Oracle to Microsoft: Exchange This!

Oracle's betting that its Collaboration Suite 2 is better and cheaper than Exchange.

Oracle launched a vicious attack on Microsofts Exchange at the recent OpenWorld conference. But Exchange is both too easy and too slippery a target: No matter how many viruses, security alerts, maintenance issues or general complaints come in, Exchange is still the most popular enterprise and workgroup e-mail system ever.

To me, that says customers have faith in Microsoft, or these problems dont outweigh the problems the server resolves. Otherwise, organizations are sucking in their guts and waiting for something better to happen.

Oracles betting that its Collaboration Suite 2 e-mail, calendaring, file storing, messaging and workflow suite is better and cheaper than Exchange. With all the talk about increasing ROI and speeding the time to benefit, at least Oracle is considering the cost of the software. Other enterprise software vendors have gotten so used to overcharging customers that they have no idea how much their software is worth.

Microsoft has been especially vocal about TCO in its discussions of Titanium, a release of Exchange thats due in mid-2003. Titanium will have benefits that will decrease cost. For example, it will have better data compression and synchronization capabilities. Read between the lines, though, and what do you get? Cut your Exchange servers in half, and companies still have 50 to manage—about 40 more than most companies need.

With Collaboration Server, meanwhile, Oracle is targeting Exchange 5.5 users. Recent studies and my own straw polls indicate that many organizations have not upgraded to newer versions of Exchange and may not migrate to Titanium. One reason might be that they want Exchange to be an e-mail server and nothing else. Few use general-purpose centralized collaboration services today, and theres no indication that collaboration will ever be broadly deployed. Unified messaging is another key area for Exchange, and Microsoft has done the most to get the word out—at least to developers at the telecom companies, which cant get the word out because theyve overspent.

For e-mail alone, Oracle has a highly compelling product. The company blew it in the late 1990s with Oracle Interoffice, but Collaboration Suite looks good. On the other hand, if companies arent going to implement collaboration features, theres no compelling reason to upgrade.

Would you switch from Exchange to Oracle or another product? Write to me at