Following the release this week of IBMs Lotus Software divisions Notes and Domino 6 platform, Microsoft Corp. next week will unveil more of its forthcoming Titanium release at its Microsoft Exchange Conference in Anaheim, Calif.
And as Lotus did with Notes and Domino 6, Microsoft officials will tout reductions in the total ownership cost of corporate messaging systems as the primary benefit for upgrading to Titanium, expected to be generally available about the middle of next year.
But despite the hype coming from both of these vendors, customers and industry analysts arent expecting either product to spur a wave of migrations or cross-migrations to other platforms.
Titanium will feature support for shadow backups—keeping messages, calendar items and other Exchange data stored locally with periodic server synchronizations—and improved MAPI support for better data compression and fewer bytes of data exchanged between the Outlook client and Exchange Server. Both of these improvements will boost server consolidation, Microsoft officials said. The company expects its own Titanium deployment to reduce the number of Exchange mailbox servers it uses from 110 to around 20.
Microsoft is also adding security improvements, such as SMIME signing and encrypting for Outlook, and anti-spam capabilities.
Keith Glass, an IT consultant in Manassas, Va., who recently upgraded a client site to Exchange 2000, was skeptical of Microsofts claims of future security improvements.
“Considering that its been MS code at the core of the vast majority of security incidents, any improvement is welcome,” said Glass. “Question is, will it be sufficient? As for Outlook, the less said of the premier virus vector on the Net, the better.
: Exchange Joins TCO War With Domino”>
“Unless it ships and installs locked-down, and only by definite and positive action by the user to allow active content in e-mail, its a clear and present danger to any network.”
Titanium will bring more improvements to Outlook, such as condensed message retrieval from dial-up connections for faster performance and HTTP tunneling for remote procedure calls, which will eliminate the need for a VPN for Outlook clients connected remotely.
Titanium will also support eight-node clustering for improved reliability and availability. Most Exchange shops, which use Exchange Advanced Server, now have just two node clustering, Microsoft officials said, though Exchange Data Center Server supports four-node clustering.
Glass said he didnt see that eight-node clustering was necessary.
“Two nodes for redundancy with shared storage, thats prudent for the enterprise,” he said. “More nodes than two, the cost/benefit ratio gets astronomical.”
Diane Poremsky, president of CDOLive LLC, a Microsoft messaging and collaboration consultancy in Johnson City, Tenn., also did not see the value in the enhanced clustering.
“I think everything except clustering will be a hit, assuming it all works as planned,” Poremsky said, noting that Microsoft has removed planned features in mid-beta before, such as the Web store in Outlook 10.
Mobile Information Server and the Microsoft Operations Manager system management pack will both be included in this release.
“I currently use Mobile Information Server and look forward to having one server for both Exchange and MIS,” Poremsky said.
Lotus is also focused on lowering total cost of ownership with Notes and Domino 6, which shipped last week, specifically with new support for server consolidation, and new tools for policy-based administration and automated upgrades.
On the usability side, there is new support for color-coding incoming messages for better inbox management and shared calendaring and scheduling. Notes and Domino 6 also add native anti-spam tools as well as improved mail archiving and journaling capabilities.
There is better integration with the other Lotus products as well as IBM products, including WebSphere, Tivoli and DB2. Domino 6 also boasts improved support for Active Directory and open standards like J2EE and XML.
Both Microsoft and Lotus will be hoping each others customers will migrate to their products rather than upgrade. Yet neither company could provide references for customers whove recently made such a migration.
Chris Williams, consulting analyst for Ferris Research Inc., of Bellevue, Wash., said few cross-migrations would happen with this release, Exchange 5.5 customers reluctance to upgrade and embrace Active Directory notwithstanding.
“Although deploying Active Directory can be difficult, it would still be much less difficult than rolling out Domino as an entirely new infrastructure,” Williams said. “So to net it out, yes, there will be the occasional firm that switches from Exchange to Domino and vice versa. But most firms have already decided whether they really need advanced collaboration features—and have moved to Domino—or prefer a more e-mail-centered environment, and have settled on Exchange. It really wont be until Microsofts next Exchange release [code-named Kodiak and based on the SQL-based Yukon data store] that we see theres any possibility to change this equation.”
“A Microsoft Shop is likely to stay Microsoft,” said Glass. “I know of Lotus shops that have gone over to Microsoft. I know of none that went the other way.”