Here's an interesting twist: Behshad Behnam, a veteran of hosted Exchange and SaaS-centric companies, has joined Open-Xchange to help drive the open source email company's U.S. partner program. Here are the details.

Previously, Behnam held key channel positions at Apptix (a major hosted Exchange provider), DS3 DataVaulting (which Terremark recently acquired) and Parallels (the SaaS platform software provider). Now, Behnam will serve as VP of sales, Americas for Open-Xchange -- which is looking to recruit more VARs, MSPs and service providers into its partner program.

As of December 2010, Open-Xchange has about 150 active channel partners, up from about 80 active partners in December 2009, according to The VAR Guy's second annual Open Source 50 survey (complete survey results will be announced May 2010). And all of Open-Xchange's annual revenues come from channel partners, the company adds.

Behnam brings a rare mix of channel and SaaS experience to Open-Xchange. Previous work at Apptix allowed Behnam to gain rare experience with one of Microsoft's largest hosted Exchange channel partners. And the tour of duty at Parallels should also be noted, since thousands of SaaS software companies and Web hosting firms use Parallels as their base software foundation.

No doubt, Open-Xchange has momentum as an open source email provider. But the company also faces plenty of competition. VMware recently acquired Zimbra, an open source email provider, from Yahoo. Google Apps has also caught on with SaaS resellers. And Microsoft Exchange remains wildly popular -- both as an on-premise solution as well as a SaaS solution available directly from Microsoft (through BPOS) or via hosted Exchange partners like Apptix and Intermedia.

Still, Behnam brings a rather interesting pedigree to Open-Xchange.

Sign up for The VAR Guy’s Newsletter; Webcasts and Resource Center; and via RSS; Facebook;; Twitter and VARtweet.