Serena Makes Good on Promise: Dumps Microsoft Exchange for Google Gmail

 
 
By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2009-03-17
 
 
 

Serena Software, a maker of application lifecycle management software and cloud computing solutions, has completed its migration from Microsoft Exchange to Google's Gmail, and it took only 3 hours of dedicated work from two Serena IT workers to take one of Serena's own internal applications to the cloud, the company said.

eWEEK originally reported that Serena planned to dump Exchange for Google's Gmail e-mail system in November of 2008. A Serena spokesman said the company initially had planned to migrate everyone over by the end of 2008, "however, we were waiting for Gmail's offline access," he said. "Once that was released, we accelerated our plans to migrate everyone and did it as early as possible."

Serena officials said that on March 9 Serena moved more than 700 employees at locations around the world from Microsoft Exchange to Gmail. Rene Bonvanie, senior vice president of marketing, information technology and Serena on Demand, said he believes Serena's is the largest single-company migration ever within a 24-hour time period.

Indeed, Bonvanie said the interesting thing about this migration is that it only took two IT people 3 hours to configure everything on the back end for the migration versus the three full days that they initially thought it would take. In addition, each Serena employee only had to spend 10 minutes setting up an account before they could start sending and receiving e-mail.

Ron Brister, Serena's IT manager who headed the Gmail migration, said Serena overprepared for the migration. Serena devoured information about Google's applications and then prepared documentation and videos of its own to prepare the Serena staff for the idea of a migration, he said.

"We did documentation, videos and a PR campaign to blast out information," Brister said. "Then we brought in our early adopters-one, to give us feedback, and also they were going to become our first line of defense" for Serena staff who had questions about the migration. There were three rounds of early adopters-about 140 people-who migrated over to Gmail early, he said.

Then on the weekend of March 6, Serena did its cutover. The team started on Friday evening, and "it was a 3-hour project for two people to get everybody migrated," Brister said. "We thought it would take eight people working around the clock for eight days," but the migration was all set before the weekend was over.

"I've never done an Exchange rollover that only took a total of 6 man hours," Brister said. And although the migration was done by March 9, "March 9 for us started at noon on the 8th because APAC [Asia Pacific] was going to be coming on for their morning. We thought we'd have the hotline lit up when they came in, but they had no problems and we wound up playing Wii bowling. We only got two calls." Later that night when more and more people from different locations began to come online, the IT department got a little busier. But altogether they only had to field 41 calls, "mostly from people who hadn't read the documentation," he said.

"It became such a non-event, but I had people all set to work 13-hour shifts around the clock," Brister said. In all, Serena moved more than 735 people to Gmail on March 9.

Kyle Arteaga, Serena's vice president of communications, said he ported more than 11,000 e-mails from Exchange to Gmail, and it takes up only 3 percent of his available storage space. Arteaga said with Exchange he was receiving notices every few weeks to clear out space in his mailbox or he would not be able to receive any new mail. Brister said he recalls one Serena employee who ported more than 135,000 messages and was only at about 7 percent of his capacity.

Moreover, Bonvanie said he believes that "with Google you're going to send a lot less e-mail because you're likely to do a lot more IM [instant messaging]."

Why did Serena get rid of Microsoft Exchange? Two reasons, Bonvanie said. "The first is purely economic-we believe we can save the company $1 million in three years."

Serena's second reason for the migration has to do with the company's focus on moving its customers to the cloud. "We want to put our company into the cloud as well," Bonvanie said. "And we want to put all of our applications into the cloud. Mail is just one. ... You know how much we've been on the SAAS [software-as-a-service] train. The Google experience is an example of putting the end user in the driver's seat because there are very few examples of applications that are as personal or affect people as much as e-mail."

Brister said he views the migration and Serena's evolution to be part of a trend of "IT opening up and allowing -consumerized' technologies into the building. That would never happen before."

Brister also said Google was perhaps a perfect partner in the effort. He said he was pleasantly surprised at Google's ability to respond so quickly and completely to his queries.

Rajen Sheth, Google's senior product manager for Google Apps, said he thinks Serena's effort serves as a "great example of a significant-sized company moving over to Google Apps. It stands out because of the user benefits and also for how quickly they were able to do the migration."

Sheth said that although Serena is not the largest migration that Google has seen move away from Microsoft to Google's applications, "it is one of the larger ones. We have companies like Genentech" that were bigger migrations.

"The main thing from our side is it's been great to see how many midsize and large-size companies have been willing to try Google Apps, and more companies are moving to the cloud," Sheth said.


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