service? Now that could be a game changer.

VMware acquired Zimbra from Yahoo in 2010. By late 2010, VMware was promoting Zimbra as a Microsoft Exchange Server alternative. VMware has continued to make Zimbra enhancements -- and new offline capabilities sound like they are under development. At the same time, some pundits suggest that Zimbra has serious momentum in the government market -- especially vs. Google Apps and Exchange.

Zimbra has a channel-friendly partner strategy that includes VARs as well as CSPs and hosting partners. But here's a big potential twist: What if VMware's new public cloud -- called the vCloud Hybrid Service -- hosted Zimbra for partners and customers? 

Pros and Cons

Hmmm... On the one hand The VAR Guy suspects such a move is not coming. VMware's public cloud focuses on Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). If everything goes as planned, it will emerge as a storage, network and virtualization alternative to Amazon Web Services. 

On the other hand there's likely nothing stopping the Zimbra team from deploying its software atop VMware's new cloud. The one risk would be alienating Zimbra's existing cloud service providers and hosting partners.

Still, succeeding in the cloud industry requires bold moves. Promoting Zimbra on VMware's cloud as a Microsoft Office 365 alternative would certainly qualify as one such bold move...

The bottom line: VMware vCloud Hybrid Service is set for launch on May 21. The VAR Guy will be sure to ask if there are any plans to host Zimbra in that new VMware cloud.