Dethroning Exchange

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A lot of talk has gone into how to overthrow the Windows lock on the Desktop market. The server market is more fluid, but it STILL dominates that space. Linux and OSX are both making real strides in that space, though Apple's ad campaign focusing on, "Windows is for Work, Mac is for Fun," doesn't exactly improve Mac adoption in the workplace.

There aren't any clear threats to Exchange. The other two big players in the arena, GroupWise, and Lotus Notes, have both been there a long time. Both benefited from what I call, 'the Melissa years defections.' I know for a fact that OldJob stayed with GroupWise precicely because we were still up when Melissa and company nuked most of the Exchange shops in the area.

Melissa introduced the era of the mass-mail worm. The clean up efforts from those worms drove billions of dollars of investment into Exchange recovery tools, Exchange anti-virus tools, and other related technologies. Thanks to that burst of innovation, this is a largely solved problem (given a sufficient investment in 3rd party defensive tools). WWU hasn't had a mass-mail-worm-related Exchange outage since I started here three years ago.

What's also helping is that the mass-mail worm is slowly dying by the side of the road in favor of much more lucrative mails. The current SPAM problem is turning into a sort of global denial-of-service attack against SMTP in general, not just Exchange. Trojan emails that contain images that exploit Windows image handling, not just Outlook's, affect even Pegasus users.

The best defence against the current crudware infecting e-mail these days is to use a non-Windows desktop. If that's not in the cards (it isn't for WWU) then the field opens up much more dramatically. Most larger shops are looking seriously into anti-spam appliances as a load-shedding technology to help their mail-transfer-agent (whatever it is) keep up with legitimate load. Some very minority players in the MTA market only can use appliances, and don't have the option of hooked-in anti-spam software.

The days of viruses and other crud scaring people off of Exchange are long gone. Now the fight has to be taken up on, unfortunately, features and mind-share. In the absence of a scare like Melissa provided, migrations from Exchange to something else will be driven by migration events. Microsoft may be providing just that threshold in the future, as they've said that they will be integrating Exchange in with SharePoint to create the End All Be All of groupware applications. Companies that aren't comfortable with that, or haven't deployed SharePoint for whatever reason may see that as an excuse to jump the Microsoft ship for something else. Unfortunately, it'll be executives looking for an excuse rather than executives seeing much better features in, say, GroupWise.

Exchange isn't as dominant as Windows-on-Desktop is, but its market-share isn't exactly declining the way Windows desktop ownership is (really! It is declining! Minuscule amounts, but it is there!). New deployments of Notes or GroupWise, which is different from migrations, are due largely to geeks or management familiar with either technology requesting it specifically. The default is still Exchange when it comes to a big-boy groupware application. That'll take real time to change.

So, Exchange will be with us a long time. What'll start making the throne wobble is if non-Windows desktops start showing up in great numbers in the workplace. THEN we could see some non-MS groupware application threaten Exchange the way that Mac (and Linux) are threatening the desktop.

1 Comment

I have felt the exchange pressure, from day one, since day one in my current job. We have been a GroupWise shop since the version 4 days and I have just finished we have just finished upgrading to version 7. I'm in a strange environment where most people don't really care about features. Something like share point brings nothing to the table for us. A working email system, however, does matter the most. GroupWise, for the money, is far more valuable to us than Exchange. The only one I've heard push for it is my boss, who might not fully grasp what would be involved in a migration, and a board member who is pro Microsoft everything for some unknown reason. From a selfish standpoint, I don't want anything to do with Exchange. From what I've read, its hardware needs are higher than that of GroupWise, and Exchange 2007 is going to push that higher. I'd prefer to avoid Active Directory if I can get away with it. Exchange means Active Directory. Active Directory means people start to question why we pay Novell for file/print/BorderManager. Personally, I don't want to get stuck with a very inflexible operating system/directory services combo that Windows and Active Directory represent. Plus, I don't want to be involved with a low bid migration project. I've had enough dealings with low bid projects to know it's not something I look forward to.