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SAN FRANCISCO -- Messaging experts told LinuxWorld Conference & Expo attendees last week that fear of service disruption, functionality loss and commitment to something other than Exchange keeps enterprises tied to Microsoft.
Worse yet, this trepidation exists despite dissatisfaction with Exchange performance, security, reliability, cost and lock-in to Microsoft licensing and its upgrade schedule.
"Any organization of any size and with any preexisting messaging technologies can migrate to Linux," said Julie Hanna Farris, founder of Scalix Corp. of San Mateo, Calif. "Migrating to Linux-based messaging can be as or more cost-effective than any upgrade to your existing system."
Experts presenting several workshops on Linux-based messaging said lower price and better performance equal lower total cost of ownership than Exchange. Also affecting TCO are the ease of Linux administration and Linux's reliability, which cuts long-range costs by reducing the number of administrators needed.
"Exchange has the reputation of being unreliable, insecure, expensive and not scalable," said Richi Jennings, an independent consultant.
The experts also identified other advantages that Linux offers like hardware independence, a flexible open platform and no vendor lock-in.
"With Linux, you can change hardware without fear of making your existing messaging applications obsolete," Farris said.
Most major vendors have their own messaging offerings. IBM offers Lotus Domino 6.5 on Linux that supports all client types, as well as Lotus Notes, Microsoft Outlook, and Domino Web Access. Domino Web Access and the new Lotus Workplace Messaging products are also alternatives to Exchange, said Ed Brill, senior manager, IBM Lotus Software.
Novell, meanwhile, sells SuSE Linux Open Exchange server and GroupWise e-mil and collaboration suite on Linux.
"Customers want to adapt solutions to fit their environments," said Ed Anderson, vice president of product marketing and management, Nterprise Business Unit, Novell, Inc. Trying to adapt a Microsoft product gets messy, he said. "Open source forces the industry to provide pathways to building solutions that meet users' needs."
Scalix sells an e-mail and calendaring suite built on Hewlett-Packard's old OpenMail product. Scalix 9.0 features new cross-platform calendaring and scheduling, expanded client support, ecosystem and platform support and a new Web Services-based management platform that offers anytime, anywhere remote administration and secure management.
The common denominator between these products is that they offer interoperability with legacy messaging products and migration tools that ease the transition to a Linux-based product. For example, Kerio Technologies Inc.'s Kerio MailServer 6 has a feature that allows companies to use Microsoft Outlook for sharing and synchronizing calendars, contacts and tasks. Easing migration from Microsoft Exchange is the Kerio Exchange Migration Tool that moves user data, e-mail, calendars and tasks from Microsoft Exchange to Kerio MailServer.
This interoperability is a fear-buster for companies that want to protect their investments. Farris cited a recent study conducted by Osterman Research Inc., which found that 55% of enterprises would seriously consider switching to an alternative messaging system that provided better performance or other advantages if the desktop infrastructure currently in place could be retained.
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