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Collaboration tools seek to ease migration woes

Microsoft's new collaboration tools promise to make it a lot easier to move applications and mailboxes off of IBM's Notes/Domino platform.

Microsoft and IBM/Lotus have been duking it out for years when it comes to winning over IT executives on their choice of messaging platforms.

Microsoft turned up the heat this week just days before IBM/Lotus's big collaboration confab, Lotusphere, in Orlando, Fla., with the release of a refreshed suite of free tools to help administrators move off of IBM/Lotus Domino and onto Microsoft Exchange.

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The Application Analyzer for Lotus Domino 2006 helps customers study a Notes/Domino application environment to determine how to transition those applications to Microsoft. The company will also make public Data Migrator 2006 for Lotus Domino, which will help customers migrate from Domino to Windows SharePoint Services Application Templates. In addition, the company is releasing some updated messaging and coexistence tools to help companies transitioning from Domino to Exchange.

Microsoft released some additional SharePoint Services application templates as well, along with an Exchange Calendar Connector for Notes/Domino, an Exchange Connector for Lotus Notes/Domino and Migration Wizard for Notes/Domino.

The tools are available now except for the Application Analyzer for Lotus Domino 2006, which will be available later this quarter. The Data Migrator 2006 will be available in the second quarter.

What is notable about Microsoft's Exchange Server migration tools is not just the tools themselves, not just momentum in migration, but a combination of the two, said Mark Levitt, an analyst at IDC, a Framingham, Mass., market research firm. But the slugfest between IBM and Microsoft will likely continue, and IBM will probably discuss its own competitive wins at Lotusphere next week, Levitt said.

Levitt said IBM's Notes/Domino continues to grow for IBM, particularly its maintenance revenue. Companies often choose between Exchange and Domino for reasons that have nothing to do with one or the other being the best product.

"The choice between the two platforms can sometimes be made by the flip of a coin," Levitt said. "Sometimes there is a customer whose CEO says he doesn't like a Notes application. It's not about the best product, but the right product for an organization."

One such customer is Joe Topinka, CIO with RSM McGladrey Inc., a Bloomington, Minn.-based financial services and accounting firm. He and his company migrated to Exchange last year as part of a major IT endeavor that also included moving a data center and setting up an Active Directory.

Topinka said the decision to move to Exchange had much to do with the fact that he thought Exchange would integrate better with Office and, in particular, Outlook Web Access and Sharepoint. That integration would be beneficial to his company's large group of road warriors.

"We look for tools that let us solidify our position to create employee community," he said. "Our mobile workforce drove us to this platform."

While IDC does not yet have its revenue figures for 2005, Levitt said that Microsoft had pulled ahead of IBM by a nose in terms of revenues in 2004. In terms of seats, "worldwide we estimate that both have more than 100 million users," he said. "Microsoft may have 20 million more."

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