Face-off: Exchange vs. Domino

When it comes to messaging platforms, there's Exchange/Outlook and Domino/Notes -- and then there's everyone else. Two editors step into the ring to argue why their favored heavyweight is the true champ.

Face-off When it comes to messaging platforms, there's Exchange/Outlook and Domino/Notes -- and then there's everyone else. Two editors step into the ring to argue why their favored heavyweight is the true champ.

Exchange is the leader, and rightly so

By Debra Bulkeley, Editor

It's tough to be the leader. Everyone is always after you, wanting to bring you down. That's the situation in which Microsoft finds itself with Exchange and Outlook.

Not that sympathy is in order here, but when it comes to competitors in the messaging space, Microsoft is concerned about IBM Lotus, its biggest competitor. But Redmond is also watching Oracle, Novell, Sun and other vendors that sell open source messaging systems. IBM Lotus, on the other hand, worries about, well -- it pretty much worries about Microsoft.

And with good reason.

Microsoft's share of the corporate messaging market is 31%, compared with 26% for IBM Lotus, according to the Radicati Group, of Palo Alto, Calif. While the numbers aren't that far apart, what is significant is where they've been and where they are going.

 

 "We see Exchange gaining on that lead," says Sara Radicati, principal analyst at Radicati Group. "A few years ago, we saw Lotus gaining on the market share numbers, but now it's Exchange that is making the market share gains."

If you compare the two products' e-mail and calendaring capabilities, they are relatively equal. But here are some Exchange strengths that give it an edge over Domino.

Outlook integration. No one -- not IBM, nor anyone else -- has the native integration with Outlook that Exchange does. Beyond that, Exchange 2003 offers cache mode, connection sensing and RPC over HTTP. Notes advocates boast about several features. But most users who have made the switch to Exchange apparently don't miss those bells and whistles.

Native Office integration. Exchange's DRM (digital rights management) features allow more security of message exchange. Having the same look and feel between Outlook and Outlook Web Access (OWA) means less user confusion and training. Support for S/MIME and antispam features in OWA are also added bonuses. Exchange supports virtually any device users have for accessing e-mail. Microsoft has single-seat administration for both Exchange and Windows environments, but Notes doesn't have single-seat administration for both its OS and messaging environments.

Third-party support and integration. Integration with antivirus and antispam vendors lets users build products that work directly with Exchange. Third-party backup vendor support for Volume Shadow Copy allows for faster, more flexible, and more reliable backups and restores. There are numerous add-on products and integration points available to corporate e-mail environments, and virtually all of them support Exchange and Outlook, and usually in their first releases.

Exchange also supports Internet messaging standards and standard security protocols, unlike Notes, which has a proprietary security model. Exchange is integrated with Active Directory, which lets it interact with other LDAP-based directories. Notes, on the other hand, has a contained proprietary directory.

IBM Lotus announced Workplace as its new strategy in the messaging market. This could be even more good news for Microsoft, because IBM might inadvertently have confused its installed base with the move.

One of Microsoft's biggest worries right now should be retaining its installed base. Its competitors are trying to lure customers away, since support for Exchange 5.5 is over at the end of 2005. Those users will either upgrade to Exchange 2000 or Exchange 2003, or they'll choose another vendor's product. Considering that Exchange 5.5 accounts for 40% of the corporate Exchange installed base, according to Radicati, that's a lot of users to lure.

Some people may think Exchange 2003 is too complex, or worry about the transition to Active Directory. These users will look at the alternatives. Should Microsoft be concerned?

"I think Microsoft needs to take this very seriously because there is an opportunity for a smaller player who has a good technology to step in and take a share of [the Exchange 5.5] installed base," Radicati says.

But in the end, changing within the Microsoft family is likely to seem a lot more comfortable for users than moving to a new technology.

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Domino is no one-trick pony

By Joyce Chutchian, Editor

I could go on all day about why Domino is superior to Exchange. Instead, I'll spare fans of Exchange the embarrassment by sticking to the highlights.

What you get. Domino is much more than a messaging platform, so we're really comparing apples (Exchange) to the whole produce section at your grocery store (Domino). With Domino, you get more than messaging, at no extra cost. Simply put, Domino is an application-development environment that just happens to have messaging capabilities and services. It's completely collaborative and customizable, and it allows you to use other applications at any time without requiring you to leave your mail environment.

Domino works with many clients, including Outlook. Surprised? It can be a Web browser; it can work with portable and wireless devices; it can be several different servers; it can be used to build Web sites. Exchange, on the other hand, is actually a messaging environment that can run applications, though they are not built in. The Outlook e-mail system is able to perform various tasks, such as calendaring and scheduling, but workflow and collaboration? Not with Exchange and Outlook.

Security. Security alone should persuade your boss to use Notes/Domino. How many days, or even hours, has a company's Notes/Domino mail been shut down because of a virus or worm? Most likely the answer is none at all. How about Exchange/Outlook users? The truth is, Outlook is a target for hackers because it's easily accessible, making it attractive to viruses and worms. Domino's built-in security features (Access Control Lists and Execution Control Lists, for example) help prevent such paralyzing viruses. In Exchange (and Outlook) such features are not built in, but can be added. Outlook is a lot more vulnerable, as we've all seen by the bevy of virus breakouts.

It's no coincidence that we haven't heard of any major e-mail viruses circulating through Notes shops. Maybe that's why the CIA -- yes, the Central Intelligence Agency -- is a Notes shop.

Collaboration. Notes/Domino is all about collaboration. Collaboration is all about sharing files, e-mail, presence awareness, Web conferencing, workflow, knowledge management and instant messaging, just to name a few capabilities. All from one place. There's no clicking out of one app and into another. With Domino, you can move information from your e-mail to Lotus IM or drag and drop information about key players in your database and send an instant message to them from within your portal.

According to a recent Radicati Group study, 43% of corporate IM users use Lotus Instant Messaging (formerly called Sametime) -- the largest percentage on one platform. All of these Domino attributes help employees work together. Lotus Instant Messaging is even compatible with Microsoft Outlook. Surprised again? You may not need all of the bells and whistles offered with Notes/Domino, but they are available if you need them, and they are all customizable and scalable.

Scalability. Scalability is yet another key to total cost of ownership and ROI. IBM Lotus has made Notes/Domino 6.5.1 available, but if you are still on Domino R4 or R5, you don't have to upgrade twice. Just move to the latest version. The same goes for back-end systems. You can use what you have now and upgrade your systems later.

The key phrases here are rapid application development tools, open systems and easy integration. Try moving to Exchange 2003 if you are on an older version. You have to move to Exchange 2000 first, and you have to upgrade both the server and the client. Why should you have to upgrade every client or every server? Domino doesn't require both upgrades. Plus, if you are still on Windows 98 or some other legacy system, be sure to save enough money to upgrade all that, too, because most of the new features in Exchange 2003 won't work with older versions of MS Office or on older systems. All this contributes to your TCO.

There's so much more to say, but I think you get the point. Take a look at these attributes: reliable, scalable, secure, flexible, available, collaboration-friendly, rapidly deployable, open, customizable and easy to learn. Those labels fit Domino like a comfortable pair of shoes. Exchange couldn't squeeze into them with a shoe horn.

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