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Taking Notes: Exchange 2000 Plus One

It used to be said that IBM’s Lotus Domino/Notes was an application platform that happened to provide e-mail, while Microsoft Exchange was an e-mail platform that was trying to become an application platform.

However, since the release of Exchange Server 2000, that perception has been changing, say industry observers. “The gap's narrowed, and both [Exchange and Domino/Notes] are truly application platforms that also do e-mail and collaboration," says Don Montgomery, director of product marketing for United Messaging, Inc., of West Chester, Pa., which provides outsourced messaging and collaboration services to large companies.

In fact, it looks like Exchange is gaining traction against its old Domino/Notes nemesis. (Domino is the server component and Notes the client.) Exchange leads Domino/Notes deployments by a two-to-one ratio, according to David Ferris, president of Ferris Research of San Francisco. He estimates that in 2001 so far, Exchange has about 77 million deployed seats, compared to 35 million for Domino/Notes. While IBM/Lotus say they have deployed 78 million seats, Ferris attributes this to "sales of upgrades and undeployed licenses."

messaging seat deployments
Ferris Research on percentage of seats deployed on different messaging platforms.

But it’s unlikely that new Exchange users are coming over from Notes/Domino environments, Ferris points out. That’s because there are thousands of applications build on Domino/Notes. Such applications typically are document management, collaborative, sales force, and communications solutions. These application-building capabilities may be keeping Notes end-users loyal, he says.

“Exchange was not good for building workflow applications," Ferris says. "Microsoft has brought out a series of tools to help you do that, and has worked with third parties. But Notes still remains a richer environment by way of workflow applications. In fact, when companies have stayed with Notes, it's because they've got a big investment in Notes applications. It's too much effort, or impractical, to be able to port them over to an Exchange environment.”

While Exchange has been gaining ground and functionality, many companies took a wait-and-see attitude after it was first released in October 2000. “When Exchange 2000 was released a year ago, there was a lot of buzz,” says Montgomery. “The solid Microsoft shops started to talk about it, and started to make inquiries about it. We were starting to get requests to do upgrades or migrations, particularly from cc:Mail to Exchange 2000.” United Messaging migrated its own Exchange customer base from version 5.5 to 2000 in February of this year. The company also offers Domino/Notes and iPlanet messaging server to customers.

The “buzz” died down after the initial hype of the product launch, Montgomery continues. “There was a hesitation to actually make the move in the first six to nine months after release.” This was occurring for two reasons, Montgomery says. First, running Exchange 2000 requires an upgrade to Microsoft’s Windows 2000 and Active Directory environments – not a trivial migration. “People need to implement Windows 2000 at the server, to do that, they need a Windows 2000 strategy for the entire enterprise.” Even with Windows 2000 implemented, Active Directory presents another set of challenges. “You would need to embark on a whole directory strategy for the enterprise,” says Montgomery. “A lot of companies haven’t had the resources to do that. They were consuming their IT resources on their e-commerce and Web initiatives. People didn't have the time to take people off of those projects and say 'carve me out a brand-new directory strategy, and carve me out an upgrade strategy to Windows 2000, because we're going to Exchange 2000.' "

Another issue is the fact that Exchange 2000 is not an upgrade from Exchange 5.5 – rather, it’s almost an entirely new application, says Montgomery. “It's almost all new code. It uses a lot of the objects, and same kernel [as Exchange 5.5], but for all intents and purposes, Exchange 2000 is a version 1.0 release. Corporate enterprises, particularly the large ones who are relying on their e-mail and Exchange to do other applications in public folders, just couldn't take on the risk of what they properly viewed a s a version 1.0 release.”

The release of Service Pack 1 for Exchange Server in June – which took out the initial bugs and enhanced the functionality of the product – has made IT directors more comfortable with the product. “When Service Pack 1 was out and began to get tested, we started to see demand increase,” says Montgomery. “People started to make their move, since they knew that Exchange is more robust, with some bug fixes in place. Plus, many companies are further along in their directory and operating system strategies.”

Since that point, demand for Exchange 2000 among United Messaging customers has been running four-to-one or five-to-one against Domino/Notes, he adds.

While Domino/Notes may still have more functionality, Exchange may be overtaking it simply because it bears the Microsoft brand, according to Ferris. “The default now is to go with Microsoft products. If Microsoft's got a reasonably good offering in an area, then the default is to go with it – it's the path of least resistance,” he observes. Long term, however, many companies may opt to move messaging operations to outside services. “Exchange requires a great deal of skills to maintain, as does Notes,” says Ferris. "Senior managers may want to go with hosted solutions, which may offer solutions using non-Microsoft software.”

About the Author

Joe McKendrick is an independent consultant and author specializing in surveys, technology research and white papers. He's a contributing writer for ENTmag.com.

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