Exchange Gains ISV Support

Platform is closing in on Lotus Notes in competition for groupware, collaboration supremacy.

Microsoft Corp.s Exchange 2000 platform is pulling even with Lotus Development Corp.s Notes and Domino platforms in the battle for groupware and collaboration software supremacy—at least among some of the companies development partners.

The latest indication came last week when IT Factory Inc., a prominent developer of applications for Notes and Domino, purchased Enterprise Communications and Messaging Solutions, known as ECMS, a developer of collaboration and messaging applications that run on Exchange.

IT Factory isnt the only developer devoting resources to the Microsoft platform. Boston-based Aimware Inc., which created a management platform used in Lotus software deployments, will release at Microsofts TechEd conference in June a version of its product called TeamCenter that is to be used with Exchange 2000.

These developers added Microsoft practices in large part because Exchange 2000 added Web Storage Service, or WebStore, a data store that makes collaboration much easier. "We believe Microsoft will get a bigger share of the groupware market as a result" of WebStore, said Aimware CEO Eamonn McGuinness.

IT Factory, of Cambridge, Mass., will continue to develop applications for Notes and Domino, but development for Exchange will drive the overall direction of the company, said CEO Lars Johansen.

One reason is that Microsofts platform natively supports XML (Extensible Markup Language), while Domino uses DXL, a Lotus variant of XML. Lotus officials said the performance overhead in using DXL on Domino was no different than that in using XML on Exchange and that Domino has advantages in security and backward compatibility.

Compatibility could be an issue when Microsoft, as is widely believed, replaces WebStore with Yukon, the next version of its SQL Server database.

While this will mean that applications will have to be migrated to the new architecture, it could provide a single storage container for structured, unstructured and Web data.

But if what is delivered matches what is promised, it will be worth the effort, McGuinness said.

Few users who have a collaboration infrastructure installed are likely to change because it is not cost-effective and because of brand loyalty. "People are prejudiced in favor of what they have," said Jim Edwards, senior director of information systems for the Kansas City Royals baseball team.

Edwards does not plan to switch from Domino to Exchange. "It would be a tremendous pain to convert," Edwards said.

IT Factory hopes to make applications compatible with both platforms. In the next half of the year, the company will introduce its e-Component architecture.

Applications built using this architecture will be able to share components that can run on either the Microsoft or Lotus platforms. "We will have an abstraction layer on top of both," Johansen said.