For some, the new Exchange is the old Exchange

Microsoft is queuing up Exchange Server 2007, but for many IT shops, their interest will remain with Exchange Server 2003 for a long time.

Lots of attention is being paid to the imminent release of Exchange Server 2007, but plenty of IT administrators remain focused on the adoption of Exchange Server 2003.

Exchange Server 2007 code will become available to volume customers in December, according to Microsoft. As of Nov. 30, customers can start ordering the new messaging server platform.

Some IT managers said they would like to install Exchange Server 2007, but current enterprise requirements or managerial processes make early adoption difficult, if not impossible.

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"We'd like to do Exchange [Server] 2007, but we work with the government, and the National Security Agency has to approve whatever we use and that won't be happening for awhile," said Donald Nollett, a senior engineer specialist with BAE North America in Bellevue, Neb. The unit provides services to the U.S. government and anything it uses must meet high security requirements.

"There are more security requirements, and the government is a lot slower about this," Nollett said.

Bob Kempf, with BAE's Windows engineering group, and Jim Missirlis, a project leader, said they would likely wait until Microsoft releases the first service pack for Exchange 2007 before taking another look at it for their end users.

A number of managers are just starting their migration to Exchange Server 2003. Tim McRae, director of server administration group for Sanford University in Birmingham, Ala., said the school is phasing in groups starting with its employees. McRae said the migration of this first group has gone very smoothly and he is pleased with how well it integrates hand-held devices. The school has migrated off of Novell Inc.'s GroupWise messaging platform.

Some managers would love to Exchange their Exchange

While security is a high priority for many IT administrators when they are choosing a new messaging product, it isn't the only concern. Cost and ease of administration are other important factors to consider.

Chris Coates, a server administrator with Gordon Food Service of Grand Rapids, Mich., has the bottom line to consider. His company also uses GroupWise. He thought about switching to Exchange Server but after investigating Exchange Server 2007 and getting sticker shock from the licensing fees, he reconsidered. Novell offered to let him renew his GroupWise license for the same amount as his previous contract if he swapped out Windows for the SUSE Linux operating system, Coates said.

Even though he believes that SUSE Linux is more difficult to administer, the cost savings offset the drawbacks, at least for now. If Gordon Food Service acquires another company that runs Exchange Server, it may tip the scales in favor of migrating the entire company to Exchange Server. One of the last companies it acquired used Exchange Server, but Coates moved everyone to GroupWise so he only had to support one platform. The migration was tough and costlier than he expected, so it's a process he doesn't want to repeat.

One consultant at Dell Inc., the Round Rock, Texas, hardware manufacturer, said there are still plenty of IT shops migrating off of Exchange 2000 Server and it's too difficult for them to jump up to Exchange Server 2007.

Gail Bloodworth, a Dell senior technical consultant, helps customers select the best hardware for messaging and collaboration software. "A number of my customers that have Exchange 2000 are switching to Exchange [Server] 2003, because it is a pretty big jump from 2000 to 2007," she said. "There are also some customers who just aren't sure and they hesitate to try something new. But I try to tell them that the biggest hazard is not planning at all."

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