Editors Note: This is the third in a series of articles that looks at how Microsoft plans to meet the enterprise needs of the mission-critical e-mail, calendaring and messaging market.
As Microsoft moves closer to the release of Exchange 2007, its e-mail, calendaring and messaging product, it faces increased competitive pressure from long-standing competitors like Lotus Notes as well as from newer open source solutions.
Microsoft, of Redmond, Wash., released the second, widespread public beta for Exchange 2007 on July 24, with the product expected to ship in late 2006 or early 2007.
The second beta brings with it a host of new and improved functionality, and is feature complete.
Microsoft executives are also upbeat that they can grow their position in this highly competitive market.
Dave Thompson, the corporate vice president for the Exchange Server product group, told eWEEK that when he talked to CIOs about the alternatives, the competitor that most often came up was Lotus Notes.
While Novells GroupWise is still used by some companies, it is being rapidly replaced with Exchange, he said, adding that open-source solutions are mentioned competitively only very occasionally.
"In fact I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times this has come up in the past two years," he said.
The Exchange team spent a lot of time and resources building a product designed for enterprises and with features like designated calendar scheduling, mobile access, compliance and anti-virus, which "requires a lot of work, and open-source platforms havent become that sophisticated," he said.
Thompson also said that in all his discussions with existing Notes customers, the reason they stayed on that platform was not because the mail and scheduling experience was better, but because of the applications that ran on it.
As such, Microsoft had developed the Microsoft Application Analyzer 2006 for Lotus Domino, which is used to evaluate a Lotus Domino Application environment and to prepare an application coexistence and migration plan.
Another tool, known as the Microsoft Data Migrator 2006 for Lotus Domino, which is still in development, lets users take some of those applications and then easily migrate its data to SharePoint. "That capability will grow over time," Thompson said.
Joel Stidley, a senior solutions engineer at Data Return, in Texas, which provides strategic enterprise IT operations services and is an early adopter of the product through the Exchange TAP (Technology Adoption Program) agrees, saying that for him there are no true open source competitors.
"Although there are those that claim to have set their sights on Exchange Server in their open-source projects, there are no current projects that are anywhere close to being enterprise class or having the same end-user experience … it doesnt appear that mainstream adoption of these open source Exchange imitators will happen any time soon," he said.
While Stidley has used Lotus Notes in the past, he feels that has a much more user friendly end-user experience with Exchange, which also integrates more closely with Active Directory, reducing some of the administrative overhead.