Email survey says: "Exchange 2007 is a big jump"

I spent some time talking with Michael Osterman of Osterman Research, which today announced a survey it completed dealing with enterprise email. The survey was conducted with 100+ enterprises that have an average of 6,636 e-mail users. It was commissioned by PostPath, a Linux-based email provider (which offers drop-in Exchange compatibility), so the findings are likely a bit skewed. Still, even at a serious "dis

I spent some time talking with Michael Osterman of Osterman Research, which today announced a survey it completed dealing with enterprise email. The survey was conducted with 100+ enterprises that have an average of 6,636 e-mail users. It was commissioned by PostPath, a Linux-based email provider (which offers drop-in Exchange compatibility), so the findings are likely a bit skewed.

Still, even at a serious "discount," users contemplating an upgrade to Exchange 2007 appear to be in for a world of hurt.

Of those surveyed, 67 percent indicated that they intend to make an investment in e-mail servers, either for upgrades or migration to a new e-mail server sometime this year. The survey reveals some key findings:

  • 70 percent are concerned or extremely concerned about the complexity of the Microsoft Exchange migration effort.

  • 69 percent are concerned about the amount of time the Exchange migration will take.

  • 59 percent of organizations indicated that messaging storage growth is a serious or very serious problem.

  • 48 percent of companies have NOT allocated budget to meet e-discovery or compliance requirements. [This is surprising given the importance of compliance.]

The cost is non-trivial. Osterman Research has built a cost model that demonstrates the cost of migrating to Exchange 2007 for a 5,000-seat organization can be as high as $244 per user. Even when amortized over a three-year period, the average cost of an Exchange 2007 migration can be $6.79 per seat per month for a 5,000-seat organization. This is a high-cost departure from how most open source companies charge, which is a subscription that entitles users to upgrade for free.

But the license is only one component of the cost involved. There's also time, and Osterman Research's findings indicate that the difference beween migrating to 2007 from 2003 is huge compared to migration from 2000 to 2003. It's a major effort. Performance is better with Exchange 2007, but the road to get there is non-trivial.

I asked Osterman what enterprises' options are: migrating to Domino or an open source email server won't be any easier than migrating to 2007. He suggested that the best of both worlds would be to stay with Outlook but find an easier server to manage. Postpath, from my past conversations with PostPath, seems to offer this in spades: you can swap out an Exchange server for PostPath and it looks like just another Exchange server node on the network, but is more robust and easy to administer.

Osterman stressed that the desktop experience must be kept inviolate: enterprises are married to Outlook, not so much Exchange. To the extent that an email solution can preserve their Outlook experience for their end users, but replace the Exchange experience with something easier to manage and compatible with Exchange.

I asked him if enterprises are actually looking to replace Exchange. Better the devil you know than the devil you don't, I suggested....

He indicated that enterprises are actively looking at alternatives. Many are a few revs behind the Exchange roadmap, which puts them in a position to seriously consider alternatives. The differences between 2000 (or previous versions) and 2007 are significant. "Upgrading" to 2007 is essentially a move to a completely new product, so moving to a truly "completely new product" is not as revolutionary or disruptive as it may sound.

All of which surprises me. I really wouldn't have thought that email could get innovative and interesting again, despite the fact that it's at the nexus of most everything we do. I'm glad to see Exchange getting some competition - from PostPath, Zimbra, GroupWise, Scalix, etc. - and hope that the upgrade path to Exchange 2007 proves as complex as Osterman's research suggests it will be. Why? Because negative feedback will help Microsoft improve its product, and will drive more competition in the email market.

We need it.

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