Have you considered an alternative to Exchange?

IBM's launch of Lotus Domino 6 this week has focused attention on the cost and functionality of rival e-mail systems.

IBM's launch of Lotus Domino 6 this week has focused attention on the cost and functionality of rival e-mail systems.

Running corporate e-mail is not cheap. Analyst firm Meta Group reported earlier this year that the cost of running enterprise email amounted to $11-$15 (£7-£9.60) per user per month, excluding helpdesk costs.

IBM is pitching the latest incarnation of its Domino e-mail and collaboration server as a cost effective alternative to its traditional rival Microsoft Exchange.

According to Jim Moffat, IBM Lotus market manager, the new product, "focuses on doing more for less".

Fault recovery, previously only available on high-end systems, is now available to NT users. Domino 6 also includes a tool from IBM's Tivoli division which uses trend analysis to provide e-mail administrators with advanced warning of any system failures using trend analysis.

Lotus Domino is not the only alternative to Exchange. Oracle is planning to introduce its Collaboration Suite, comprising calendar, real-time conferencing, e-mail, file system support, voicemail and workflow in one software package, by the end of the year.

Oracle said the product would allow users to access their e-mail, contacts and calendar through Microsoft Outlook. When the software was announced in July Oracle said the Collaboration Suite would offer a price challenge to Microsoft.

Another rival set to make its mark this year is Samsung Contact, an e-mail server based on the former HP OpenMail software. The package is available on the major flavours of Unix (Solaris, Aix and HP-UX) as well as Red Hat and Suse Linux for PC servers.

Making a pitch for users to opt for Samsung Contact rather than Microsoft Exchange, Richi Jennings, chief architecture at Samsung Contact, said: "With our software users get the same level of functionality for a much lower cost."

Jennings said the savings arise from the fact that, unlike with Exchange, Samsung Contact does not require businesses to purchase a separate licence for the server software. "Our software is licensed purely on a mailbox basis," he said.

Analyst group Gartner, meanwhile, suggests that in Microsoft houses the uptake of the latest Exchange 2000 server has been quite slow. Gartner analyst Maurene Grey estimated that only 5% to 10% of enterprises using Exchange had completed their migration from Exchange 5.5 to Exchange 2000.

Microsoft's message to organisations considering their options is that Exchange on Windows still gives the best price/performance metrics.

Ewan Dalton, architectural systems engineer at Microsoft said users should also evaluate the functionality they get for their money.

"Oracle provides good enough messaging but Exchange offers integration and collaboration," as part of the product, he said.

He urged users to check what they are actually buying with a rival product. A Microsoft client access licence, which is required by each device used to log onto Exchange, includes a copy of MS Outlook, he noted.

As users evaluate their options, one thing is clear, vendors are going to have to offer more flexible products and keener pricing.

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