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Exchange 2000 vs. Domino: Which platform suits your company?
Both have similarities but also dramatic differences. Gartner Group analyst pinpoints key issues that technology decision-makers need to weigh in the balance.
By Garry Kranz
Lotus Domino Enterprise Server may give more comprehensive clustering than Microsoft Exchange 2000, but the latter's reliance on Active Directory gives tighter integration. These are just two of the ways the platforms differ. TechTarget asked Senior Research Analyst Maurene Caplan Grey of Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Group to tackle issues business managers should consider when weighing the two products.
TechTarget: How do the instant-messaging tools of each platform compare?
Grey: The two products are made using very different philosophies. Exchange 2000 relies on Windows 2000, and it also relies on Active Directory for directory services. You have to put those products in place first before migrating to Exchange 2000, and that's going to take a longer period of time. Microsoft instant messaging software in the enterprise level comes with Exchange 2000, which uses Active Directory for directory services.
Microsoft is coming out with a simple SIP-compliant instant messaging service that will be included in Windows XP, and the Windows XP client, called Windows Messenger, will also include the old NetMeeting functionality.
Domino takes a more modular approach. Lotus makes Domino Enterprise Server to work on a variety of platforms. It can run on IBM mainframes all the way to Linux machines. Domino is not a standards-based e-mail system, but Lotus develops its products to run on different operating systems. From the perspective of instant messaging for directory services, Lotus's SameTime [collaboration products] will work against a Domino database but also run against an LDAP client directory.
So, companies looking at the two systems will want to consider each vendors' research and development roadmap and their product-development processes. For instance, if your organization has an environment that is heavily dependent on Unix, putting in Exchange 2000 would require tearing out your Unix system or, at minimum, putting in a sister system with a Windows 2000 environment.
TechTarget: What cost implications are there relative to messaging within the individual platforms?
Grey: From a messaging perspective, you'll want to look at the needs within every technology division. Understand what your business drivers are. You also have to consider what other applications are in your environment. By the way, these could be non-messaging-related applications, such as Seibel CRM software.
Think about the degree of IT resources you have, how many people need to be retrained, and think about your network and underlying architecture. If you're in an AIX environment, for instance, it's going to be pretty costly to move to Exchange, where everything has to run on Windows.
TechTarget: How do Domino and Exchange match up as collaborative tools?
Grey: The underlying architecture of Microsoft Exchange 5.5 did not lend itself to application development. That changes in Exchange 2000, because the underlying database has architecture that is XML-based, HTTP-accessible and Web-app accessible. We'll begin seeing development in these change environments like we have already seen in Domino.
Domino has [more] years of development [than Exchange]. An awful lot of Domino users are database folks who also have a heavy application development environment. A lot of development in the Domino environment has been moved to the Web, and of course is still fired up by a Domino backend.
TechTarget: Companies hear a lot about clustering and why it's important. What should IT administrators know about the distinctions between clustering on Exchange and Domino?
Grey: In Exchange 2000, you could have multiple databases per server. As long as the server is hosting fewer than 20 databases, there is room for databases from another server [to be absorbed] in the event of fail-over. The earlier Exchange 5.5 limited clustering to one database per server and required a dedicated backup server. Exchange 2000 uses clustering at the operating system level; that is, at the Windows 2000 level. It handles fail-over at the OS level but not load balancing.
Many organizations running Domino, rather than clustering at the OS level, are more likely to use clustering provided at the application environment. The reason is obvious: the application level is where fail-over and load balancing are most likely to occur. Domino has had clustering built in to the product for both fail-over and load balancing for about five years. It's a more comprehensive level of clustering support than you'd get at the OS level. It's Domino-specific, not OS-specific.
TechTarget: It appears that Active Directory might give Microsoft an edge over Lotus in the areas of security and network administration. How is Lotus responding?
Grey: One of the things you'll have in a Microsoft Exchange 2000 environment with Active Directory is single sign-on. When a user logs on to the operating system, he is also logging on to Exchange 2000. That's not usually the case with Exchange 5.5.
Domino users certainly are going to have to sign on at two places. But understand that Domino's release 5 came out before Active Directory and before Windows 2000, and it uses its own directory services. Companies that want to cut down on network administration may want to move toward a Windows environment. With its nice integration, you have less administration over the entire environment.
Domino does not have the tight integration with Active Directory, since it was developed before Active Directory came out. It's unclear what Lotus's future plans might be in support of Active Directory.
TechTarget: How can companies compare costs of the two platforms?
Grey: Pricing is very tough, especially with all the changes Microsoft is making to its licensing agreements. (Note: previous Gartner research notes report that many users "vigorously oppose" Microsoft's planned licensing changes, which take effect Oct. 1, as too onerous).
Licensing comprises between 8% and 12% of the total cost of ownership (TCO) in a steady-state environment. Gartner says that any technology has a five-phase TCO: planning, implementation or migration, steady state, change management and retirement.
When the time comes for product decision, companies generally tend to bundle in costs for planning, migration, steady state, etc., and choose a vendor because it's going to cost X amount of dollars, or because they get a good deal on licensing. But you need to break out hard costs, like putting up servers and training, from indirect costs, such as loss of user productivity while people are learning a new system.
So there are really two TCOs to consider. After going through migration, you have to consider what it's going to cost to go from here to there. The second TCO is what it costs to manage the environment in steady state. If you try to bundle those costs together, you're going to make bad decisions because you won't be comparing apples to apples.
Bio: Garry Kranz is an independent technology journalist in Richmond, VA.
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