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E-mail platform battle hots up

Enterprise adoption of e-mail platform upgrades has lagged behind under the pressure of shrinking IT budgets and the considerable effort required to upgrade. 

IBM last autumn shipped Version 6 of its Notes/Domino messaging infrastructure, and Microsoft planned to roll out an updated version of Exchange in mid-2003.

Meanwhile, Oracle, Novell and a host of smaller vendors are attempting to grab messaging market share with promises of lower ownership costs and improved scalability and flexibility.

Although Exchange 2000 has attracted somewhat low penetration because of a difficult upgrade that also required enterprises to migrate to Active Directory and Windows 2000, the next version due midyear should see strong adoption, said Michael Osterman, president of Osterman Research.

The upgrade, Exchange Server 2003, better known as Titanium, will carry the same code as Exchange 2000, Microsoft said.

"The soft economy and all the work that goes on behind the scenes to adopt Exchange 2000, [means] a lot of companies are taking a wait-and-see attitude, still running 5.5 and waiting for Titanium," Osterman said.

Osterman expected to see "a big jump to Titanium, because the economy will be able to support it with more IT spending and because you'll be able to leapfrog Exchange 2000".

Similarly, enterprises have been slow to jump into IBM's Notes/Domino 6, but 2003 should bring fairly significant adoption of the new platform, Osterman added.

Although the market has been largely dominated by Exchange and Domino, competing suppliers are eyeing up opportunities to lower infrastructure costs and win customers who are grappling with potentially disruptive migration paths.

In June, Oracle will unveil Release 2 of its Collaboration Suite, which was first introduced 11 months ago. The offering provides integrated e-mail, voice mail, calendaring, file sharing, search and IM accessible from Outlook, Web browsers and wireless devices. Oracle claims lower total cost of ownership (TCO) and better scalability gained from using its Oracle 9i Database.

"Running [a messaging platform] on top of [a] database allows you to scale. The reason why Lotus and Microsoft need to run large numbers of small servers is scalability," said Steve Levine, vice-president of marketing at Oracle.

Meanwhile, Novell plans to introduce Version 6.5 of its GroupWise messaging application in February, focusing on lowered TCO and new anti-spam features, and Stalker Software is positioning its CommuniGate Pro messaging server as a cost-effective drop-in replacement for Exchange Server.


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