Microsoft has big plans for mail migration

Microsoft is prepping 'Red Bull,' a refashioned suite of migration tools, to get users to migrate off of Domino and Groupwise and onto Exchange Server 2003.

As part of its ongoing effort to lure customers off of IBM/Lotus Domino and Novell Inc.'s Groupwise, and onto the Exchange Server messaging platform, Microsoft is refreshing its suite of Exchange migration tools.

The suite, code-named Red Bull, will come out right before the annual IBM/Lotus Lotusphere conference in late January in Orlando. Red Bull is expected to include a comprehensive revamp of Microsoft's mail migration tools, and includes an application and analysis analyzer and a recoded Exchange-Notes Connector, said one IT expert who declined to be identified. Red Bull began its trial run in late October 2005.

Microsoft declined to comment.

"It would seem that Microsoft is accelerating its efforts to encourage the Domino base to move to Exchange," said Matt Cain, an analyst at Gartner Inc., the Stamford, Conn., consulting firm. "It would be reasonable to take all the tools and services they have that encourage customers to move to Exchange and put a fresh coat of paint on them."

The expert said the new tools will have an improved performance monitor, and include support for HTML and the Unicode format. IT experts will be able to bring over old proxy addresses and SMTP addresses during a migration. "This had previously been a manual process and it was a pain," said the expert. "This is why a lot of people choose third-party tools."

Microsoft is also unveiling a Website devoted to collaboration that will give guidance to IT administrators who need help with their mail system migrations. The site is something of a one-stop shop to help administrators create a migration roadmap. It helps them develop transition plans, configure the tools and move the applications, the expert said.

One improvement to the Notes migration process that administrators had asked for is the ability to send a URL instead of the Doclinks during a migration.. A Doclink is basically the heart and soul of a Notes application. It provides a shortcut to a page or view of a Notes document and a Notes database. Previously during a migration, Doclinks were stripped out of the messages.

Microsoft recognizes that there are a lot of Notes seats still out there held by companies with [Microsoft's] Enterprise Agreements, said Steve Bryant, a consultant and Exchange expert with Pro Exchange, in Peachtree City, Ga.

"Notes servers run on Windows servers, Notes clients run on Windows," Bryant said. "There is a lot of need in the IBM community to make sure Notes is compatible with Office. So it makes sense that Microsoft capitalizes on this before IBM gets traction with Workplace."

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The current Exchange-Notes Connector technology dates from the heyday of Exchange 5.5, so it's a bit long in the tooth. This connector software is what links the IBM/Lotus messaging system with Exchange Server. It allows mail to flow between the two. Ron Robbins, a product manager for Quest Software Inc., in Aliso Viejo, Calif., said Quest recommends using the connector to communicate and collaborate during a migration.

In past versions, certain message formatting was lost between Notes and Exchange. The product has been improved over time, Robbins said.

But experts also say the Exchange-Notes Connector is a single point of failure since there is only one connection per Notes domain. IT managers that want to do a migration will have one server to handle mail flow between the systems before the migration is over. The tool is mainly a way to bridge the gap before one of the systems can be retired, Pro Exchange's Bryant said.

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