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Fear keeps IT tied to Exchange and away from Linux messaging

Experts at LinuxWorld evangelized for Linux-based messaging and bad mouthed Exchange.


By choosing alternative messaging products carefully and "planning, planning, and planning," companies can make the switch to Linux-based messaging without disrupting users, even without users knowing a change has been made, said Scalix Corp. senior messaging specialist Steve Martensen. He offered these tips for succeeding in a migration:

-- Cover all the bases. "Mailbox migration is easy, but what about everything else?" he said. Don't forget such important tasks as accurately moving public folders and local data to the new system, retaining message attributes, preserving message formatting and resolving addresses. Preserve the data and make sure everything is moved over. "I'm amazed at how many people miss the address resolution step," Martensen said. "Addresses must match and remain consistent."
-- Do not disrupt end users' work. No desktop visits or reconfiguration should be in your plan. The process has to be administrator driven, so get the tools that let the admin do everything and then push it out. Also, users have to have access to e-mail during all phases of the migration.
-- Maintain control. "Be methodology driven rather than tool driven," Martensen said. The pace of the migration should be under your control. Look for a migration tool and process that conforms to your business and server-level needs. Don't tweak your needs to fit the tools.

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.

FEEDBACK: Tell us about your experiences with open source alternatives to Microsoft Exchange.
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